Before buying, check out computer service contracts

What do we do when everything else fails? Who do we turn to when our computer simply stops working?

Of course, this is the same question we face when the car starts acting up, our washing machine stops, or we start to have problems with any of the other pieces of complex equipment we use in our every day lives.

Whether we are dealing with an existing piece of equipment or contemplating purchasing something new, one of our major considerations is service; before, during and after the warranty period.

There really are two aspects to this question. Maybe the most important is telephone service. If you already have a computer there isn't much you can do about this. However if you are contemplating the purchase of a new computer or other piece of computer equipment, this should be one of your most important considerations.

Computers and peripherals are becoming commodity products. That is, most computer equipment from reputable manufacturers is just about the same in quality as well as features. So the distinguishing feature becomes service.

Computer equipment is complex. Not only do things sometimes not work, but questions arise about installation and operation as well. You should be able to get these questions answered "24-7." This means twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In other words, someone should be by the telephone to help you whenever you need help. And you shouldn't have to wait very long for this help.

Companies like Dell Computer, the mail order computer firm, have excellent 24-7 help for the life of your machine and they can be reached by calling a toll-free telephone number. And you get this help usually after only a short wait.

Some manufacturers have telephone service but make you call a toll number. And the most exasperating thing is then having to wait twenty minutes or so to talk to a technician, all the while paying long distance charges.

Be sure to question the salesperson about service before purchasing any new piece of equipment. If it's a complex piece of equipment, try calling "technical service" before buying to see how the service system works. Technical service can become the most exasperating part of owning a computer if you have problems.

The second aspect to the question of service is what do we do when the warranty period is over and telephone technical service can't help? Now we need a good local repairperson.

I'm going to let you in a little secret. In the last few years I have been taking my "unsolvable" computer problems to Universal Computer Service. It is owned by Con Tran and his wife Didi and is located on Tustin Avenue just south of Santa Clara at 2124 N. Tustin Avenue. Con and Didi are a pleasure to work with and half the fun is just going into their small shop and seeing computer "stuff" piled floor to ceiling. Con has been doing computer things for more than 18 years and usually can solve the most complex problems. His rates are reasonable and maybe most importantly, he respects older adults and their technical problems.

Other stores offer service. MicroCenter has a large service department. However they are more commercial with a menu of rates and less personal service. And there are a myriad of small computer stores in the area that I haven't tried.

So the next time you decide to purchase new computer equipment, be sure to check on service before buying. You will save yourself a lot of grief.

Remember, keep the neurons happy, the synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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