Which? magazine, published by the Consumers' Association, found that one in five people has problems getting a computer to work when first turned on, while four in 10 have a problem in the first year.
Buyers of Dan, Gateway, Dell and Apple computers had the most trouble- free lives. The least reliable were those from Hewlett-Packard, Tiny, and Time Machines. Those who bought in stores including Comet, Dixons and its subsidiaries Currys and PC World, complained of poorly trained staff, though there was praise for the quality of help at John Lewis.
However, Helen Parker, Which? editor, said: "Not all companies are the same. You can buy a computer that is less likely to break down and you can find technical help which responds quickly if you run into problems."