5 Ways to Get Free Tech Advice Online

By Linsey Knerl on 26 October 2009 (Updated 4 February 2011) 3 comments

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This article shares tips from the 10th episode of Dealista, our podcast that'll help you get more for less.

It happens almost weekly for some: your computer freezes, your iPhone won’t power down, or your printer is jammed in a big way. The frugalist in you just doesn’t want to make an expensive house call to a tech professional, and most of the time, that’s OK! We’ve got 5 top resources for finding free tech advice online, and a few tips for helping you decide which tips are worthy.

1. Kim Komando

This radio talk show host is a popular choice for anyone looking for true basic-level tech mentoring. She can help you pick out just the right wireless network for your home office, and give you suggestions for keeping your digital photos from being out of focus. Her website The Kim Komando Show is equally valuable, giving free daily downloads and a Cool Site of the Day!

2. PC Magazine

Long before magazines went digital, I was devouring this glossy mag and using it to tweak my finicky desktop system. Now complete online, it’s still a top stop for everything from advice for getting the most out of your surround sound to a plethora of some of the most consumer-friendly tech product reviews around. The perfect balance of newbie-friendly and hacker-helpful, you’ll pretty much find it at PC Mag.

3. Tom’s Guide

This is the perfect stop for noobs looking to interact with long-time programmers and technicians, as Tom’s Guide is the offshoot of the more intensive Tom’s Hardware (a Best of Media company). The quirky product guides and cultural discussions are accompanied by photos and graphics to keep you informed and entertained, while the forums are a great destination for those looking to learn a lot in a hurry. Head to Tom's Guide to get tech news that won’t bore you to death.

4. PC World

Sometimes you just need a detailed, step-by-step tutorial of how to do something right. PC World is the place to get it, with dummy-proof instructions for getting your HDTV to do what you want it to do and 5-minute suggestions for amping your cell phone signal. Their consumer-reports inspired product reviews are especially helpful, giving you a pricing guide to help you in your very important purchasing decisions.

5. FixYa

Peer groups are great for many things, tech advice not excluded. For the times when you swear you saw your computer do something you can’t quite explain to the repair guy, FixYa is a community forum for sharing problems and solutions we all can benefit from. Don’t see your problem asked? Post it anyway — chances are good someone else will also suffer from some annoying bug that no one else believes can happen.

All this this is a great start for the DIY tech enthusiast, but how can you know that the advice you get on line is safe (and will really work)? There are a few basic tips to keep you in the clear when giving your gadget a life-saving procedure (or even just a facelift).

The more the merrier.

If you see a solution to your tech woe being echoed time and again by the moderators, editors, and long-time contributors of a popular forum, chances are good that it’s a legit fix. The troll with one or two lifetime posts and a hyperlink to a Viagra wholesaler in his signature, however, is probably not to be trusted.

If it’s a warranty-voider, it may be a deal-breaker.

Yes, it’s cool to do unauthorized hacks on your iPhone, and for those that are willing to void their manufacturer’s agreements in the name of jailbreaking, we don’t want to stop you from having your fun. For the not-so-zealous tech user, however, it may not be worth giving up 2 years of authorized tech support just to be able to perform a neat hack. If something you read seems shady, it may not be for you.

Saving some cash isn’t worth freaking you out.

If the thought of adding some memory to your laptop or reinstalling your operating system has you in tears, skip the DIY and fork out the cash to have a professional do it for you. Life’s too short to lose sleep over those tasks that a tech pro can take care of in less than 20 minutes.

Dealista is a collaboration between Wise Bread and Quick and Dirty Tips, the producer of popular podcasts such as Grammar Girl, Money Girl, Winning Investor, and Mighty Mommy.

If you enjoyed these tips you can find more in our show's archive.

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Guest's picture
Kevin

I Understand that we all have our favorite resources to go to for tech help, but I would NEVER consider "Kim Komando" a resource. She is nothing but a link farm. She charges the public for her podcasts, when there are other people who offer their shows for free. My personal choice for tech references and help is a gentleman called, Mike Smith. He is host of the Mike Tech Show. (http://www.miketechshow.com) He has YEARS of experience in the computer field. His show excels on email questions from his many listeners. He also does not charge for his podcasts. Ms. Komando could learn a lesson from him.

Guest's picture
Jerry

And don't forget the vendors' web sites.
Support newsgroups can also be very useful. The ones at forums.sybase.com that I support have won awards.

Guest's picture

luckily none of my toys have ever malfunctioned and when- on the rare occasions- i do get a problem, i forward it to my geek friends who gladly fix it for me