Is it better to have a paid service or should I just use a free site?
Why not do both? I've reviewed quite a few technical support resources both free and paid. What I found is that you can buy blocks of time and use them as needed, kind of like a prepaid calling card. Once you find a reliable free site, you can use that site as a first step. If you find your answer, great! If not, then head over to the paid Web site and use your prepaid minutes. This strategy allows you to save your minutes for more difficult problems.
On the other hand, you may not want to deal with the hassle of juggling two remote tech support sites. When I'm in a hurry or have more pressing concerns, I'd rather just pay someone to handle my problems for me. If you're this type of person, consider a paid plan and let the experts do what they do best.
When I'm not in a hurry and have time on my hands, I'm more of a do-it-yourselfer. Free tech support sites vary in their offerings and often come in the form of a forum or community. This means that you may not get answers right away. Even then, the answers may be requests for more information about your problem. This back and forth takes more time than having a technician control your computer remotely in search for a solution. Plus, unless you are a hands-on type, you may find the free sites require too much technical ability.
Knowing your abilities and attitude toward having service work done will help you decide whether to use free or paid tech support services. For example, if you know how to change the oil in your car but find that it's more cost-effective and convenient to pay someone else to do it, you're likely to appreciate the services offered by paid tech support sites. If you'd rather change the oil yourself and save a few bucks, then you owe it to yourself to explore the offerings of free tech support sites. You won't get grease under your fingernails but you may have to do a bit more work.