August 28, 2008

Get the Best Tech Support

When your computer's hiccups become unbearable, fight the temptation to immediately call the machine's manufacturer for tech support. You might find a simple answer to your problem with an Internet search or trip to a site such as (Click the "Operating Systems" tab to find forums/discussions of problems.) If headaches persist, get ready to call tech support. Before making the call

- Get organized: Jot down your computer's serial number (usually found on the back or bottom of the unit), operating system (which version of Windows or Linux or Apple your computer uses), processor speed (usually a number followed by GHz for gigahertz) and how much RAM (memory) is installed. You'll be asked for this information, and things will go quicker if you're prepared.

- Dial and remain calm while you are on hold: Grab a crossword puzzle or something else to occupy your mind while on hold. Breathe deeply, and relax your jaw and shoulders, where we store a lot of stress.

- Keep your pen and paper handy: You should write down your case number, the name of your tech support representative and notes.

How tech support works

Support is provided in three levels.

Level 1 support representatives are trained to get your computer's system info, talk you through basic possible solutions and, if things don't work, figure out if you need a hardware or software specialist at Level 2. If the Level 2 specialist can't help you, you're off to Level 3: the Computer Experts Who Have Seen/

Heard Everything. But you're not likely to talk to one of these gurus.

"Typically, 70 percent to 90 percent of calls are solved at Tier 1," says Dennis Smeltzer, executive director of the Tech Support Alliance Network.

On forum sites such as, spell out your problem and your computer's operating system information.

To get the most out of Level 1:

- Be ready with your computer system info and description of what is going wrong.

- Stay on track. A big red flag should pop up in your mind if you hear yourself using the word "because," as in, "I installed this software because I wanted to make my grocery shopping easier," or, "I added more memory because my sister said I should." Too much information!

- Do only the requested action and nothing more. If you and tech support stay on the same page, you'll be more efficient and keep confusion to a minimum.

- Ask that your case be escalated quickly, if you suspect your problem is major. You may not be transferred right away, because Level 1 people don't want the boss to think that all they do is continually pass the buck to higher-paid Level 2 workers. So, politely repeat your request a couple of times; do not ask to speak to the manager. You will wind up with a Level 1 manager who will listen to your complaint, then hand your call to another Level 1 tech, and you'll start all over.

To get the most out of Level 2:

- Write down his or her name.

- Do only the requested action and nothing more.

To get the most out of Level 3

Actually, you don't want to get out of Level 2, because that means your computer is just about toast and you need some (likely expensive) repairs. Now what?

Take your computer to a repair shop and ask for a diagnostic and estimate of fixes, including parts and labor. Expect to pay $25 to $50.

If repairs are $400 or more, you may be better off buying a new computer. Ask if the repair shop can recover from the hard drive files you want (and what it will cost). If your hard drive has failed, extracting files might be difficult.


Originally published by GWINN; McClatchy Newspapers.

(c) 2008 Richmond Times - Dispatch. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.