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Marc Saltzman, Special to USA TODAY
Perhaps you found something techy under the tree or in a stocking this year.
While initially happy after unwrapping the gift – be it a pair of wireless earbuds, a streaming stick or new tablet – you suddenly realize you may not know how to set it up. Or what if you have issues with it?
Especially if you’re not too tech-savvy, chances are you’re going to have some questions (nay, challenges) with your new gear.
The good news is you have several options for seeking technical support – including many free avenues – and so here we look at a few suggestions.
Turn to the manufacturer
Don’t be afraid to reach out to the manufacturer for help. After all, part of the purchase price goes into tech support and customer service, so don’t be shy in using it. That, and the manufacturer should also be the best suited to assist you because tech supporters have likely heard the issue before.
To get help, go to the company’s website (like apple.com or dell.com) and look for the tech support area, or do a web search for “(product name) tech support,” but make sure it’s the actual company you’re reaching (look at the URL).
You’ve got some options on how you want to reach out: phone (if offered) may be fastest, email is convenient (but may take a while to get a reply), 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).
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Lean on tech-savvy friends, family
If you can, reach out to a tech-savvy family member, friend, colleague or neighbor.
If someone is willing to help you by phone, make sure you have your gear in front of you to follow the instructions right then and there. Better yet, jot down the advice in case it happens again.
Nothing beats in-person assistance, so perhaps tempt someone with some holiday treats you just baked.
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If they’re unable to show up in person, and it’s computer help you need, the next best thing to being there is having a trusted friend or family member log into your laptop or desktop remotely to fix the problem for you, but watch what they’re doing as they take control of your mouse, and take notes. Popular “remote desktop” apps include Splashtop Personal (my preference), LogMeIn and Go ToMyPC.
Web search, YouTube
Want to try to fix the issue yourself? It could be a simple thing, so why not try?
Do a web search for your problem – being as specific as you can, including the exact model number – and chances are you’ll find someone with the exact same issue (and hopefully, a solution, too).
Sometimes you’ll find a short answer within the search engine yourself.
If you’re a visual learner, go to YouTube and search for your problem by using relevant keywords to watch someone fix their tech so you can do the same.
Third-party online, retail services
Asurion, the company behind the chain of Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions repair stores across the country (formerly uBreakiFix), offers a device protection plan called Asurion Home+ ($24.99/month), which protects 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. Smartphones are not included in this plan.
Asurion says it will fix or replace tech that’s broken (often at an Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions store), or you’ll be reimbursed for it.
Best Buy’s Geek Squad, on the other hand, offers a different subscription service called Total Tech Support ($199.99/year), which gives you unlimited support for all your tech and appliances (by phone, online and in-store) no matter where you purchased them.
Speaking of stores, if you don’t have the time or patience for online or phone help, you might want to drop off your tech at an electronics retailer or service center for an expert to handle. Depending on the task and how busy the store is, it may not be fixed while you wait, so be prepared to part with your tech for a few days or longer.
And be aware, it could be expensive – such as recovering corrupted files off a hard drive or replacing a broken iPad screen – so always ask for a quote first and compare it with others before committing to one place.
Some major retailers offer in-home help, too, but be sure to get quotes – before they come – and read reviews from customers to see what they say about the service.
Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.