/ Technology

Repairs that don’t fix your laptop and charge for the privilege

Would you take a chance on a laptop repair service if it only had a 50/50 chance of success? Or in the knowledge that you could face a big bill for an unnecessary part?

Well that’s exactly what the high street repair services we looked at in our latest investigation are asking you to do.

None of the well-known high street chains (PC World/Currys, Carphone Warehouse, Comet) or independent repairers we visited successfully fixed all our laptops. In fact, only 13 of the 24 laptops, which our lab experts had given simple faults, were returned in a fixed state.

Failed laptop repairs

And I didn’t just find the poor fixes worrying – the fact we were charged hard cash for the failed repairs was a further insult. Nine of them in total, each costing an average of £86.

In the most expensive case we were charged nearly £200 for an unnecessary hard drive replacement and the labour costs to fit it. To add salt to the wound the files from our old hard drive weren’t copied over either. Being £200 out of pocket for a repair you could do yourself in less than five minutes, especially when they wipe your files, is a kick in the teeth.

It’s not the first time we’ve tested these services and we were so disappointed with the results of our investigation in 2011 that we wanted to give high street stores another chance. Unfortunately, our latest research shows that big name chains still aren’t up to scratch.

It’s time to improve standards

Trust is a big part of the equation here. You’re giving an expensive item, which likely holds many precious documents and photos, over to a complete stranger. I’d like to assume that these companies are treating such items with care and respect, but instead many problems are being left unfixed and data is going missing. These stores need step up to the plate and give their customers a much better repair service.

Why aren’t staff picking up on what should be simple faults and ending up overcharging for unnecessary parts? And how can prices vary widely for the same fault in different branches of the same chain?

What have your experiences of computer repair services been? Do you think local repair services are better than the big high street chains?

Who would you trust most to fix your computer?

Me, myself and I (44%, 287 Votes)

A local independent repair service (36%, 237 Votes)

A family member (7%, 48 Votes)

A friend (6%, 39 Votes)

A big high street chain repair service (4%, 23 Votes)

Your mate's mate that 'knows about computers' (4%, 23 Votes)

Total Voters: 665

Loading ... Loading ...
Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Dealing with simple problems is well within the capability of many users. I don’t consider myself an expert but I have never had a fault that I have not been able to deal with myself, except a broken hinge on a laptop. There is a huge amount of helpful advice online, though you may need a second computer to access it.

Clearly it would be good to have ‘no fix – no fee’ but some laptop repairs are quite expensive and the dealer will lose out if they do some work and the customer decides the repair will be too expensive.

Well done Which? for exposing very poor service by some well known companies. I can’t say I’m surprised.

Member

A while ago my macbook dropped and the screen smashed. I took it back to John Lewis as it was within the warranty period. They declined to take responsibility for repair, but sent it off to their Apple repair provider to get me a quote. The amount quoted was well over £200.
I shopped around other repairers and got a few cheaper prices in the region of £160. Finally, I went to the nearest Apple store and received the cheapest quote of all, and they repaired it for me.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I should have tried this because I have relations that recount a couple of experiences similar to yours. It is a long trek to the nearest Apple Store and my computer was over three years old. Here is what happened.

A Mac repairer quoted me over £400 when I took in a MacBook Pro that still worked perfectly but had a broken hinge, possibly as a result of a small drop months earlier. The reason for the high cost is that the the Apple procedure is to replace the laptop lid and the screen, which are bonded together. I bought a new MBP.

Member
James says:
24 August 2012

Jac. Your MacBook dropped? It threw itself on the floor? I can’t understand why you would think John Lewis would take responsibility for this….! The only people I might expect to help you with this would be your insurer, but even then it’s not their responsibility to not throw it on the floor…

Member
rent-a-nerd says:
18 August 2014

Thats a shame, because the hinges are easily swappable. there’s no need to take the screen assembly apart. Apple charges around £15 per hinge (on the unibody version)

Profile photo of jpl5780
Member

A few years ago the optical drive failed on my son’s Toshiba laptop. We purchased a replacement optical drive of the same make and model no. as the failed unit, but I was unable to work out how to open the laptop case (while ensuring I did not damage it) to install the replacement. I phoned Toshiba, who said that all their non-business warranty & repair work is handled by PC World.

PC World in Guildford said:
1. the replacement is the wrong type of drive and cannot be installed in that model of laptop.
2. it is a very complicated job and will take a long time; the labour charge will be £100 at least

I then took the laptop in to a local PC specialist. Once the case was open I said I could take it from there, but the man insisted on completing the job. It took a couple of minutes. He said it was such a quick job he could not charge for it.

The drive is still working fine. (Yes, it is of course the correct type.)

I’m afraid this episode just confirmed my prejudices about PC World: Incompetence? Or just a failed attempt at a rip-off? Who can say.

