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Consumer Reports finds free tech support from most computer manufacturers is dismal

Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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Apple Outscores Other Manufacturers on Free Tech Support; June Issue also Includes Step-by-step Guide to Easy PC fixes

Yonkers, NY– Only 55 percent of consumers who contacted free manufacturer’s tech support had their problem solved, according to the latest Computer Tech Support Survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Along with the tech support survey results and Ratings, the June issue of Consumer Reports also includes the latest Ratings of desktop and laptop computers, and a step-by-step guide to easy PC fixes.

Consumer Reports surveyed more than 20,000 subscribers with computer trouble and asked how they solved problems with and without manufacturer’s help. Consumer Reports survey respondents noted that most manufacturers provided dismal free tech support with two exceptions: Apple’s support for desktops and laptops and IBM (Lenovo) for laptops. Apple solved 76 percent of survey respondents’ problems, and IBM (Lenovo) solved 64 percent.

Other survey highlights:

  • Compaq free tech support solved just 38 percent of desktop and not laptop problems for survey respondents making it among the worst free tech support programs.
  • Roughly 15 percent of users with problems didn’t even bother to contact the manufacturer’s support because of bad past experiences.
  • Fifty percent of respondents who tried solving their own problem after free tech support failed them were successful.
  • Sixty percent of those who asked family and friends for help after free support failed had their computer problems fixed.
  • And, more than 90 percent of those who skipped tech support entirely and called an independent service at their own expense had their problem solved.


Step-by- Step Guide to Easy PC Fixes

The June issue of Consumer Reports includes an in-depth step-by-step guide to solving common computer problems, getting the most from free tech support and keeping computers running at top performance. This information will be available free for two months online at . Here is a brief synopsis of items from that guide:

Step One : Try to Fix the Problem Yourself. Turn off the computer and any misbehaving equipment for one minute and then restart it. Disconnect and reconnect all the device cables. For trouble with sound or video, review the device’s settings (usually in Windows control panel). Consult with a tech savvy friend of family member. Computer users running Windows XP should use System Restore to reinstate the computer’s previous settings. Consult Consumer Report’s guides. Online user forums and newsgroups may also offer a wealth of free information on similar problems.

Step Two: Maximize Free Tech Support. Consider the manufacturer’s track record and consult CR’s manufacturer’s tech support Ratings. Phoning isn’t the only way to get free support, but it offers better results than other ways. Keep written notes of important information such as service code, model and serial number. Record what happened and be able to tell the technician exactly what the problem is. Note the technician’s name, ID number, or an incident number so that the same tech may continue to help if the call is cut off.

Step Three: Consider Independent Support. Paid independent support consultants solved close to 90 percent of the problems that users in Consumer Reports’ survey brought to them after manufacturers’ support service could not solve the problem. Such services cover computers, peripherals, operating systems, and software, so consumers can avoid the runarounds often encountered with manufacturer’s support.

Step Four : Prevent Future Problems. Maintain the computer properly. Empty the recycle bin and temporary Internet files. Run Microsoft maintenance tools: ScanDisk, Disk Clean Up, and Disk Defragmenter. Enable Automatic Windows Updates. Delete unneeded items from the Startup menu. Back up your data. Remove dust from vents. Don’t install unnecessary software, especially from the Internet. Turn off the computer when not in use for long periods of time. Install antivirus and antispyware programs and use a firewall.

Step Five : Weigh Extended Support. For those in the market for a new computer, consider CR’s manufacturer’s tech support ratings. Some manufacturers offer an extended warranty that you can buy along with a new computer. For most computers brands, such plans aren’t worth buying. According to CR’s survey, they didn’t reduce many of the hassles people experienced with the free support, though they did solve slightly more problems.Complete Ratings of manufacturer tech support, the latest Ratings of desktop and laptop computers, and a step-by-step guide to easy PC fixes is available in the June issue of Consumer Reports magazine which goes on-sale on May 9th. The full report will also be available on .

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