Sunday, December 27, 2009

Things you should know before Calling Computer Tech Support

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phoneCalling tech support can be one of the most frustrating things when dealing with computers.  Most users think that the person on the phone will be able to open up their big book of computers and solve whatever problem the user has and gets frustrated when they can't simply answer the question quickly and easily.  Here are some things that you should know before calling tech support to save yourself and the tech support person tons of headaches.

What OS are you using?  Believe it or not, not all operating systems are the same.  If you are using Mac's OS X, it is important to inform the tech person of this since, in all likelihood, they will be making the assumption that you are dealing with a Windows machine.  At the same time, letting them know which version of Windows you are using will save a lot of time.  Windows XP and Vista are completely different and tech support will begin to handle the situation differently.

What version of the software are you using?  If you are having trouble with a software package, know what version you are using.  I get calls all of the time and my first question is, "which version of the browser are you using?"  Since I am in Web development, this is a VERY important question since Internet Explorer 6 is going to run completely different than Internet Explorer 8 (see my post 'The Internet Explorer 6 Conundrum: Part 1' - here  This question will also matter when dealing with installing new hardware.  Usually new hardware comes with drivers, etc. but that doesn't mean they are up-to-date, know those versions to save headaches. 

When did the problem start?  This will take some brainstorming but it is important.  Did you download/upgrade new software or install new hardware?  Did you run virus scan and check for spyware?  Check for spyware and virus scan before calling.  Also, if Windows update ran recently or you recently installed new hardware to your machine, note that and inform tech support.  There are tons of program and hardware conflicts and this information can be vital to diagnose that.  And, when dealing with Vista, some updates have been known to cause hardware issues.

Have you created a system restore point and when was the last time you did?  Over the years, I have bought hundreds of machines for staff and there have been many an issue when setting them up.  When dealing with Windows, a favorite solution for tech support is simply, format and reinstall.  However, setting up a system restore point and knowing when the last time you did may save you from getting a quick format and reinstall solution. 

What machine are you using?  Note the machine's name and model number.  I stated above that tech support loves to use format and reinstall, they also love the blame game.  A few years ago I had a Dell machine with some major issues going on.  I called Dell and explained the issue and they blamed it on the OS.  I called Microsoft, told them about it and they blamed the machine.  Know all of the information to help keep yourself informed.  I mentioned hardware and software conflicts and knowing about the machine will help to diagnose know incompatibilities.  Also, know how much RAM you have, the speed of the processor, and the size of your hard drive.

Does your computer give the same problem in safe mode?  This is important in diagnosing if something is loading in Windows that is causing an issue.  It takes a little time but launch safe mode and see if you are having the same issue.  If you are not, then you know something is loading that is causing the issue and you can start to take action (running virus scan, spyware scan, etc.) to take care of the issue, and possibly avoid having to call tech support.  Note, if you don't know how to run safe mode, after BIOS runs (the little numbers etc. right when you turn on the computer), press F8 and run 'Safe mode'.

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