Member
david wallis says:
2 August 2013

your replacement drive should cost no more than £50 plus 1 hour labour @ £45

The part itself can be replaced in under 10 minutes but allow extra time for testing purposes

Member
rent-a-nerd says:
18 August 2014

As a repairer, I can tell you the drive itself is easily available new for £15. Add £45 for repair and testing (I would charge a bit less given how quick this part swaps out)

Profile photo of weight4me
Member

Earlier this year I managed to drop my out of warranty Sony Vaio laptop. The result was an intermittent picture on the screen which often disappeared altogether.

I assumed I had damaged the screen and Googled a video showing how to replace the screen, but it looked like a rather delicate task which I didn’t trust myself to do successfully.

Using Sony UK’s website I found a local authorised repair company and took the laptop in. They said it probably needed a new screen, so I left it with them with a £60 deposit and instructions to do whatever was necessary.

A few days later they phoned me to say they had replaced the screen and that everything was now fine. When I collected it, I was charged a further £159.07, so my total bill was £219.07 for parts and labour including VAT: £50 for labour, £132.56 for a new screen, £36.21 VAT.

I questioned the price of the screen but was told that was correct, so I paid the bill, grateful to have a working laptop again.

In the end, £219.07 was a lot cheaper than £1,000 or so to replace the computer.

Member

As an IT professional of 25+ years, I’m appalled by the standard of IT support offered by so called “experts”, especially by the large concerns. There is an old phrase;

“You pay peanuts, you get monkeys”

and this is the environment the high street usually operate in. In fact I once worked with an IT support technician from a well know name who mentioned that when he first started in IT, working for them, his training consisted of “That is your area over there”

I despair when I come across machines that have been worked on by shop “IT specialists” and I have to charge to undo the mess left behind.

No one would let an untrained mechanic anywhere near their car, so why give an untested IT worker full access.

Laptops suffer from the “TV test” – they are so easy to operate that people forget it’s high technology and when there is a problem, they seem to panic, lose all critical faculty and get ripped off.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I agree, but there are many problems that can be resolved by a patient and reasonably competent computer owner. In the same way, some people manage to look after their own car. There are too many people who proclaim that everything needs to be left to the experts. Sorting out the problems in the examples cited in the introduction is within the ability of many people.

I am well aware of the havoc that DIY work can cause, having tried to sort out problems caused by both DIY and paid-for repairs. It is essential that people have some idea of their own limitations if they decide to have a go. The first thing to tackle is having good backups and malware protection.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
26 August 2012

Spot on Ian!

Member

I could not agree more ‘wavechange’.

But I no longer look after my own car except perhaps put oil in it, or check the tyre pressure. Cars have gone beyond what an amateur can tinker with and I think laptops are the same.

It’s a question of confidence. I’m sure I can fix most laptop problems and at least leave it in the same state as I got it, if I can’t. I’m sure I can’t do that with my car anymore, even with instructions from the internet.

Most people could fix most simple laptop issues, but they are afraid to try. This is of course what the false experts prey upon and I do mean prey.

As to size, the big boys do it for economic reasons. The local ‘PC shop’ may do it because they don’t know any better.

Now I wonder if ‘Ian’s Expert Mechanics’ has been taken as a company name ……..

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

If a laptop is fairly old it may not be worth having repaired, so there is little to lose by having a go. Problems are sometimes intermittent and it can be time consuming and therefore expensive for the professionals to fix. The owner who is accustomed to the machine may know when the problem occurs, which can provide valuable clues to what might be wrong. Hardware repairs to laptops are very difficult (desktop machines are much easier to work on) but many problems, such as the ones in the Which? investigation, don’t need a screwdriver, never mind a soldering iron.

‘Ian’s Expert Mechanics’ sounds good, but I hope that you aware that the T&Cs don’t permit you to promote your own business round here. 🙂

Member

Before trying yourself, one word:

Backup! Backup! Backup!

Ok, thats three, but I thought I would make the point.

Member
rent-a-nerd says:
18 August 2014

The high street is there to sweep up the non-competant computer owners.
It’s sad that theres no standardised service on the high street, and this is further compounded by bad store management, and the repair staff are given high sales targets to meet. Hardly in the best customer interest.

Always go for the smaller independent. Get a quote for the whole job, not by the hour. Don’t pay until it’s fixed.

Member
James says:
24 August 2012

Catherine / Which?, can you tell us what the faults were? Were they hardware or software faults? A mix of both? I’m interested to know what you consider faults, and which faults the various companies were able and unable to fix.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hi James, you can find the full results in the latest Which? mag, but 12 of the laptops were rendered unbootable and the others were infected with a virus.

Member
James says:
25 August 2012

Thanks Patrick. My latest Which? mag hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll be sure to come back later when I’ve read it. 🙂

Profile photo of guilbert
Member

In your magazine in the laptop repair section, on page 18, you cover “Computer wont boot”.

You say “Insert the Windows Installation DVD”.

But unless the user has gone out and bought Windows themselves they wont have the Windows Installation DVD. No computers nowadays are shipped with the Windows Installtion DVD (Microsoft stopped it because of piracy).

