Showdown: Remote Control Tech Support Services, Tested
Web-based tech support services provide live help, but can you trust your PC in a stranger's hands?
PC World - At some point, calling your tech-savvy friends and relatives for help gets old. Or rather, they stop answering the phone, and you're left on your own to figure out why your Wi-Fi doesn't work.
Designed for novices and businesses without access to on-site tech support, a new and growing breed of tech support services are ready to lend a hand. Using remote-control software, these services can troubleshoot your PC while you kick back and finish your latte--provided your Internet connection isn't the problem. And the best part is that you no longer have to cart your computer into a shop or even walk through a fix on the phone.
We put four remote-control tech support services to the test, peppering them with three problems that we (intentionally) created on a test PC, a Samsung Series 7 Chronos laptop running Windows 7. We tested during different times of the day, but always during business hours, one problem per call. To make things tougher, we disabled System Restore, eliminating the option of an easy fix for some of these problems. (Techs are often quick to jump to this fix--after blaming viruses--as a cure-all.)
We designed three tests to mimic common complaints that we've heard over the years.
Test 1: We deleted the driver for our audio subsystem, and told the tech support rep that we couldn't hear anything during Skype calls. (The correct fix: Reinstall the driver.)
Test 2: A simple one: We changed the resolution on our display so that icons and text looked radically stretched out. We said "our kids" had messed up our PC. (The correct fix: Change resolution in the Display control panel.)
Test 3: We deleted the "Users" folder from the Windows Indexing service and said that when we searched, our personal files were no longer showing up in Start Menu search results. (The correct fix: Add the "Users" folder back to the index, then rebuild the index.)
Here's how four remote tech-support operations fared when faced with running our gauntlet of tech problems.
iYogi, as the name implies, is an India-based outfit, even offering "Good Karma!" with its automated tune-up system. The website is garish--particularly around Valentine's Day, when floating pink hearts obscure the checkout button--which may give you pause when forking over $170 for a year.
Once you've registered, iYogi directs you to install the iYogi Support Dock, a lengthy, multistep process that eventually gives you a widget that always resides at the top of your screen and includes a button to click for help.
Test 1: In the missing sound test, our support rep arrived to chat after a couple of minutes and asked if we had driver discs for our computer. We didn't (who does?). But he correctly went to the Device Manager to spot the missing devices anyway, reinstalling them there directly. The fix took only a few minutes.
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