How to set up your new gadget gifts this season

Here are some cool tips to help you unwrap your new gadgets and also set them up in time for use this holiday season.

It happens every Christmas. As soon as the wrapping hits the floor, you're getting hit up to set up everyones new gadgets.

Don't worry, this year Jennifer Jolly has your back with a few quick tips so that you'll be navigating the myriad of menus and manuals — done and on to the chicken lap — in no time.

Avoid wrap rage: You get one tiny little pair of earbuds that are so encased in hard plastic, locked in with metal twist ties, that the sheer struggle both mentally and physically of trying to open the darn thing all but kills Christmas. Know the feeling? Some 6,000 people a year go to the ER with wounds from trying to pry, slice, or stab open gifts entombed in these stupid clamshell cases. The simple fix? A can opener. Just flip the package over, with the front facing down. Clamp your can opener right onto the rightmost edge of the package, and twist. So incredibly easy.

Simple set-up: Just about every new gadget these days comes with a quick start guide that's easy to follow. Most new gadgets simply need to be plugged in and charged up, connected to Wi-Fi, and linked it to an existing email account. Pretty simple stuff. Take a second and set up security features, such as Find my iPhone or Lookout on Android. Also, download a few of your favourite apps. If you're not sure which ones to choose, take a look at the Editor's Choice apps, as well as other curated suggestions on iTunes or Google Play or the Windows store. Open everything with a large Ziploc nearby. Label the charger, put all of the instructions, extra pieces, even the original boxes inside and store it away. This helps if you need to read the manual, return it, or even re-sell it down the road.

Transfer important files and settings: For tablets, smartphones, and computers, you likely have to transfer your files and settings to the new device. This is a different process for different gadgets, but here are some steps to get you started:

  • If your gift is an upgrade to the latest version, it may be simple as backing up the old device and restoring to the new. This is especially easy with iPhone and iPad upgrades. Syncing the device with a host computer often lets you duplicate chosen apps and contacts on the new device in just a few minutes.
  • If you sync your contacts, mail, or documents through any particular service — like Gmail or Dropbox — starting on a new system can be as easy as setting up those same services on your new computer, smartphone, or tablet.
  • For computers, the simplest way to move your data is to copy your files from one computer to another over wifi or to a spare hard drive or USB drive. If you're upgrading a Mac, an associate at an Apple Store can perform this transfer for no charge.
  • Some Android phone and tablets have access to external storage, which can be a great way to back up files and settings and move them to a new device.

Get the extras ready: New HDTV's and gaming consoles might require a few extras to get you up and running. Common culprits that may be missing include batteries, cables, memory cards, and software or games. For example, a new HDTV or Blu-ray player isn't likely to include the HDMI cord you'll need to connect it to the rest of your entertainment gadgets.

A few other important add-ons include:

  • Game consoles almost never come with the games to play on them. Be sure to pick up one or two along with the system itself to ensure a fun-filled weekend.
  • If you're giving a digital or video camera, there's a good chance it'll come with either a tiny memory card or no storage media at all. If you're giving one of these, it's a good idea to snag a beefy memory card at the same time.

Consider the kids: If you're giving a gadget gift to a teenager or younger user, it may be a good idea to set up the parental controls ahead of time. Set up a password for mature content and share it with the recipient's parent or guardian so they can change it if they need to. Most tablets and smartphones have easy-to-use age controls that restrict content with a basic setting that is easy to change by the parent if needed. The same is true for new video games and movies. If you're giving a game console or a Blu-ray player and want to include some content to play on the device, err on the side of caution and select titles that are acceptable for all ages. For movies, PG or G is perfect, and for video games you'll want to select T or E-rated titles. In any case, avoiding R-rated movies and M-rated games will ensure a parent doesn't have to un-gift your present after the fact.

When all else fails: If the new gift just happens to be an Amazon Kindle Fire, you're in great luck if you get stumped because there's a "Mayday" button that connects you to a real person, right on the device. There's also an Android App called Zikk that gives you access to to your families devices, so that you can help them, even if you're halfway around the world. For everything else, if you end up being truly in a pinch for set-up tips, and the instruction manual isn't helping make matters any better, the web might be your best friend. Many new gadgets have pages upon pages of online support.

You should be able to find answers to specific questions — or at least a way to contact support if you're still having trouble. If you still can't find what you're looking for, simply go to your favourite search engine and type the product name as well as a description of the problem you're having — chances are you aren't the only one who's having it, and someone may have a solution for you. If the worst does indeed happen — and your gift simply won't work, or isn't right for the recipient — always keep your receipts! A working gift a day late is better than a broken gift on time!

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