Apple has some solid customer service, from its in-store Genius Bars to its 24/7 technical support lines. However, it’s not always clear exactly which type of support you need, how to access it, and – most importantly – what’s free and what isn’t.

On that last sentiment, we’ve decided to split this guide into two parts. What free support Apple offers, and what you can access under its paid AppleCare program.

Let’s start with the good stuff.

What free support does Apple offer?

Apple support can generally be split between hardware (iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, etc.) and software (the apps and operating systems on those devices).

For hardware issues, a great first point of call – and one Apple is usually keen to point you toward – is the Genius Bar. The Genius Bar is an area of its physical retail store where you can speak and interact directly with an Apple ‘Genius’. These are trained employees with extensive knowledge of their products.

They can advise you on how to use the device, but more importantly, whether it needs fixing, how it might need fixing, and how much it’ll cost.

This analysis and booking is free, and while you can technically drop in and see someone at quiet times, it’s almost always sensible to book an appointment. The easiest way to do that is by visiting Apple’s support page and pressing Get Hardware Help. From here, you’ll need to answer a couple of questions about the type of problem you’re having, at which point you can select Bring in for Repair and choose a reservation.

While Apple Store’s are fairly prevalent, if you live outside a major city, you’re generally out of luck accessing this level of support, unless you’re willing to travel.

However, Apple also allows you to post a device in for repair and will help you organize postage too. It won’t be a fast turnaround, but they will send you a box to post your device back to them in.

Book Genius Bar appointments, or organise posting a device for repair.

Cost-wise, Apple repairs aren’t cheap, but you’ll know they’re under warranty and are official. To access repair costs, head to the link below and select your device and type of repair from the options.

How much will my Apple repair cost?

Apple isn’t the only one that can fix your device. While some unauthorized repairers will do your repair on the cheap, Apple is not fond of this approach so be aware it can void your warranty. However, it does authorize resellers to sell and fix its products – but pricing from these stores is generally very similar. That said, an authorised reseller is a great option if you don’t live near an official Apple Store.

Access a list of authorized Apple resellers near you.

When it comes to software issues, Apple provides phone and online services that might help you diagnose the problem prior to or instead of a face-to-face diagnosis.

The best approach is to visit Apple’s support pages and select your device and issue and it will provide details on how to contact, whether via phone, online chat, or email.

Visit Apple’s support pages.

Finally, any issue you have – particularly software-related – another user is likely to have had before.  Apple’s community support pages are a great resource where you can search for your issue, find out if someone else has faced a similar issue, and see if they’ve resolved it with support from the community.

What is AppleCare and do you need it?

Most Apple products come with a 12-month warranty and 90 days complimentary technical support. However, this can be extended with AppleCare.

AppleCare can be added at the point of purchase – either online or instore – or, depending on where you are based, AppleCare can either be added within the initial 12-monthh warranty, or AppleCare+ can be added within 60 days of purchase.

Benefits and cost of care vary by region, but generally you can access more support and free repairs, for longer, or access discounts on certain repairs. If you need a serious repair it could end up saving you a lot of money, but with Apple’s free support covering so much, you may decide it’s not worth the cost.

Visit Apple’s AppleCare page and sign in to your Apple ID to see your AppleCare options.