Best Buy's online services begin with a $49.99 computer tune-up to make your machine run faster. Remote controlled virus and spyware removal starts at $149.99, which is $50 less than what it would cost if you bring your machine into the store. Hewlett Packard uses a different model. The company tries to provide a series of tools for its computers in the hope that you'll never need to access a support agent either online or on the phone. Gagnerau says the company upgrades its HP Support Assistant on an ongoing basis. The Assistant will automatically monitor your computer to check its performance and to make sure it has the latest software drivers (small programs that make other programs and devices work correctly). If you do need to go online for support, the HP Support Assistant gathers data from your computer so a support technician already has most of the information about what's on and in your computer as soon as he connects.
"We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. …"
That was part of the opening line from the 1960s sci-fi TV series The Outer Limits. And it reflects the strange feeling I get when a support technician takes control of my computer over the Internet to see what's going on inside.
I watch as the cursor moves across the screen without my touch. Messages come and go. But it's all part of the remote control experience. Pugh says that if you can power up your computer and get it connected to the Internet, the Geek Squad can generally fix most things that may be wrong with it. He says the four most consistent problem areas are:
- A slow running computer
- Viruses and spyware
- Training issues
- Email setup
If there's something more serious with the computer, the Geek Squad can usually diagnose it. And if it requires a part replacement, you can bring it into the store or get a Geek Squad house call, both of which can cost considerably more than the remote session.