Consumer Reports found that, in general, tech support solved problems for only about 60 percent of respondents who used it, in its latest annual survey of computer tech-support services.
However, the magazine found those who used Apple's tech support specifically reported success 80 percent of the time.
The magazine said its National Research Center performed the survey based its subscribers' experiences with 10,000 desktop and laptop computers.
Though Apple topped its tech-support service rankings, Consumer Reports found Lenovo was "outstanding at problem-solving for laptops," and that Dell was "above average in this area for both desktops and laptops. On the other end of the spectrum, it said Hewlett-Packard and Compaq were said to offer "inferior support."
The survey addressed the issue of whether extra-cost service plans, which generally offer an extended period of repair coverage and technical support, are worth the expense. According to a release, "Consumer Reports doesn't recommend buying a plan on the basis of its repair coverage alone," because, the magazine said, its data suggests that "on average, computer repairs cost about the same as the plan if the computer indeed needs a repair during the first few years."
About half of the computers in this survey were said to have been covered by some type of paid service-upgrade plan, but Consumer Reports said, "Results and analysis suggest such plans generally aren't good buys."
The magazine does, however, list a few situations in which a consumer might consider paying for an extended plan:
If one is buying a laptop that will travel a lot, the magazine suggested investing in a plan that will cover accidental damage.
If a consumer is buying a Mac, the magazine suggests investing in an extended plan due to "Apple's very brief tech support which runs out 90 days after purchasing, although unlimited support is available in its stores." It also noted that while its survey "showed Apple's track record for solving problems among consumers without paid plans was already a standout, it was even better than for support with a plan."
Finally, Consumer Reports also recommended extra-cost plans for those considering buying Dell or Gateway PCs. "These companies were significantly better at problem-solving for consumers with paid plans as opposed to the standard support offered with the purchase of a PC."
The complete report is available in the June issue of Consumer Reports.