When compiling this list, I only looked at free third-party support sites. If you are looking specifically for vendor support sites, then click here.
Most of the sites in this category have volunteer staffing and that means the quality of answers to your questions can very widely - it all depends on the individual you get. So don't take the following site rankings too literally as your experience may well differ from mine.
Tech Support Guy: Free help for users of Microsoft Windows 95, 98, NT, ME, 2000, XP and Linux. This is a volunteer run site with a very active forum area covering a good range of subject areas. You can also search past forum messages, which can be a little slow but may still be the quickest way to get the answer to your problems.
The site layout has been recently revamped and this has greatly improved usability. On the down-side advertising is now more prominent, though not yet intrusive.
When we tested the service, we got the answer to one of our questions immediately by searching the past forum database. Our two remaining questions were posed on the live forums in the appropriate categories and got answers to both, very promptly indeed. Impressive.
5Star Support: This free site offers a variety of tech support services. First there is an excellent on-line FAQ which provides quick answers to many common problems. Second, they offer some excellent technical guides which cover a wide range of topics from installing a network card to cleaning your mouse. Finally there is an web form where you can pose a specific problem and receive the answer by email.
We got the answer to one of our questions from the FAQ. The other two trickier questions we posed by filling in the web form. We immediately received an email saying that our questions had been sent to all the volunteers and we may receive more an answer from more than one volunteer.
That's exactly what happened, we got two responses to each question from different individuals. Quickly too, all responses came within 12 hours. The solutions posed were both sound and logical but didn't solve the problems. We then replied to the emails and asked for other solutions. After a couple of emails the volunteers came up with perfectly acceptable solutions though not necessarily the most technically insightful.
This service is free though donations for successful solutions are suggested. Overall an impressive service particularly for more straightforward problems.
Highly Recommended Sites
ProtonicThis is an online community that provides free computer technical support for Windows, Mac, Unix and Palm by email. The site is exceptionally well laid out and easily navigated. All you need do is , register for free then pose your question. The answer will be emailed to you very promptly.
Since last reviewed the site has gone from strength to strength. The already excellent layout has been improved further and response time to our questions was very speedy indeed.
Clean, straightforward and effective. I liked it!
AskMeHelpDesk is a Web site that pairs experts and novices to answer and ask questions. There are hundreds of topics, including many computer-related ones. The computer sections are quite active and I got answers to our test questions within a few hours. Take the strain off your help desk and get your users to check out this excellent free resource.
D-A-L Computer Help: This a forum based Windows help service. It's quite active with responses to questions often posted within a few hours. The "Spyware, Adware, Viruses and HijackThis Logs" section is particularly active and the answers posted both helpful and sound. The "Hand Held" and "Web Design" sections are currently a bit thin but that does not distract from the overall excellence of this free site for general Windows support. Registration is required to post a question but this is a simple and speedy procedure. Well worth trying.
Help.com is a free tech support service from CNet. There are plenty of online resources to help you, drawn from a variety of sources. Some of these are on the help.com site, some are elsewhere. Included in the latter is a question and answer service that links to gives you an easy interface for the Usenet support newsgroups, although to use this service you must register.
Suggest A Fix: This is a free forum where users can post problems in the hope that another forum member can help. The available forums cover operating systems, general computing, the Internet and security with many subdivisions under each category.
The forums are not the busiest we've seen but almost all questions attract good quality answers. Our 3 test questions were answered very promptly indeed the solutions provided and were of high quality.
Like many other forums, a few dedicated individuals seem to provide the bulk of the answers so you might find the quality of the answers varying day to day according to who's available. This reservation notwithstanding, we couldn't fault the service we received.
About Guide on PC Support Here you'll find an excellent portal site for all PC support issues. The information presented is thorough and comprehensive. They have a forum area where, after registration, you can post messages to other users free of charge. It's not a particularly active forum, with only a dozen or so messages a day, so you may have to wait a while for a response. We did however, get answers to our problems and the correct answers at that.
Virtual Dr: This site forms just part of the huge Internet.com group of sites. They offer a pretty good set of online resources plus a well-used forum area where you can pose questions to fellow users. Registration is required but is free.
PC Crave: A nice clean site offering free online and email tech support for all kinds of computer problems. Windows, Mac, Internet, Hardware etc. Just fill in the simple form on the site - no special registration needed.