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Third-Party Tech Support Tested: How Does Geek Squad Compare to iYogi and Support.com?

There are myriad problems that can befall your laptop, ranging from the show-stopping to the productivity draining to the downright annoying. Many notebooks come standard with a period of toll-free tech support straight from the manufacturer, but what if you're past the support period or your problem falls outside the scope of what the vendor will solve?

Third party phone and Web services are there for you, but how helpful are they, and which is the best one? To find out, we tested the quality of three large services:

  • Geek Squad (geeksquad.com), a subsidiary of Best Buy, provides tech support via in-store locations, house calls, phone sessions, or Internet (via remote access). Costs start at $29.99. The company claims all technicians are native English speakers with either Best Buy certification, four years of computer diagnosis and repair training, or A+ computer certification.
  • iYogi (iyogi.net) offers 24/7 tech support that comes bundled free with any PC purchased from Amazon.com or Wal-Mart.com. The support can also be purchased for any PC for $139 per year, which grants access to unlimited help. Each iYogi agent is a Microsoft Gold-certified technician.
  • Support.com (support.com) also offers phone and remote repair services and it says that its agents are Gold-certified technicians as well. Support service subscriptions start at $19.99 (monthly) and $199 (annually) per computer. It also offers one-time repairs starting at $49.99. Support.com only assist users with computers running Windows 7, Vista, or XP; there is no Linux, Mac OS X, or Unix at this time.

We conducted our test by feigning two problems with a Gateway NV7915u notebook. On our first call to each service, we disabled the laptop’s webcam in the Windows Device Manager. When we contacted each service, we claimed we could no longer video chat in Skype. On our second call, we presented ourselves as Windows 7 novices who had seen Microsoft’s commercials and wanted to learn how to stream music from one Windows 7 notebook to another. We placed one call in the morning, and another in the evening.

Third Party Tech Support Services Tested

Geek Squad

Geek Squad Report Card
Webcam Question25 Minutes (A)
Win 7 Question 9 minutes (A)
Overall Grade A

Though Geek Squad has been criticized from time to time for overcharging and pushing its services too hard on customers in the store, our experience with Best Buy’s remote tech support service was nothing but positive. In fact, Geek Squad fixed our issues without charging us a dime.

Upon visiting the Geek Squad site for the first time, we were met with the smiling photo of Geek Squad agent Anthony H. on the right side of the page. Clicking his name opened a window that prompted us to create an account (you can also view a list of all available agents and their customer ratings by clicking a link beneath this box). We were automatically directed to a chat window with a message that read, “Thank you for contacting the Geek Squad, this is Agent Anthony H. How can I help you today?”

We described the webcam issue, and he provided a link that we used to download and install a Geek Squad-branded version of the remote access software, LogMeIn. This let Anthony access our Gateway NV7915u, and he proceeded to run a diagnostic program to determine the health of our machine, which completed in just under 15 minutes.

After determining that our PC was in tip-top condition, Anthony launched Skype and asked us to log in. He gave us his Skype ID, which we added to our contacts list. He prompted us to initiate a video chat, which (naturally) failed. Anthony took over the machine and went directly to Device Manager, where he discovered the webcam had been disabled; he sounded surprised to find it turned off (to be fair, we would be, too).

After activating the webcam, he asked us for our phone number and for us to restart the computer. Anthony called us within seconds and told us to fire up Skype for a video chat. We did, and within seconds we were chatting with him face-to-face: problem solved. When we asked him about the repair fee, he told us, “No worries. It was an easy fix. Consider it on us.” According to Geek Squad’s website, the cost for generic Computer Hardware Repair starts at $29.99.

We connected with Geek Squad Agent Josh W. at 5:30 p.m. to see if he could get our NV7915u to stream music to a separate Windows 7 notebook. Josh W. asked if both computers were connected to the Internet (which we confirmed), and he correctly walked us through the steps of creating a Home Group (launching the program, creating a password, selecting file types). This process didn’t require the use of remote access software, and took less than five minutes to set up. After the music flowed from one computer to another, we asked about pricing, and were given another freebie. Geek Squad lists Software Install (which includes software configuration) as a $49.99 operation.

Based on our experience, we strongly recommend Geek Squad’s tech support services. The agents were courteous, friendly, and efficient, and we were not charged for our two troubleshooting issues.

Third Party Tech Support Services Tested

iYogi

iYogi Report Card
Webcam Question115 minutes (D)
Win 7 Question 10 minutes (B)
Overall Grade C

With iYogi’s claims that it employs certified technicians, we expected a good experience with this service. However, iYogi delivered mixed results, and some may have trouble understanding the agents’ strong accents.

