I was forwarded a list of 10 reasons not to provide free tech support by a coworker this morning. Not sure where she got it, but a quick Google search yielded the blog article I linked to, even if that wasn’t the original.
I’ve encountered most of these in my personal life at some point or other (even before I was interested in IT stuff!). I’ve even encountered some of these items on the job. People who ask personal tech questions outside of work are people just like those I work with. There are many times people at work ask business-related and non-business-related tech questions which get into these same pitfalls. I am particularly careful when managers and HR overtly ask or hint that they would like me to work on their troubled home systems. That’s usually a lot to lose and very little to gain, and the odds are on the lose side.
Manage expectations of those making the requests. Always be honest and open about your capabilities and how bad a problem is for the requestor. Some things are just not fixable or the odds are really against it. We’re not gods, and sometimes we really can’t fix everything or recover everything.
Nonetheless, I still help out when I can, as I do like to learn and help others, even if it is largely pro-bono.