Chances are you’ll be receiving something tech-related over the holidays, so what are you going to do if you have no idea how to set it up and use it?
Or what if you’re having issues with that new gadget you just unwrapped?
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. With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few options for when (not if) you need some support.
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For your convenience, I’ve divided these following suggestions in “good,” “better,” and “best”-case scenarios.
‘Good’ tech support options
If you’re paying for a service – like your internet service provider (ISP), mobile phone carrier, or TV provider – 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 something you just received under the tree or in a stocking, hopefully there’s a gift receipt, too, if you need to return it to the store. Also 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 TV,” type something like “no sound on Vizio P65Q9” to get specific step-by-step instructions. 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 who successfully fixed their tech before you attempt it.
‘Better’ tech support solutions
If it’s computer help you need, even better than help by phone or via text chat is having a trusted technician (or someone you know) 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 your computer while it’s right in front of you, you’ll see what they’re doing to troubleshoot and hopefully fix the issue. You can simply watch your mouse cursor magically move around the screen as they fix it, but you might want to take notes so you can attempt to do it yourself should the problem arise again.
Tech support centers often have their own preferred remote software preference, but there are many to choose from, such as GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, and Splashtop.
If you don’t have the time or patience for online or phone help, you might want to drop off your tech at 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 option 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.
“Best” tech support options
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 reoccurs.
If they’re in your COVID-19 bubble, invite that tech-savvy relative over for a home-cooked meal in exchange for hands-on support – a fair trade, in my humble opinion –and see what they did to fix your tech.
Some major retailers offer in-home help, but be sure to get quotes — before they come – and read reviews from previous customers to see what they say about the service.
An example is Best Buy’s Geek Squad, which offers tech support by phone, online, in-store and at home. If you seem to need regular tech support (you know who you are), Geek Squad’s Total Tech Support ($199.99 per year) gives you unlimited support for all your tech and appliances, no matter where you purchased them.
This membership includes unlimited help by phone, online (24/7) or in-store, as well as in-home services for $49.99 each time, such as TV mounting and Wi-Fi setup (with all compatible services listed at BestBuy.com/TotalTechSupportTerms). This plan also offers 20% off repairs and more advanced services (like the wiring of security cameras or major appliance work), free internet security software, discounts on protection plans (including AppleCare), and more.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Holiday tech support: Ways to get help with new gadgets, tech gifts