Need help? Microsoft Stores offer free tech support, PC tune-ups, malware removal

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Windows users without a hefty dose of technical knowledge always have a tough time getting help. If you don't have a geeky friend handy, PC problems often mean dragging your computer down to the Geek Squad or local PC shop, where you'll be charged a crazy amount of money to have malware removed or speed up a slowing PC.

No more!

If you live near a Microsoft Store some of the peskiest PC problems can now be fixed in-person for free. Microsoft's retail locations recently started offering their Windows-focused answer to Apple's Genius Bar: the Answer Desk.

Longtime Windows users may remember the name Answer Desk as a website that debuted in 2011, offering live 24/7 technical support. The Microsoft Store's Answer Desk is an extension of that original service.

But instead of getting help online, you can now bring your virus-laden PC into the Microsoft Store and the retail outlet will fix it for free, as Lifehacker points out. It also doesn't matter if you bought your PC at the Microsoft Store, Best Buy, or Staples. If it runs Windows, Microsoft will try and fix it.

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An overview of the Microsoft Answer Desk's free in-person help options. (Click to enlarge.)

Currently, Microsoft's free tier at the in-person Answer Desk includes extended diagnostics on any device, software repair or support, virus and malware removal, and PC tune-ups for improving performance.

If your problem is a little more severe, Microsoft will charge $49 to help with warranty issues, hardware upgrades/installations, app installs, Windows 8.1 upgrades/installs, data backup migration, and OneDrive setup across all your devices.

Okay, so maybe Microsoft is still gouging PC users a little bit—almost $50 to set up OneDrive, really?—but it's not nearly as bad as you'll find at other places. Best Buy's Geek Squad, for example, will charge $200 just to remove viruses and spyware from your PC via an in-store drop off. And some of those premium tech support areas—such as OneDrive setup—are free if you buy a new PC from the Microsoft Store.

Even if you're not a Microsoft Store shopper, the next time you have a problem with your PC that no one else can help you with, consider scheduling an appointment with the Microsoft Store's Answer Desk.

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