Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

How to Get Good Tech Support

Many free solutions are available to help you with your electronics

spinner image man using laptop for online tech support
YAY Media AS / Alamy Stock Photo

Even if you didn’t shamelessly hint to family and friends about a specific gadget you’d love to unwrap this holiday, chances are good you found something techy under the tree this year.

From tablets and e-readerssmartwatches and activity trackers, to the latest smartphones and smart home gear, tech remains one of the hottest gifts to give. But what if you can’t figure out how to use your new toy? You’re not alone.

After all, it’s not like we grew up with these cutting-edge devices. You’re sure to have questions, or even challenges, as you familiarize yourself with them and what they can do.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

How you go about getting technical help could vary greatly, depending on the issue, how tech-savvy you are and what you can afford. With this in mind, here’s a look at a few options for getting help, even if it’s an evening, weekend or holiday. Some are free.

Look to the manufacturer for support

When you pay for a product or buy one as a gift, part of the cost goes toward customer service and technical support. So don’t be afraid to use it.

The same approach applies if you’re paying for a service, such as your internet provider or mobile phone carrier. They, too, are obligated to help you. Even if a warranty period has expired, many companies will still try to assist you.

Missing a power adapter?

Newer models of Android smartphones, iPhones and their companion smartwatches likely don’t include an AC adapter, also called a wall charger or charging brick.

You will find a cable with either a MagSafe, Qi-certified or USB-C connector on one end and another USB-C connector on the other. You’ll have to buy the charger separately if you don’t own one from a past purchase.

The reason? Manufacturers say they’re helping the environment. But the new USB-C standard means that few people have these newer chargers at home already.

The good news? You don’t need to buy the brand of your device manufacturer. Electronics and most big-box stores stock them, and you can find them online starting at less than $10.

To get help, go to the company’s website and look for the tech support area or do a web search for “[product name] tech support.” Be diligent in narrowing your search terms to locate the manufacturer’s actual site. Scammers are everywhere.

To communicate with customer service, use the method you’re most comfortable with. Be prepared to wait for days if you choose email or even hours during high-volume times for your phone call to get to the top of a queue. But if you look for a Live Chat tab or something similar, it will open a text-based chat window that allows you to correspond with someone on the other end in real time. At first, that might be a computer-controlled chatbot, but a human should come online at some point.

If you’re having a problem with a product you just received, make sure you have a gift receipt in case you need to return it to the store. Keep the box for a month or two, especially for high ticket items like laptops or smartphones, in case the retailer won’t take it back without that. And be sure to register your device with the company if you have the option.

Rely on friends and family

In every family or circle of friends, someone with serious tech smarts is available to call in a pinch. If they’re willing to help you by phone, make sure you have the item in front of you so you can follow along with the instructions. Take notes in case the problem happens again.

Nothing beats in-person help. Perhaps you can tempt a tech-savvy relative or neighbor with a fresh batch of cookies or a bottle of holiday cheer for a quick tech question or visit.

The next best thing is having a trusted friend or family member log in to your laptop or desktop remotely to fix the problem for you, with remote desktop software examples below. This will eliminate a potentially frustrating exchange over the phone: “Dad, Dad, Dad, I said to left-click on the file!”

By letting someone access your computer while it’s right in front of you, you’ll see what they’re doing to troubleshoot and fix the issue. Your cursor will magically move around the screen. Again, take notes so you can attempt to do it yourself next time.

See more Health & Wellness offers >

Your personal expert can choose from several remote desktop software solutions, including GoToMyPC, LogMeIn and the free Splashtop Personal. Because you’re ceding control of your computer, at least for a few minutes, be sure that you’re consulting with someone you know and trust.

Use search engines, YouTube

Want to try to fix the issue yourself? It could be something simple.

First, search for information about your glitch using GoogleBing, DuckDuckGo or another favored search engine. Be as specific as you can in keying in the exact model name of your device and the problem you’re facing, such as identifying your smartphone brand. Results are based on previous searches, so you’ll find an answer because someone else probably had the same issue.