But you can make a “Windows System Repair Disc” as follows, which will do the same thing (this disc is also useful if you want to restore a system image you created earlier.

Instructions follow:

If you have Windows 7 you can easily make something called a Windows System Repair Disc.

This disc may be useful if ever Windows fails to start and you want to try to fix it.

The disk is easy to create and anyone can do it.

In Windows 7 click on the “circle” in the bottom left (to get the Windows menu) and in the small “search” field type “System Repair Disc” (note the “C” at the end not a “K”).

This will display an option called “Create a System Repair Disc”. Click on this option and a small window is displayed.

Follow the simple instructions (you will need an empty CD or DVD) and your System Repair Disc will be created.

Keep it in a safe place as you may need it in the future if your computer fails to start.

You can use this repair disc to “boot” the computer if it wont start in any other way, and from there can select various repair options.

To find out more go into the Windows help and search for “System Repair Disc”.

Profile photo of guilbert
Member

In your magazine in the laptop repair section, on page 18, you cover “Backing up your files” and talk about making a “system image backup”, but dont say how to do it.

So following on from my update above about making a “Windows System Repair Disc” here is how to make a Windows System Image.

Instructions follow:

If you have Windows 7 you can create a system image of your hard disk which will allow you to “reinstall” Windows very quickly if your computer should crash or Windows fails to start.

This function is built into Windows 7 so no need to buy or install any software.

It is probably best if you have an external hard drive on which to store the image (or a set of empty DVDs), as if your computer fails to start you still need to be able to access this image.

On Windows 7 click on the “circle” in the bottom left, and in the small search field type “Backup” and an option will be displayed called “Backup and Restore”.

Click on this “Backup and Restore” option and a window is displayed called “Backup and Retore your files”

On the left will be an option “Create a System Image”, select this and a window will be displayed offering you the option of where to store the image:- on your hard disk, on DVDs, or on an external hard drive.

Select your choice and go through the various windows till the process starts and your image is created.

Once you have your image keep it safe.

If at some future date you need to reinstall Windows then you can “boot” the PC with the Windows System Repair Disc I covered in my other append, then you can select the image you created earlier, and reinstall Windows.

Note this reinstall will TOTALLY overwrite everything on your hard disk so make sure you take regular backups of your personal files in case you ever need to do this reinstall.

Note also that the reinstall will only put your computer back to the time you took the image, so any programs you have reinstalled since will need to be reinstalled.

If your computer changes a lot it may be worth taking one of these images say every month or 3 months or so.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER. says:
18 August 2014

The best advice yet!

Member
Oscar says:
24 August 2012

Jac. Surely you dropping the Mac & breaking the screen is your fault, and not the fault of John Lewis, nor Apple. It’s not a fault, it is customer damage….. Meaning you pay for it, for which you can choose the cheapest quote.

Member
Sharky says:
25 August 2012

I have recently had my laptop repaired with the “know how” guys at PC World. hey replaced the motherboard, over 2 weeks, it was returned as, following their thorough checks there was a USB port not working & the speaker jack! another 2 weeks. I complained & asked to speak to the manager, not working that day or the other time I asked, (must get a managers job there) we will get hinm to call you, he always follows up his emails. I am still waiting 3 months later.
Will I return yes, while it is guarantee, outside of that NO. I think the local computer shop deserve my services next time, if there is one.

Member

One thing that might be useful to know about is the power on self test (sometimes referred to as POST) that most PCs do. This is the computer self checking its hardware and often it makes a standard one or two bleep sound if everything is OK. If it finds a fault, it can emit a series of long/short bleeps which very depending upon the fault it has found (assuming it’s not the sound card that is faulty.) There are also other forms of display output as well, sometimes accessible with special key sequences to interrupt the boot up process.

Unfortunately, error codes/bleeps etc. vary widely by manufacturer, but if your machine has stopped booting properly, google or check the website (obviously on another computer!) of your manufacturer for the bleep/error code.

As an interested amateur (who admittedly likes taking things apart) I have managed to very cheaply change a failed graphics card and a failed sound card through this method, although I have no specific technical training in this area. At the very least, if it is a hardware problem that your PC has detected, you could use this error message as a guide to assessing the competence of your repairer. Do they know about this, for example?

And finally, as someone who works in the area of data protection, I would like to make a personal plea (sorry Which) for everyone to always do regular backups. If you’e a home user, my rule of thumb is to leave it no less frequently than every 10 days of computer use. It can be bit of a pain, but it can be easily automated with modern computers. You really will be grateful for this one day!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I am frequently asked for advice on where to go to get PCs and laptops fixed. Is there any trade organisation that could give the consumer some protection, as with many other trades?

While we are going off-topic and mentioning backups, can I recommend having more than one backup, kept in different places. An external hard drive connected to a computer will do a brilliant job, but what happens if that suffers the same fate as the computer it is connected to?

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
26 August 2012

Burn your ‘Cannot afford to lose’ data to a good quality DVD-R.

