Computer manufacturer's free technical support systems seem to be failing US customers, according to a new report, but Mac users get a slightly better deal, it claims.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center found that just 55 per cent of consumers who contacted technical support had their problem solved. The data comes from surveys of 20,000 users with computer problems in the US.

These users revealed that most manufacturers provided "dismal" free tech support with two exceptions: "Apple's support for desktops and laptops and IBM (Lenovo) for laptops. Apple solved 76 per cent of survey respondents' problems, and IBM (Lenovo) solved 64 per cent."

In a name and shame game, the report points out that Compaq's free tech support solved just 38 per cent of desktop problems for survey respondents making it "among the worst free tech support programs".

The survey also revealed that 15 per cent of users with problems didn't even bother to contact the manufacturer's support because of bad past experiences.

A HomeBrew Club DIY ethic remains endemic, it seems, as 50 per cent of those surveyed who tried to fix the problem on their own after their technical support let them down actually managed to fix their machines.

This percentage rises among users who chose the "phone a friend" option: 60 per cent of those who asked family and friends for help after free support failed had their problems fixed.

Problem-sufferers who called in independent experts to mend their PCs saw a 90 per cent solve rate.

Consumer Reports will publish the report later this month online.