For example, instead of writing “no sound on LG TV,” type in “no sound on LG C3 Series OLED TV.” You’ll get better results.

Sometimes you’ll find a short answer in the search engine itself, but you can always click or tap on a website for a deeper dive into web pages such as a tech support forum.

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, integrated into Microsoft’s Bing; Google Bard, part of Google Search; and Meta’s alternative, Meta AI, could also help you find an answer. For example, type a prompt like this into ChatGPT:

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

Join AARP today for $16 per year. Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.

“My mouse cursor isn’t working on a Dell XPS 13 laptop. How do I fix it?” The ChatGPT query generated the following reply:

If your mouse cursor isn’t working on your Dell XPS 13 laptop, you can try the following troubleshooting steps to resolve the issue:

1. Restart your laptop: Sometimes a simple restart can fix temporary issues. Restart your laptop and check if the mouse cursor starts working again.

2. Check the touchpad settings: Press the Windows key + I to open the Settings menu. Select Devices and then choose Touchpad. Make sure the touchpad is enabled. You can also adjust other settings here to see if it resolves the issue.

3. Update or reinstall the touchpad driver: Right-click on the Start button and select Device Manager. Locate the Mice and other pointing devices category. Right-click on the touch pad device and choose Update driver or Uninstall device. Then reinstall the driver.

4. Check for Windows updates: Ensure your Windows operating system is up to date. Go to Settings | Update & Security | Windows Update and check for updates.

If you’re a visual learner, go to YouTube and search for your problem by keyword to watch someone who successfully fixed their tech before you attempt to fix yours.

Call a tech help hotline

According to Asurion, the company behind the UBreakIFix chain of repair stores across the country, more than 70 percent of people say they’ve spent time helping a family member assemble or troubleshoot their tech gifts.

You can get to the Asurion Tech Help Hotline by visiting the website or calling 877-320-2237 to ask about your problem, such as spotty Wi-Fi or a smart speaker that’s not listening to you properly. Other national in-home or online tech support services include Bash, HelloTech and iYogi.

Drop it off or find in-home services

If you don’t have the time or patience for online or phone help, you can drop off your tech at an electronics store or service center for an expert to handle. The drawback: You won’t have instant gratification, and you’ll have to pick up your device once it’s fixed. But it’s not a bad option for getting your tech serviced.

Depending on the task, such as recovering corrupted files from a hard drive or replacing a broken iPad screen, the service could be expensive. So ask for a quote first and comparison shop before committing to one place.

Some major retailers and local small businesses offer in-home help, too. Get a quote upfront and read reviews about the service from past customers.

If you have an Apple product, you can go to one of the nearly 275 Apple Stores nationwide. Samsung has five Samsung Experience Stores to support its phones, tablets and watches, and accessories.

Best Buy markets its Geek Squad support services and offers a My Best Buy Total subscription, formerly Best Buy Totaltech, for $179 a year. The subscription comes with 24/7 support for all your tech and appliances, and product protection coverage, including AppleCare+, along with other benefits.

Alternatively, purchasing an extended warranty or service contract on appliances or electronics — with the exception of a new car — isn’t recommended, according to the nonprofit Consumer Reports. The median cost is about the same as the cost of a single repair.

How To Avoid a Tech Support Scam

Think before you click

Beware of scammers looking to defraud you by posing as a legitimate tech support service.

Never click on an email or pop-up window that claims to be from your internet service provider, a Windows tech support group or something of the sort. Fraudsters these days make the missives look authentic, as if they are from companies you know.

If you do click, a scammer may ask for your credit card, request that you type in personal information or ask to take control of your computer. You should be the one who initiates any contact. And contact only familiar brands on their actual websites — or, for example — or a third-party tech support brand you know and trust.

This story, originally published December 20, 2021, has been updated to reflect new troubleshooting services, including AI options.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?