I do this every so often, saved me from many a heart stopping moment.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
26 August 2012

While we are going off-topic and mentioning backups, can I recommend having more than one backup!

Excellent advice, seldom heeded, similarly, the Banks rely on that lethargy to be able to charge people the exorbitant interest rate because they are late with their repayments.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
28 August 2012

The rest of the world have discovered the convenience of laptops, tablets and smartphones. Desktop computers have their place for work and keeping important files more securely but their market share is falling. You can stay plugged in in one place but most people want more flexibility in their lives. I believe Cicero used a different kind of tablet.

I don’t consider myself a ‘Laggard’ in technology, quite the reverse, there is a growing market for laptops/tablets. but there is a trade of.
By their very nature, they are vulnerable to knocks, being dropped etc, unlike a Desktop.
Read some of the posts on here and you will see the gripes about Dropped Cracked Screens et-al!
I have a had many a friend who have bought a laptop admit to me they have dropped it, the dog knocked it flying, etc, etc, and what a shock they got when they wanted it repaired …They said it would be cheaper to buy a new laptop,……Only they forgot or never bothered to ‘Backup’ their data!…………..I bet they forget to settle up their credit card debts as well, incurring large interest charges!

And why the comment on Cicero is beyond me!…..Ahhh!,….A joke!?….Well,….very nearly, Yuk, yuk!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The vulnerability of laptops etc. to damage and theft is a very important consideration. Backups are even more important and important files are best kept on the desktop.

Member
James says:
28 August 2012

Wavechange. A desktop isn’t the only ‘safe’ place to keep your important documents. I don’t run any desktop machines in my office, and we’re all the better off for it.

Files are held on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive, so that we can all have access to them from our laptops. Files are backed up automatically to a second NAS drive at home over the internet. These can also be backed up to an external USB drive with a single button press. We also backup to the cloud, as a third level or redundancy. Neither of these methods are expensive or difficult to set-up and use.

For those who don’t know, a NAS is essentially one or more hard disks in a box that is connected by wireless or with a network cable to your broadband router. Google it!

We also use Dropbox (see also Google Drive, SugarSync and the plethora of other similar servies) which run seamlessly and provide a few GB of free synced cloud storage. Desktops are completely unnecessary from a data security perspective – but buy one by all means if that’s what you prefer.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I am familiar with these commonly used systems for backup and I don’t recall losing a single file in the past two decades. My point is that laptops and other portable devices are especially vulnerable.

Multiple backups are a good idea. Connected hard drives are a great way of having a backup that is fully up-to-date but are unsatisfactory as an effective backup solution.

Let’s leave this because it is off-topic.

Member
Arnold Robinson says:
25 August 2012

In your review of PC repairs you didn’t mention Apple. I have been an apple enthusiast since I first got to use them as technician at a university in the nineties. I have been able to fix most problems myself especially software problems. The hardware on the latest Apple laptops are more difficult to fix. I was having trouble with my MacBook Pro it was difficult to start up. I did all the software tests and fixes to no avail. I was beginning to think it was something to do with the wireless card as every time it was used it would hang the computer. I looked up a website called MacFixit and found that with my model it was possible to fit a new card (not possible on some later models). I read the instructions and decided that it was a bit too difficult for me to do. So I made an appointment with Apple’s Genius Bar. There they did some tests and seemed to agree with me that it was the airport card, though they couldn’t guarantee it. The cost was going to be about £80 so I thought it was worth a chance, they said it would take two or three days. I was surprised that the same evening I got a phone call that I could pick it as it was repaired. All the problems are now fixed. I thought this was a very good service at a good price.
Incidentally many of the new slim Apple laptops I think it is going to be very difficult to fix the hardware, some of them you can’t change the hard drive or the battery and if I were buying a new model I would think seriously think of getting the extended warrantee.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Apple have made it difficult to change batteries and hard drives, but this can be done. You will find information fairly easily, but I don’t know about the availability of spares.

I have wasted a great deal of money on AppleCare, though to be fair, most of it was my employers money. I’ve been using Macs for 20 years and the hardware just goes on working for me.

Member
Gilly Robinson says:
27 August 2012

Arnold, I took out an extended warranty on my MacBook Air, yet it was probably a false buy.

My screen developed the tiniest of scratch lines in its pixellations (the glass screen itself was scratch-free), and the line began to ‘travel’ over a very short time, with bleed lines appearing, making the screen unreadable. At my local Apple store, I was initially told that the screen wasn’t covered by the warranty (!) – apparently because it’s so easy to damage – but because I had been advised by another member of staff that they would fix it foc, I managed to get it repaired without charge. The actual cost would have been over £400 (according to the bill).

Only a few months down the line, the same problem has happened. Even though my Macbook Air is still under warranty, I was told that, should the same thing happen in the future, they would not repair it for me. I have no idea how either crack appeared in the first place (as I said, the glass screen is scratch-free – indicating no physical impact). The Genius guy said I’d probably closed the lid with a pencil left on the keyboard (huh?) – and then confided that he’d done that himself and breaking one in the process.

