My poor parents are long-suffering Windows users. They recently had to take their computer in to have it wiped and reinstalled, due to all sorts of spyware and virus related problems. This is at least the third of fourth time it has happened, and I'm thinking long term, a different strategy might be needed: getting them a Mac.
My first computer was an Apple IIe. Actually, my first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81 (anybody remember those?) but it was limited. Unfortunately, I lost it during a move - it would make a great wall ornament or museum piece. I also owned an Amiga 2000, but other than that every computer has been a DOS/Windows system. Now might be the time return to the Apple family and get a Mac. I think the Mac Mini might be perfect for them.
Last time I visited, I installed anti-spyware software including Ad-Aware and Spybot-S&D. But, as Windows systems are prone to do without constant vigilance, it degraded over the last year and became unusable.
Having the store fix the computer is like having an axe executioner perform surgery. To be fair, sometimes all that can be done is a complete reinstall. After such a drastic fix, all their files are gone, all their applications need to be reinstalled, and worst of all, their system had Windows ME put back onto it (store policy is to use the install disk the computer came with) instead of the XPSP2 I upgraded them to.
If you are familiar with Windows ME you can already see the problem - returning a computer running some ancient unpatched version of Windows ME is disaster. My parents are on dial-up, and even if the first thing they did was go to Windows Update and try to patch their system, they would be reinfected again before finishing the download. In the past, I've found patches, burned CD's and mailed, but that is a long turn around time before the system is usable.
To cap it off, they got fooled by the Win Fixer spyware and have that running around already. The uninstall instructions are not something I can walk them through over the phone. I'm curious what the Hijack This log would say for their system.
So, I'm seriously considering the Mac. I'd set them up on Ubuntu Linux (which I run on one of my spare boxes) but I think that might be a little too much to absorb. No software is perfect, but with OSX there are at least an order of magnitude (or two) fewer problems due to better design. Things like not running as an Administrator (yeah, you can do that too on Windows but not with the default out-of-the-box install). If I order soon it can even be delivered for Christmas, and then I can set it up and play around with it!
I'm also interested in Apple's internet service, .Mac. I think my parents would really get some great usage out of some of the features: iDisk and Backup. I don't think anything of burning CD's and storing important files on multiple USB keys, but for them, having an easy place to store files would be wonderful.
I think most of what they need to run can be handled natively on the Mac (web browsing, email, PDF docs) or through Virtual PC for the handful of other apps they use.
If I like it, maybe I'll get one too. I'm just on Windows for the games. ;)