Microsoft's launching a new online troubleshooting service called Answer Desk that might save you the stress of trying to fix your parents' computers, but that convenience won't come cheap. This service, which is modeled after similar help desks at Microsoft's retail stores (and Apple's Genius Bar), lets users connect with Microsoft "Answer Techs" to get help that falls into four broad categories: premium software support, advanced PC tune-up, virus protection and removal, and one-hour personal training. Some basic troubleshooting and diagnosis is free, but if the problem can't be quickly resolved, it'll cost $49 to $99 for approximately 60 to 120 minutes of support (depending on which category the problem falls under). Answer Techs fix the problems by remotely connecting to the offending PC and cleaning it up.
Microsoft's trying to make this service as user-friendly as possible — it claims its Answer Desk techs don't have to "resort to technical jargon" and notes that the service is there so you can "get back to your life." It's also making things more personal by making profiles and photos of every Answer Tech available, so users can see what the Answer Techs look like and specialize in before beginning a session. There's also a history that lets users reconnect with techs they've worked with previously to get help from someone familiar with the troubleshooting history. This service may be pricey, but you can't put a dollar value on savings your sanity.