When I suggested it was a design fault, he said that there had to be some compromise to get the sleek finish of the Macbook Air. (There are loads of comments online about the Macbook Air screen pixellating, and Apple not taking responsibility for it.) I honestly don’t think the Macbook Air is designed to cope with being moved around – but it’s a laptop!

Feeling very frustrated.

Profile photo of Catherine West
Member

Hi Arnold, we did want to test Apple’s service but the faults we used on the laptops would have been difficult to replicate on the Mac operating system, which would have made a fair comparison difficult. In addition, the majority of Which? members don’t use laptops running iOS.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
25 August 2012

For those of you that want to have a ‘Stab’ at repairing your own ‘Laptop’ or ‘
Ddesktop’ PCs, log on to ‘Youtube’, they have just about every type of Laptop/Desktop ‘Video’ Repair going!

If you can use a screwdriver and have a modicum of dexterity, you can save a fortune!

Member
spiderwebs says:
26 August 2012

I recently had my Acer computer repaired at PC World what a nightmare it turned out to be, first I took it in on wed 27 June paid up front £50.00. I then went to the store next day to find out what was wrong, after analyst in store I was told that the hard drive needed to be replaced so they had to send it away to be repaired and would contact me. I went in on the fri 29 June to find how things was going and to my surprise it was still there, I was then told that it will be sent on Mon 2July. I had a phone call Wed 4 July saying that it had been sent that day, I then received a text saying that I can track my repair at KNOWHOW.COM. ref number ****** on the same day, how? I did not have access to a computer. I went in the store a few times to see how things was going but was told that they will contact me asap when it was fixed. I received a text thur 19 July that I can collect my computer wed 25 July. Although it was repaired, I was left with a load junk on it which I had to get rid of otherwise I would have had to pay for things I did not really want at all. [hard drive cost £26.00]. So would I go back to PC World NO not for repair or to purchase anything. There seems to be a lack of communication between staff and customer’s and an attitude of we will do it my time.I did go in currys once to but camera but waited so long I landed up buying it tesco’s.

Member
Joe Woods says:
26 August 2012

I have just recieved m laptop back from the Tech guys (PC world and Currys) The speakers were not working, I sent it off as I have a repair contract with them, Not only did t come back with no speakers installed I had to re-install windows, When I called to complain the Said I coud resend it back, I informed them that I would expect a replacement as this computer is needed by my family for uni work It too all of 20 miniutes on the phone. the most shocking service I have ever known.

Top, bottom and side now I have to take it back and then wait 48 hours to get a spare one to keep up with work, don’t use them worst company ever.

All be aware they have a free phone number the never hand out 08000121909 save your phone bills

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
26 August 2012

08000121909 This No: is a help and support service.

Member
James Butterworth says:
26 August 2012

The number of computer shops ripping people off is astounding. I run a small independent firm, we fix computers, electronics and home & gardening equipment. We love our customers and always strive to do the best for them at the cheapest price with the minimum of fuss. I have over 18 years experience and love the job for the social aspect more than the money, most of my customers end up good friends, because I am a people person.

Guys like PC World (and their tacky TechGuys (now KnowHow) who charge £229 just to reseat a memory stick or £100 just to fit a TV bracket (doesn’t include supplying it) shouldn’t be in business. We would reseat the stick for nothing but a smile and fit the bracket for £50 including bracket.

Sky News did an investigation into PC firms in London. One snooped on the customer’s computer, looking at her pictures of her in a bikini (copied them to a pendrive), and attempted to log in to her online banking using a text file left on the desktop, which failed because it was a set up. They had the webcam on auto and caught the morons red handed.

It’s about time the PC industry was massively regulated, and required every engineer to obtain qualifications or people skills, because most of them just take a computer to pieces and then think they can fix every issue under the sun, the customer ends up paying for their inadequacy. They pop up like jack in the boxes, whereas guys like me diversify and actually know and have experience in my industry and the services I offer.

[This comment has been edited due to it advertising your own services. Thanks, mods.]

Profile photo of skeptictank
Member

I have enough confidence to repair the laptop myself even at the risk of voiding the warranty.
In a drive to provide the lowest prices none of the high street retailers can afford to invest in quality technical skills so I’m not sure if their poor service is a reflection of the skills or or a deliberate attempt to rip you off. Smaller shops may provide a better service if they are run by an enthusiast but you’ll be very lucky to find one like that.
Laptops are more problematic than desktop PC’s because they have higher percentage of proprietary components and tend to have more compatibility issues with the operating system. Investigate any large commercial organisation and you will find that laptops create the biggest support overhead for their IT department, and that’s with skilled staff and support contracts direct with the manufacturer.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

In the Which? investigation, the high street retailers did poorly in attempting to fix simple faults. If there was a serious problem then it would be understandable for the owner to be charged a modest fee, but this is disgraceful. If these companies cannot offer a reasonable quality service they should not offer any. Please don’t make excuses for it.

If you check out the reputation of the companies mentioned you might not be surprised by the results of the Which? investigation.

Member
James Butterworth says:
27 August 2012

@ skeptictank: Enthusiasts are exactly the type of people that CANNOT run a repair shop. They are the kind of “technician” who sits in their bedroom installing Linux and testing software. They think they know it all because they pulled an Xbox to pieces using iFixit.com, they then go and start a “repair” company.

I’ve spent the last 18 years gaining MCSE/MCSA Microsoft qualifications, becoming a certified Toshiba (and other makes) laptop engineer, going to college and uni to gain mechanic and electronics certification to fix cars, engine powered garden equipment and consumer goods/home appliances. ONLY then did I start my company up fully and use all my skills to diversify, offering services way out of the scope of many computer repair firms.

It really annoys me how these hobbyists think they’re time served and can run a company. Compared to a passionate guy like me, they’re not. They haven’t spent half their life and thousands of pounds in training getting qualified and don’t have the right to call themselves “technicians”.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
27 August 2012

“Laptops are more problematic than desktop PC’s because they have higher percentage of proprietary components and tend to have more compatibility issues with the operating system”.

Agree with the above!

The only time I think I would buy a ‘Laptop’ is if I didn’t have the room for a ‘Desktop’, and even then it would not be moved.

“Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability”.

Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The rest of the world have discovered the convenience of laptops, tablets and smartphones. Desktop computers have their place for work and keeping important files more securely but their market share is falling. You can stay plugged in in one place but most people want more flexibility in their lives. I believe Cicero used a different kind of tablet. 🙂

Profile photo of skeptictank
Member

@James Butterworth. You have made up you own definition of enthusiast. The term “enthusiast” , “professionally qualified” or “competent” are not mutually exclusive. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak all began as enthusiasts and the IT industry as it stands is defined by their enthusiasm. Neither Bill Gates nor Steve jobs have (or had) any formal computer qualifications.

@ wavechage, I wasn’t making an excuse of the high street retailers. I fully agree with Which’s assessment that their service is shocking and overpriced. I simply made the observation that whether this is due to poor skills or a cynical attempt to rip off the consumer is unproven (or both). I certainly think that finding that out is worth further investigation by Which.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

skeptictank
Which? has carried out similar investigations and found evidence that the standard of work done by those involved in car servicing and boiler servicing is not very good. Which? does not have the resources to carry out further investigation of every problem it uncovers. Their small scale investigations are enough to reveal a problem and there is no real need for tests that are statistically significant.

In this case, the retailers should take appropriate action. I don’t know if they are members of any trade bodies that could demand improvement or threaten expulsion.

Member
Ru Phillips says:
28 August 2012

I purchased a Toshiba 15 inch laptop for £520 about 18 months ago. The screen was cracked when it got dropped. When I contacted the Toshiba repair centre, I was quoted £325 to fix it & also told that this “offer” would only stand for seven days! Fortunately a friend told me of a local independent repair centre which then quoted me £119 for the same thing. Needless to say I took the cheaper option & haven’t regretted doing so. I’m amazed that Official Repair Centres charge so much for what should be a relatively simple job. I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for a “genuine” repair but a difference of £206 is extortionate in my view.

Member
James Butterworth says:
28 August 2012

@ Ru Philips: £119 is about right, I charge £120 for ANY size screen replacement, whether it’s a 12″ or 17.3″ laptop. Netbooks I do a little cheaper as the screens aren’t the best quality anyway, they tend to be flimsy. I do things to the standard of an official repair centre because I pay manufacturers for service manuals, and care about my quality of service and after-service support.

Car dealerships charge extortionate rates for repairs too, but that’s just because they can. Most independents, whether garages or computers, are cheaper, but it’s the quality of skills, care and experience that counts towards who is the best small repair shop.

Member
karl says:
29 August 2012

To add to the information already here , i worked for Knowhow for three months through their agency ADECO last year.I am an electronics engineer but alot of the people they took on had no electronic or similar background at all.After seeing what goes on in this enviroment i would never take my laptop to pc world or any of the other firms that use Knowhow.It all revolves around output quantity .Nothing else.Things that are said to the general public might appear this is not so but dont be fooled.Just go on the web and see their past history. We constantly feared for our jobs, and it felt like big brother was watching you`re every move.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
29 August 2012

Karl!
Having worked within the Electronics industry and its associated field, I can endorse your post!

You obviously know of what you speak.

The problem is, Joe Public is at the mercy of these people, I guess that applies to any field that requires any technical knowledge/ability.

Member
Mark Taylor says:
31 August 2012

I took my lap top to PC World – the assistant told me that they could fix the problem for £40 (the problem was corrupted disc drive driver). He also saved a website into my Favourites and said that if I followed the instructions it would take me around 5 minutes to do it myself, which I did. So, thank you to him.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

It’s nice to hear something positive for a change, Mark.

Member
James Butterworth says:
4 September 2012

That doesn’t sound very positive to me :(. Being charged £40 just to drag a favourite site to your Bookmarks bar, and to replace a driver, that should have costed no more than £5, or £10 at the most, a total of 10 minutes work. £40 in my company is a full two hours labour charge!!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

If you can do any jobs for yourself you will save a fortune compared with getting the work done for you. Think about that next time you pay to get the car serviced or the washing machine fixed.

At least Mark had a job completed successfully for his money, which is better than some of the investigatiors did in the Which? study.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER. says:
18 August 2014

I rather think the £40-00 was a charge for ‘Knowing How’ to sort it rather than any actual ‘Physical work on his machine.

Rather like going to a Solicitors for advice, where, similarly you are charged for his knowledge of the Law and all its ramifications, before engaging him to represent you in court. (Some do give free impartial advice, but they are few and far between.)

Of course, you can got to a Citizens Advice Bureau as regards to advice on some legal matters, but, the repair of ones PC is a somewhat different kettle of fish.

£40-00 is relatively cheap compared to most of the charges I have seen incurred by various friends, until they discovered I could remedy most of their ills.

Member
James Butterworth says:
4 September 2012

Wavechange, what are you on about? I wasn’t saying do it yourself. I was talking about the extortionate £40 charge Mark had to pay just to have a driver reinstalled and a website saved to his favourites. I’m a professional independent repairer, and don’t charge ANYWHERE near what PC World do for tenpenny jobs like Mark’s was.

Sounds to me like you’re trying to cover up for PC World here. The article is about extortionate charges and poor workmanship. Mark had it done, yes, but at a ridiculous price. Typical PC World and their KnowHow (or Not KnowHow) scam. People don’t know any better, they see this conglomerate eyesore’s stores all over the place, and instead of doing research for a friendlier cheaper more experienced and professional independent guy, like me and my shop, they go to those morons. The phrase “Fools and their money are easily parted” comes to mind.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
4 September 2012

Sounds to me like you’re trying to cover up for PC World here.

The article is about extortionate charges and poor workmanship.

Mark had it done, yes, but at a ridiculous price. Typical PC World and their KnowHow (or Not KnowHow) scam.

People don’t know any better, they see this conglomerate eyesore’s stores all over the place, and instead of doing research for a friendlier cheaper more experienced and professional independent guy, like me and my shop, they go to those morons.

The phrase “Fools and their money are easily parted” comes to mind.

I’ll drink to that!

Pareto was right, 80% are thick, the remaining 20% have the nous!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

James

You were not suggesting DIY repairs but I was. I find it satisfying to be able to fix things including computer problems, and encourage others to do the same.

For the record, I loathe Dixons Retail (PC World et al.) and would never recommend anyone used the company for repairs, based on reports from friends and colleagues, and what I have read in Which? etc. I have explained why I made a positive comment. Please let it rest.

Member
James Butterworth says:
5 September 2012

@ Wavechange: Don’t tell me to “let it rest” sunshine, it’s a free world, and you don’t own this forum. Encouraging people to try their own repairs is RECKLESS, and EXACTLY the reason I get people bringing Xboxes and laptops to me that they’ve tried fixing themselves (or had a “whizz kid neighbour” do it) with a heatgun or soldering iron, and made the problem worse, increasing the cost of the repair, that’s if they haven’t written it off with the damage!! You should always consult a qualified engineer if in doubt, that’s why guys like me exist, we’re qualified and experienced to do the job.

If you actually knew what you were doing, instead of being a bedroom enthusiast, you’d understand where I’m coming from, but you don’t so it’s pointless me explaining. Look where DIY gets most uneducated people, a trip to A+E.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Alright guys, let’s try and stay civil and don’t make it personal.

Member
James Butterworth says:
5 September 2012

Sorry Patrick, it’s just ignorant amateurs really make my blood boil! Electricity KILLS, so to go telling untrained people to fix it themselves is downright stupid. Do you see your average Joe climbing a 33,000V AC electricity pylon? No! Wonder why, hmmm? It doesn’t matter if it’s 110v, 240v, or 33,000v, it still kills. Even the innocent looking 19v from a laptop power brick can kill if a fault develops.

You need to understand and be experienced in the architecture of machinery, and electronics, before touching anything electrical, whether either a laptop, circuit board, or high voltage mains, to be able to efficiently repair it. If everyone was able to fix their own devices, there wouldn’t be thousands upon thousands of specialist companies, like me (not including corner shop amateurs that pop up like flies round poo) who fix appliances, computers, and cars, would there?

How would you feel if you told your best friend to fix his own high voltage plasma TV, and he got taken away in a coffin? Think on before you advise people.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I am sorry that I did not make it clear, but I was asking you not to try and engage me in further discussion.

