Remote-repair service might be the ticket

These days, we want everything fast, from food to computer repairs. If you’ve seen the TV ads for iYogi.net, you may have wondered, “How can a tech in India fix a computer in Nantucket?” I’m here to unravel some of the mystery of Internet-based tech support.

These days, we want everything fast, from food to computer repairs.

If you’ve seen the TV ads for iYogi.net, you may have wondered, “How can a tech in India fix a computer in Nantucket?” I’m here to unravel some of the mystery of Internet-based tech support.

Whether you take a faulty computer to a repair shop or have a tech come to you, it can take days or even weeks to get your system back on its feet. The major benefit of remote service is that in many cases it’s immediate. Answer a few questions, click a few buttons on your computer, and you can often have a tech working on your system while you make dinner or catch up on your scrapbooking. Many companies offer extended hours for their remote service, allowing you to fit computer repair around your schedule. Besides, if you have to have your computer fixed, it’s a slightly less distressing experience if you don’t have to get out of your pajamas and bunny slippers.

But there are some drawbacks to having your computer fixed remotely. A tech working from afar can only fix software-related issues, involving viruses, spyware, program corruption and operating-system glitches. While these account for the majority of repair issues, lots of problems will require you to be a more active participant in the repair. If you suddenly can’t print, for example, the tech probably will need you to check wires and do a manual restart before he or she can install drivers, etc. If you’re unable to get online, expect to spend some time on the phone while the tech walks you through basic troubleshooting.

If your computer needs hardware replaced or upgraded, techs likely will be able to diagnose the issue. But to get it resolved, you’ll need to have a tech put hands on your machine.

Having someone remotely access your machine and start moving your cursor, opening and closing programs, can be disconcerting at first. Many companies will offer to stay on the phone to help you feel more comfortable, or will let you remain in contact with the tech via a text window for your typed question or comment.

Choose wisely when contracting the remote service. Many companies require that you provide a credit card number up front, and they’ll have virtually unfettered access to anything stored on your computer.

To research companies, get recommendations from friends or family, use online review sites, and Google the company’s name. For more computer-security tips, see the Federal Trade Commission’s OnguardOnline website at http://onguardonline.gov/articles/0009-computer-security#companies.

The reality is that dropping off your computer at a repair shop isn’t any safer than remote access. When you’re in front of the machine, you can see exactly what the technician on the other end of the line is doing. This actually may give a little more comfort to those of us who like to retain a measure of control over the process.

Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, which offers on-site computer and home theatre set-up and repair. Based in Redding, Calif., it has locations in five states. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea