Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 17:15 UK

Going in search of tech support

A computer user (R) sits next to a member of Geek Squad computer support (R)
If they have computer problems, some people prefer to use experts

When your computer suddenly freezes, trying to solve the problem can be difficult. Marc Cieslak looks at what to do when your computer starts to sulk.

At some stage uncooperative computers have plagued even the most computer literate. But when things do wrong, who are you going to call?

"People can be left feeling pretty helpless when their PC has problems. There are all sorts of different things you can try to do to rectify the problem.

"If you can get online its quite likely somebody has had the same sort of problem before, so just a simple search in Google might provide the answers," says editor of PC Advisor, Paul Trotter.

Making use of a search engine will inevitably lead users to online help forums.

Online forums can be a massive help
Paul Trotter, Editor, PC Advisor
Here users can post their problem and wait for a response which hopefully includes instructions on how to fix that problem courtesy of the forum's community.

"It's [the use of online forums] something that's growing and growing over the past few years. These people do it for free so it's their own time they are using," says Paul Trotter.

Web advice

Professional IT consultant James Campbell has posted advice via help forums and finds them very useful when he is working.

He says: "Often we are faced with the same situation that users at home are in. When somebody encounters a problem we can go and find out if somebody has experienced a similar problem in the past.

"Obviously people are always trying to help in these forums but they are not always 100% accurate in their diagnosis or they have not always taken every possibility into account."

Mr Campbell recommends to say on the forum whether the advice worked, or if you had to do something in a different way, so that other people can also benefit from your experience.

Professional support

With a bit of time and effort, forums might just solve your problem, but now a host of companies are tapping into the need for consumer technical support and offering their services to users, at a price.

They offer differing levels of support, from trying to fix a computer via remote access to packing up their bags of tricks and paying a personal visit to a user.

Geek Squad's CEO, Robert Stephens says: "There are really three kind of people in the world. [Firstly] the 'do it myself' crowd, who are going to go right on the internet and look to see if they can find the answer.

Unless you are a geek and you stay home every Saturday reading manuals for stuff you don't even own you are not likely to figure it out.
Robert Stephens, CEO The Geek Squad
"The second crowd is the 'do it for me, I will pay the bill'.

"We are finding the biggest segment that's emerging is the 'I thought I could do it myself' crowd."

Jonny Osser called in professional help when he encountered problems using iTunes.

"Over the years I have had a number of PCs that I have saved music on and tried to transfer the music over.

"I've now got a Mac, so I have been trying to put this onto my external hard drive, but because my music has come from all sorts of different places it is not stored in my iTunes library folder.

"I didn't really know how to transfer it onto the hard drive and still get it playing through iTunes. I tried to follow stuff that I had seen online but I didn't really help me."

Geek Squad's CEO, Robert Stephens says: "Users should know it's not their fault. This stuff is hard to use. Unless you are a geek and you stay home every Saturday reading manuals for stuff you don't even own you are not likely to figure it out. But it will get easier."

So if your machine starts acting up or you are just finding it difficult to perform a task, do not panic - help is at hand online for free if you are prepared to look for it. And for those with deeper pockets, knowledgeable support is available at a price.

Digital plumbers enter the home
30 May 08 |  Technology
A day out with the Geek Squad
30 May 08 |  Technology
A day out with the Tech Guys
30 May 08 |  Technology
A day with BT's Home IT Visit service
30 May 08 |  Technology

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