How to Get Free or Cheap Tech Support

Crutchfield

Not only does this home and auto electronics depot offer its customers free lifetime technical support, but it sells relatively inexpensive tech-support packages to people who have purchased stereos, TVs, or MP3 players elsewhere.

Crutchfield does not sell or offer tech support for desktop PCs, laptops, or operating systems. But according to Shawn Lyons, tech support manager for the company, its technicians are prepared to help customers with just about any other electronic device, including car stereos, home entertainment systems, wireless networks, and iPods. "If I can find a manual for it online somewhere, then odds are we can help you," Lyons says.

Like Microsoft's Answer Desk, Crutchfield support is available 24/7. Unlike that service's help, however, Crutchfield's is available only by phone.

The company's two support packages--90-day ($30) and lifetime ($100)--are sold on a per-product basis. So, assistance you buy for your TV isn't transferrable to a router on the fritz. If you're skeptical about whether Crutchfield can help you with a given problem, you might still want to give them a try at the $30 level. According to Lyons, if a tech is unable to provide adequate support, you'll receive a full refund.

Lyons says that all of the company's techs go through an eight-week, hands-on training course. And Crutchfield encourages its techs to develop specialties. That way, if a customer calls with a question that one tech can't answer, someone else on duty probably can.

Don't count on these guys to help you mod any of your electronics, though. Crutchfield's techs are there to help with setup, configuration, and troubleshooting only.

Costco Concierge Sevices

The warehouse retailer offers technical support for a wide range of electronics products purchased from Costco either online or at one of its brick-and-mortar locations.

Costco's Concierge Services technical support can help guide customers through setup, product use, and troubleshooting questions regarding TVs, computers, tablets, projectors, cameras, MP3 players, home theater systems, printers, routers--and even pressure washers.

Like Crutchfield's, Costco's tech support is available only over the phone; but unlike both Answer Desk and Crutchfield, representatives are not available around the clock. Costco's tech support runs daily from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

PCWorld How-To's

Of course, consumers with an independent streak can always try Google, YouTube, online forums, and the How-To section of PCWorld.com, where you'll find a library of tips and tricks that we've compiled to help you navigate the digital world.

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