You don’t have to understand how an internal combustion engine works to drive your car to the mall, so why does it often feel like you need a degree in computer science just to use your PC? This is especially true when something goes wrong.
Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, television or Wi-Fi connection, everyone needs tech support at some point.
But how you go about getting technical help could vary greatly – based on what the issue is, how tech-savvy you are, and what you can afford. So let’s take a look at a few options for when (not if) you need some support.
For your convenience, I’ve divided these following suggestions in a “good,” “better,” and “best”-case scenario.
If you’re paying for a service — like your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for online connectivity or your TV provider for television content — they are obligated to help you. In fact, part of your monthly fee supports their tech support department, so this should be your first stop.
If it’s a product, be sure to register your gear with the company you bought it from. Even if the warranty period has expired, I’ve found many companies will still try to help you over the phone.
Also try going to the company’s website and look for a “Live Chat” tab or something to that effect. This will open up a text-based chat window, so you can correspond with someone on the other end. It may be a computer-controlled “chatbot” at first.
Barring that, there’s one in every family or circle of friends: someone with tech smarts you can call in pinch. If someone is willing to help you by phone, make sure you have your gear in front of you to follow the instructions right then and there. Better yet, jot down the advice, too, in case it happens again.
Want to try to fix the issue yourself? Go to your favorite search engine and type in the problem. Be as specific as you can. For example, rather than Googling “no sound on laptop,” type something like “no sound on Dells XPS 13 laptop” to get specific step-by-step instructions (with this example, you may need to reinstall or update the audio driver). Sometimes you’ll find a short answer in the search engine yourself, but you can always click or tap on a website for a deeper dive, such as in a tech support forum.
If you’re a visual learner, go to YouTube and search for your problem by keywords, to watch someone fix their tech before you attempt it.
Rather than a phone call, perhaps let a trusted technician log into your computer to take over your mouse and fix your PC issues. (Photo: LogMeIn, Inc.)
If it’s computer help you need, even better than help by phone or via text chat is when you grant permission for a trusted technician (or someone you know) to log into your PC remotely to fix the problem for you. This will eliminate a potentially frustrating exchange over the phone (“mom, mom, mom, I said RIGHT click on the icon!”).
By letting someone access the computer you’re in front of, you’ll see what they’re doing to troubleshoot and hopefully fix the issue, without you having to do anything but simply watch your mouse cursor magically move around your screen as you take notes to try and do it yourself should this happen again.
Tech support centers often have their own preferred remote software preference, but there are many to choose from, such as GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, TeamViewer, and Splashtop.
If you don’t have the time or patience for online or phone help, you might want to drop off your tech to an electronics store or service center for an expert to handle. It could take a few days or longer, and you’ll have to pick it up once it’s fixed, but not a bad route to have your tech serviced. Note: it could get quite expensive, depending on the task, such as recovering files off a damaged hard drive, so always ask for a quote first and compare it to others before committing to one place.
Nothing beats in-person tech support, which is often faster and less aggravating than remote assistance, plus you might learn a few tricks to handle the task yourself if it returns in the future. Hands-on is always the best way to learn. Buy that tech-savvy colleague or friend a coffee and let him or her help you then and there.
Some big box stores offer in-home help, but be sure to get quotes first before they come. Read reviews from previous customers to see what you’re getting into.
A new service called HelloTech is making a name for itself with its affordable in-home tech support. With prices starting at $49 (for email help), you first visit HelloTech.com and click or tap on what issue you’re having, and you then schedule a visit from a vetted and trained technician. The L.A.-based startup says they have more than 7,000 tech agents ready to be dispatched, be it in small towns or large cities, and if they can’t help you, there’s no cost. A quote is given ahead of time, which is based on the job, not billed by the hour.
Example of some of the areas HelloTech can help: smartphone setup, virus removal on a computer, mounting a television, installing a surround sound system, Wi-Fi issues, configuring smart home gadgets, and more.
The company also offers 24/7 online tech support.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman.