We know that computer problems are stressful, and sometimes getting tech help can be even more stressful. Here is our best advice on how to prepare before you make that call for professional tech help. Whether you have an in-home appointment, are calling tech support on the phone, or bringing your computer to a service shop, here are some things you can do to get the most for your time and money:
First things first – What’s the number one thing you need help with? If you have several concerns, jot down what they are, and then rank order them in terms of what’s most important to you. This way if you don’t have enough time to address everything in one appointment, you will have taken care of the most important thing first.
Have your passwords ready – If we could only offer one piece of advice, this would be it! We sometimes get stopped in our tracks when we’re on a service call because of unknown, lost or misremembered passwords. So, organize your passwords:
Need help accessing your email? We need your email password to help you.
Need to change some settings on your computer? We’ll definitely need your “login” or “admin” password.
Need some help setting up iCloud? Have your Apple ID handy – and if you have more than one Apple ID (many folks are often surprised to find that they do) have ‘em all handy!
If you have tech help coming to your home, it’s a good idea to know your home’s WiFi network name and password. If you don’t know, the information is usually right on the router. (Do you know if you have a router? If you do, where in your home is it located?)
Finally, avoid the “shoebox phenomenon” – the all-too-common practice of collecting and keeping miscellaneous scraps of paper with passwords in a box and handing the box to your tech help saying “I’m pretty sure it’s in here…” Sifting through the box looking for the piece of paper with the needed password can cost you valuable appointment time that you are being billed for.
Know your stuff – When you first call for tech help you will likely be asked what computer you have (for example Dell, HP, Mac) and what operating system you currently use (for example Windows 10 or Big Sur). Or which smartphone (for example, Samsung or iPhone). Though it’s not always critical, it can be very helpful if you’re able to give this information to the tech support person right at the start of your call.
Stop clicking on things! – If you’re calling for help because something strange or creepy has happened with your computer, tablet or phone, wait for the tech help to arrive. Don’t start changing settings, deleting things or clicking around in hopes of finding a fix. That can make solving the problem more complicated and time consuming than it needs to be.
Write down what happened and what you did – Let’s say something freezes on your computer or some app doesn’t behave the way it normally would. Stop and write down what you were doing right before the problem occurred. That’s not to say we think you caused the problem, it just helps us to know what happened right before the problem occurred.
And if you already started clicking on things (see above!), write down each thing you did, in order if possible, after the problem occurred. This helps your tech support person understand the before-and-after history of the problem, and can lead to a quicker solution.
If you can, take a screenshot – We are really happy campers when our clients can show us a screenshot of whatever error message or strange thing appeared on their screen. Most modern computers and mobile devices can take screenshots. If you don’t know how, ask a knowledgeable person to show you.
Screenshots come in especially handy when we’re asked for help via phone or email – instead of asking the client to describe in detail what they’re seeing on their screen, we ask them to send us a screenshot. It’s a great time and money saver.
If you suspect malware or a scam, stop and call for help immediately – But don’t panic. Perhaps it will turn out to be nothing, but if you’re not sure it’s always best to get help. Call as soon as you suspect a problem.
Then, let the professionals do their job. They will ask you questions and tell you what to do and what not to do – for example, they may tell you to shut your computer down until they can get to it, or perhaps leave it running and maybe take a screenshot. Even before we can get to a client’s home to assess the situation we can often put their mind at ease with some early “damage control” and a little reassurance.
Sooner or later we all encounter bugs, breaks and glitches on our electronic devices. Being well prepared can help make your next tech support call less stressful and more successful.