Unlike the Geek Squad agents that immediately jumped on the problems we presented to them, iYogi demanded we jump through some hoops first when we surfed to its website at 10:30 a.m. After clicking on the Chat Now button, we were prompted to enter our name, phone number, and e-mail address into a form. Then we were moved into a chat session with Jeenet Sorokhaibam, who asked about our PC problem.

After telling her about our webcam issues, she reminded us of the $139 annual subscription fee and asked if we’d like to proceed. We confirmed, and she told us she’d call back shortly to take our billing information, and to shuttle us to a technician who would work with us to handle the problem. She called back ten minutes later to take down our credit card information. Then she transferred us to an agent who would not give us his name when we asked for it twice. We were told “not to worry about it,” as he was “here to help.” That was a a bit disconcerting, but we pushed forward.

Similar to Geek Squad’s Anthony H., our iYogi agent initially went into Device Manager (after taking over our notebook using the iYogi Support Dock software) to suss out the webcam problem. But he skimmed right over the webcam listing and exited Device Manager. What should have been a near-instantaneous repair transformed in a 1-hour-and-45-minute phone call that we struggled to understand.

At one point we were on hold for more than half an hour. When he returned, he was quite curt, suggesting we find the webcam’s driver disk. Upon telling him we didn’t have it, he became noticeably frustrated; he then launched system restore and turned back the clock to a day before—overkill for a problem that could have been fixed in Device Manager.

Fortunately, the next technician that assisted us was far more efficient. Like Geek Squad’s Josh W., this iYogi agent (who also refused to give his name) verbally walked us through the act of setting up a Home Group (launching the program, creating a password, selecting files types) and streaming media from one notebook to another. It took 10 minutes total between the initial contact and our media being streamed from PC to PC. His Indian accent was far more comprehensible than his predecessor, which was welcome.

Paying $139 to fix our two minor problems seems excessive. Granted, iYogi covers one year of service, but there’s no guarantee that we’d actually need the coverage again. In addition, iYogi could better serve its customers if there were native English speakers on staff.

Third Party Tech Support Services Tested

Support.com

Support.com Report Card
Webcam Question15 Minutes (B+)
Win 7 Question 10 minutes (B)
Overall Grade B+

When we initially arrived on Support.com’s home page, we were a bit confused. Because the live chat button is tucked away in the upper-right portion of the screen, our eyes skimmed past it several times. After a few seconds, we clicked this option to enter the live chat with a Support.com Solution Engineer Tim at 10:00 a.m.

After entering our name and telephone number into an online form (there’s a button to initiate the chat positioned in the middle portion of the page), Tim asked us about our problem, and we related the story of our non-functional webcam. He broke down the various tech support plans available, and then took our billing information after we selected the monthly option. Then Tim gave us a link, which we used to download the remote access software.

Tim instructed us to launch the webcam, which brought up the expected error. He accessed the system, and found his way to the Device Manager, where he reactivated the camera. He asked us how this may have happened, and when we responded that we didn’t know, he wisely observed that it looked like it was done on purpose, warning us that someone may have been pulling a prank. The entire process took just under 15 minutes.

When we returned to Support.com again at 6:00 p.m., Steven stepped up to the challenge of solving our fabricated streaming problem. He correctly walked us through the steps necessary to set up a Home Group by launching the program, creating a password, and selecting file types to be streamed. The time taken from the initial contact to the music being streamed from system to system was 10 minutes.

Similar to our experience with iYogi, we felt we paid too much for the relative quick fixes offered by Support.com. We much preferred Geek Squad’s approach to tech support, which saved us money by not billing us for simple repairs. Still, Support.com’s one-time repair and monthly options offer considerably more flexibility than iYogi, and the tech support team consists of friendly, native English speakers.

Third Party Tech Support Services Tested

Overall Verdict

Final Grades
Geek SquadA
iYogiC
Support.com B+

Third-party tech support is an excellent tool for those leery about independently tinkering with their notebooks. The type of service that you should purchase, however, varies based on your needs. If you frequently find yourself in need of assistance, iYogi’s $139 annual subscription will pay for itself in just a few calls (if you’re willing to deal with potential communications problems and have some time to kill). Those not willing to deal with those headaches may prefer Support.com’s more expensive unlimited service plan ($199 annually).

Geek Squad and Support.com will probably be more to your liking if you rarely need tech support, as they offer low-cost one-time fixes. Support.com was faster than Geek Squad overall, but the edge goes to Best Buy’s service because they were willing to fix our specific problems on the house.

Third Party Tech Support Services Tested