In what is sure to become more fodder for Mac vs. PC ads, Consumer Reports' latest tech-support survey shows that Apple has the best US help-desk support for both laptop and desktop systems.

According to the survey, which polled Consumer Reports' subscribers for their experiences with 10,000 desktop and laptop computers, Apple's help desk staff far and away had the highest success rate among computer manufacturers. Apple's tech support team helped their customers solve problems with their computers more than 80 per cent of the time. Industry-wide, help-desk teams from all companies solved their customers' problems around 60 per cent of the time.

Consumer Reports also singled out Lenovo for its "outstanding" tech support for laptops, and Dell for providing "above average" support for both laptops and desktops. HP and Compaq on the other hand, offered "inferior support" for their computers, according to the survey.

Additionally, the survey ranked the best places and methods for consumers to get help for their computers. In-store walk-in tech support for Macs provided for free in Apple stores offered the most effective troubleshooting, the survey found, with user problems getting solved 90 per cent of the time.

Another good option is the in-home service offered by companies such as Dell and HP, as 75 per cent of users who called for in-home service reported that they experienced no problems during the process, the report said.

Free phone support was more problematic, the report found, as 59 per cent of respondents reported having at least one problem when dialing in for tech support. The report also said that consumers should consider using free online forums for help if their computer manufacturer's support is lacking, although it also cautioned that "quality may vary from site to site."