Is Online Computer Repair a Good Option?

How to tell if online PC repair or a local shop is your best bet

Man repairing desktop computer

Jasmin Merdan / Getty Images

When you're having trouble with your computer, you have two basic choices.

One choice is to fix the problem yourself, which is always our recommendation. Lifewire is full of self-help troubleshooting guides.

The other choice is to get someone else to fix it for you. You enjoy several computer service options, including invoking tech support if your warranty is still valid or paying someone else to fix the problem for you.

Assuming you've passed on fixing the problem yourself (see Simple Fixes for Most Computer Problems before you completely give up) and you can't get help from the manufacturer or software developer, you're left with the pay-for-service option. Your pay-to-fix options usually boil down to just two options: local computer repair and online computer repair.

So how do you decide? Do you take your computer to one of the many local computer repair shops to get it worked on or do you hire an online service to remotely connect to your computer and/or walk you through the solution to the problem?

It's not always an easy decision but there are several questions you should ask yourself that will help make the best choice more obvious.

Do You Suspect a Serious Hardware or Software Problem?

If you suspect a serious hardware or software problem, an online computer repair service won't do you much good. Any kind of problem that prevents you from successfully connecting to the internet will likely prevent a remote support agent from connecting to your PC over that same internet.

Some serious hardware/software problems include:

These hardware difficulties suggest an in-person repair visit becomes your best bet. You could still contact an online repair service but you'll probably be sent to a local repair shop and likely incur a charge for that referral. There's no reason to waste your money getting a referral from a biased source.

Some online computer repair services walk you through a step-by-step resolution to a serious problem that they can't remotely fix themselves. While that's certainly a better use of your money than a simple referral, you should know that whatever troubleshooting information they provide over the phone is probably available online, completely free of charge, from a computer repair website — like the one you're on now!

How Fast Do You Need Help?

By a huge margin, getting PC help from an online computer repair service will be faster than from a local computer repair service.

You won't have to unhook your computer and load it up in the car. You won't have to wait for a service person to visit your home or business. You won't have to work within standard business hours. These are huge advantages if you need your computer fixed fast.

Online PC repair services might not be able to fix every problem under the sun, but if they can fix yours, they're often the better, and for sure the fastest, bet.

If you know someone who is willing to help you remotely, we suggest looking through a list of free remote access software tools. Those programs let someone else connect to your computer as if they were sitting in front of it. Most are easy to set up — you could be getting support from an experienced friend in no time.

How Fast Is Your Internet Connection?

The majority of people online today use high-speed internet connections but if not, you should probably think twice about getting help for your PC from an online computer repair service.

The process can work on a very slow connection but it's not as reliable and will certainly extend the time, and cost, required to fix your computer remotely. You shouldn't have any problem working with a remote computer repair service team if you have a reliable, high-speed connection to the internet.

If you're not sure how fast your internet connection is, you can also check by using a free internet speed test website. Anything over 8 Mb/s should be okay for online PC repair but faster is better.

Are You a People Person?

Some people prefer to work face-to-face, an experience you won't get from an online computer repair service. If you like to see who you're paying for a service, or are used to assessing quality by real-world interactions, then we suggest visiting a local computer repair service.

However, if it's just about getting the job done right and getting it done fast, you'll probably be better off choosing an online computer repair service.

Remote computer repair services aren't the lesser choice. We bring these points up simply so you can make the right decision based on the specific problem you're seeing and the kind of person you are.

See How to Talk to Tech Support for tips to make the online computer repair process a lot easier.