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The best options for tech support after you’ve unwrapped your new holiday gadgets

Maybe you found something technological under the tree or in your stocking this year.

After unwrapping the gift – whether it’s a pair of wireless earbuds, a streaming stick, or a new tablet – you realise you may not know how to set it up. What if you have problems with it?

Chances are, if you’re not particularly tech-savvy, you’ll have some questions (nay, challenges) with your new gear.

The good news is that you have several options for getting technical support, including many free options, so here are a few suggestions.

Contact the manufacturer.
Don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer for assistance. After all, a portion of the purchase price is dedicated to tech support and customer service, so don’t be afraid to use it. That, and the manufacturer, should be the best people to help you because tech support has most likely heard about the problem before.

To get help, go to the company’s website (such as apple.com or dell.com) and look for the tech support section, or do a web search for “(product name) tech support,” but make sure you’re reaching the correct company (look at the URL).

You have a few options for how to contact them: phone (if available), email (which may take a while to get a response), or look for a “Live Chat” option on the website to message with someone in real time (though it may be a “chatbot” at first).

Make use of tech-savvy friends and family.
If possible, contact a tech-savvy family member, friend, colleague, or neighbour.

If someone is willing to assist you over the phone, make sure you have your equipment ready to follow the instructions right away. Even better, write down the advice in case it comes up again.

Nothing beats in-person assistance, so perhaps tempt someone with some freshly baked holiday treats.

If they are unable to appear in person and you require computer assistance, having a trusted friend or family member log into your laptop or desktop remotely to fix the problem for you is the next best thing to being there, but watch what they’re doing as they take control of your mouse and take notes. Splashtop Personal (my personal favourite), LogMeIn, and Go ToMyPC are all popular “remote desktop” apps.

YouTube and web searches
Do you want to try to fix the problem yourself? Why not give it a shot if it’s something simple?

Do a web search for your problem, being as specific as possible, including the exact model number, and chances are you’ll find someone else experiencing the same problem (and hopefully, a solution, too).

Sometimes you can find a quick answer within the search engine.

If you learn visually, go to YouTube and search for your problem using relevant keywords to watch someone fix their technology so you can do the same.

Third-party retail and online services
Asurion, the company behind the nationwide chain of Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions repair stores (formerly uBreakiFix), offers a device protection plan called Asurion Home+ ($24.99/month) that covers virtually all home tech under one roof – smart home devices, TVs, computers and accessories, tablets and e-readers, and gaming consoles – regardless of where it was purchased or how old it is. This plan does not include smartphones.

Asurion promises to repair or replace broken technology (often at an Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions location) or reimburse you for it.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad, on the other hand, offers a different subscription service called Total Tech Support ($199.99/year), which provides unlimited support for all of your tech and appliances (via phone, online, and in-store) regardless of where they were purchased.

If you don’t have the time or patience for online or phone support, you could drop off your device at an electronics retailer or service centre for an expert to handle. Depending on the task and how busy the store is, it may not be fixed while you wait, so plan on being separated from your tech for a few days or longer.

And be aware that it may be costly, such as recovering corrupted files from a hard drive or replacing a broken iPad screen, so always request a quote and compare it to others before committing to one location.

Some major retailers also provide in-home assistance, but be sure to get quotes before they arrive and read customer reviews to see what they have to say about the service.

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