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Set up accounts, install updates and more: Here are the most important tech to-dos before Christmas

Avoid Christmas Day hassle and tears by getting new tech ready to go, and don’t forget to recycle

The Christmas to-do list for technology used to be quite simple: don’t forget the batteries. But times have changed. These days, almost everything needs an account before you can get the most out of its features. Tablets, smartphones, games consoles, even e-readers all work with cloud-based accounts. And that is before we even get started on the software updates.

It all adds up to delay after delay on Christmas morning when everyone is keen to get their new tech gadgets up and running.

Set up the accounts ahead of time

You can save yourself a lot of time and effort on Christmas morning if you have already set up the necessary accounts for any new devices that might be on Santa’s list before your children barge into your room at an ungodly hour of the morning. No one wants to be wrestling with iCloud or Google Accounts at 6am on Christmas Day; that should be saved for at least mid-morning, preferably after caffeine.

You won’t even have to take the devices out of their boxes to do it; all the main services will allow you to set up accounts through a web browser.


To set up an iCloud account, you will need access to an email address, and it can’t be an iCloud account. So set up a free Gmail or Outlook email address first, and use that to create your Apple ID. You can create an Apple ID without an Apple device by going to Apple’s support website.

Google Accounts for Android devices can be created and your Google Account username will also be your Gmail address, if you don’t already have one. You will need access to a mobile number to receive a verification code – to prove you aren’t a bot – and if you are creating an account for a child under 16, you will have the chance to link it to your own Google Account so that you can manage screen time, content and other parental controls.

For games consoles, you can create a Nintendo account – and designate as a child account if necessary. Sign up for an Xbox account here and for PlayStation, you can create parent and child accounts by clicking on Sign In> Create New Account.

Back up the night before

If an upgraded smartphone or tablet is likely to arrive in Santa’s sack, save yourself the time and bother and back up all the necessary data the night before. That will save you at least 40 minutes of hanging around in the morning and if you are likely to be doing the setup on behalf of someone anyway, you can get the process started.

To make sure an iPhone is being backed up to the cloud, go to Settings and tap on Apple ID. Go to iCloud>iCloud Backup, and tap Back up Now.

On smartphones running Android, go to the Google One app, and tap Storage at the bottom. Go to the device backup section and tap View Details. This will give you access to what data is being backed up on the phone and allow you to play with a few settings, and also to run a backup immediately.

Don’t forget to enable auto backup for message services such as WhatsApp, which will keep a copy of your messages in the cloud so you can get back up and running on your new phone as quickly as possible. You will find that by tapping the WhatsApp account avatar in the bottom right of the screen, and go to Chats>Chat Backup.

Make sure updates are installed

If there is anything that will cause a few tears – mostly from the parents – on Christmas morning, it is plugging in a brand new device only to find that you have to install multiple software updates before it can get going.

Games consoles are particularly guilty of this one and with so many people all switching on new devices on Christmas morning, you could be in for a wait. Do yourself a favour: plug it in ahead of Christmas Day, turn it on and get the software updates downloaded as quickly as possible. Then you won’t have to worry about waiting hours to be able to play on December 25th.

Parental controls

There are good reasons to have parental controls on technology for younger children. Not only can it prevent them from accessing content that is not age-appropriate for them, but it means you can control spending on software, keep an eye on screen time, and set down time when you want the device to be out of bounds.

Each platform has its own parental controls but the key thing is making sure that your child’s account is designated as such, and that the account is set up as part of your family, with a parent account controlling the settings.

For Apple, you can find content restrictions under Screen Time and the ability to change them can be restricted through the use of a passcode. If you have set your child’s account to request approval from a parent before installing any apps, the requests will come through to your Apple device. You will also be able to see how long your child is using individual apps.

Google has Family Link, an app that allows you to monitor screen time and content and impose controls on it. That works on both Android and Apple, so if you’re an iPhone user, you won’t need a Google device to approve or deny your child’s digital requests.

The Nintendo Switch has its own parental control app that you can install on a Google or Apple device, where you can set or change PIN codes to keep your child’s playing time under control. For Sony, you will need the PlayStation App, or manage it through the console or web browsers, similar to the Xbox with its Family Settings App.

Recycling old tech

Electronic waste is a real problem – and it is growing every year. We are all guilty of hanging on to devices for longer than necessary, tucking them away in a drawer for the “just in case” scenario. But that rarely comes to pass and in the meantime, you have a drawer full of old technology that is slowly becoming less and less useful at a time when new raw materials are being mined to keep up with demand for new devices.

There are plenty of places your old tech could find a new home. If it is worth money, you can avail of a trade-in programme with manufacturers such as Apple or Samsung, or through network operators such as Vodafone or Three. Likewise, you can take it to shops that buy old tech, such as CEX, or a local equivalent.

There are charities that will take old iPhones and iPads and give them a new home, for example, being used by people with autism for communication. Sometimes all that is needed is a few cosmetic repairs – a new screen for example – or a battery replacement and they can work for another few years.

And if they have reached the end of their useful life, send them for recycling. Some of the valuable parts will be removed and recycled, reducing the overall carbon footprint of new devices that may benefit from some of the rarer materials contained in phones and tablets. Tech companies have made some big promises to become carbon neutral in the coming decades, and every bit of reused and recycled tech will help them to get to that goal.

And as an bonus, your home will be a little less cluttered. Win-win.

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