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Finding Good IT Support For Your Home Computer

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 28 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
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For many people computers are simply a black art and when something goes wrong with the one at home there's unlikely to be an IT support person at the end of the phone, as there is in the workplace. But as the dividing line between computers and televisions becomes more blurred, and broadband and wireless setups make it easier to have more than one computer around the house, all connected to the world, it's going to become more important for people to be able to get their computers fixed at home. And it's not just entertainment; with more people working from home as well, there's a need for professional support for them too.

The best approach to IT support in the home is to get some knowledge so that you are able to do the little regular things that can help prevent problems, or at least make it easier to recover from them. There are numerous books around, and there are bound to be evening classes that teach an introduction to computers. Just like any other machine, PCs need regular tidy-ups to keep everything in trim, and although these tasks aren't difficult, you need to know how to do them and how often in order to do a bit of basic housekeeping.

The other thing you can do to help is to make sure that all the information on the computer, like photos, emails, music, documents and spreadsheets, is backed up regularly onto some other medium. This is so that if something does go wrong, once it's fixed, all that information can be put back on and you won’t have lost too much. Make sure that it's all copied on to something like an external hard disk or written to a CD, and that you know how to restore it too.

There are three areas of help when it comes to fixing a problem or upgrading a PC. One is the knowledgeable friend, neighbour or family member who will help you out. There are two dangers here, the first is that they may not actually know what they are doing, or if they do, they are annoyed because people keep asking them to do things for them and don’t respond very well. Either way, you may not end up with a very satisfactory response, and it's perhaps best to get a personal recommendation from someone before going down that route.

The second is to use the guarantee that came with the PC and take it back to the shop, or get an engineer to visit, if that's the service that's on offer. Or perhaps there's an extended warranty or a telephone helpline that you can call on. Whether or not they will help depends on the nature of the problem, if it's physically broken then that will be fine, but if it's a problem with the operating system or an application that you've installed on the PC, then that might be outside their jurisdiction. Make sure you wade through the small print before making the trip back to the store.

The third way is a local PC engineer who will come out and look at your problem. They won’t be hamstrung by the terms and conditions of any guarantee or service contract but they will probably charge by the hour, so it can be expensive unless the problem is resolved pretty quickly. These people can be found in local newspapers and newsletters, telephone directories and through cards in shop windows. Getting someone local will mean that you may well be able to strike up a relationship with them, where they train you in the regular maintenance tasks so that they don't have to visit so often. Again, a personal recommendation from someone else who's used the person in question will be very valuable.

However, at the end of the day, families with school-age children come off best when it comes to getting help with computers. After all, if you can't fix it yourself, today's kids are bound to know how to do it!

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