I am familiar with the problem of damage caused by inexpert people and have repaired some of this damage myself. I cannot remember injuring myself seriously as a result of DIY repairs, though I once gave myself a small cut from a sharp edge inside the back of my washing machine, which I have looked after for 30 years. My mother used to tell me off for having burned the Axminster in my bedroom when I was a schoolboy armed with 15 watt Antex soldering iron and some red spot transistors, so I made a stand to prevent this happening again.

Many computer problems can be fixed without opening up a computer, as you know. Maybe that is how we should learn to be self-sufficient in sorting out computer problems, and then we can learn how to tackle what you regard as reckless. It is not difficult to learn how to do potentially dangerous jobs in a safe way. I may be self-taught but I am very far from uneducated. 🙂

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I had better add a disclaimer. Do not attempt to repair electrical equipment unless you understand the hazards and can take appropriate action to protect yourself and others.

Member
James Butterworth says:
5 September 2012

Indeed, it is not difficult to go ahead and fix dangerous problems, but you need a logical mind, and to research fully. A few people are not exactly a full penny, so don’t have the capacity to perform such tasks. You need to gauge this before suggesting self repair, as some people are more a danger to themselves! You sound like you’re much older than me, so I apologize for not respecting my elders. I’m only 27, but am very passionate in what I do, hence the reason I spent so much time and money getting qualified in what I love.

In my life the only thing above machinery that gives me a purpose in life is my lovely girlfriend, and below her my dear friends. This is my end to this conversation, frankly I’ve had enough. I can’t change the repair industry, wish I could. Too many people get ripped of by “done one can do them all” people. My customers call me Superman of computers as I’m so quick and efficient, but I wish I REALLY was Superman, else I really would change the industry 🙂

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

James

I fully agree with you about the need to have the correct approach. I will try to remember to warn of the dangers of DIY. After many years in university teaching I have a passion for encouraging people to realise their potential.

All the best for the future. I was pulling apart BBC Micros the year you were born. Mine is still in the loft. 🙂

Profile photo of Catherine West
Member

Thanks to all who have commented so far for sharing your experiences, and the lively debate!

@ skeptictan k – unfortunately it would be exteremely difficult to prove whether the poor or overpriced transactions we found were down to poor customer service and technical staff knowledge, or to a more sinister attempt to purposely rip customers off. As the companies we looked at in our investigation are such well-known high street names, I would certainly hope we can safely assume it’s not the latter. Either way by highlighting to them what we found I would hope they don’t feel like they can get away with either!

Member
Nerdexpress says:
26 September 2012

I’ve been repairing computers both Mac & Pc for over 10 years and never once have I lost anyone’s data. There is only one reason for losing data and that’s if your hard drive fails, when I say fail I mean the hard drive stops spinning or your computer displays ” no system disk or hard drive failure ” on pc or if your mac shows a picture of a computer with a sad face..

Most computers fail due to Power issues or because the Windows / Mac operating a system has become corrupted, the corruption usually occurs on older machines or on machines used to download music or videos using Limewire, Vuze or some other BitTorrent client or because some malware has infected your computer via a porn site or some other undesirable website..

Obviously if you want to avoid viruses all together then a Apple Mac is the way forward..

Profile photo of starrterry
Member

AS the so called PC & MAC (i.e. Apple Mackintosh) computer repar places become so very unreliable I would encourage anyone who can to do all of their computer repairs to do iut themselves. Only the people concerned know they have data files to copy or even better still to back it all up PRIOR to any repar where it becomes nessary. Therre are many items now even for the keen home computer whizz-kid to carry out. Its not rocket science even if everything inside the case looks that way.

There are quite a few various places where one can learn even start off with the basics and continuue on from there. There even courses for PC repair sometimes known as A+

IIf you all want the job done properly I would suggest to everyone is to learn to fix it yourselves.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
27 November 2012

Agreed, with the caveat that there are many people to whom a screwdriver is a lethal weapon.

Member
Richard says:
29 November 2012

As an independent repair company I can tell you that there are many companies such as ourselves who offer an excellent value for money service. We always offer our clients the best advice and opinion, even if it means that we do not get the repair. This is not just about the integrity of our company, but also makes good business sense, as clients who you impart advice to, who do not need a repair, remember this, and either return later, or recommend to friends or family.

We are not a huge company, but are growing fast, and are about to start repairs for the insurance industry. I would welcome a secret shopper Which style check:).

There are some very good companies out there.

Member
Amar says:
23 April 2013

I run a small IT business in Balham, LondonSW12 9RQ. A few years ago we started getting customers from parts of London we’ve never placed leaflets in. After asking, it turned out we were highly rated on Which local !

We fix the majhority of laptop issues unless we feel its not in the customers best interest.
All laptops are stored securely in a dedicated shelving system. We’ve invested alot of time and effort, but do find it hard to comptete with the big high street stores. Once a customer uses our services, they recommend us to family and friends. The tricky part is getting their trust when their are so many cowboys around. I’m all for regulation. My Docs, My Photos, My Music..My data is of more value than the hardware so why don;t we have regulation to ensure it is being looked after by qualified/trained staff !

Member
david wallis says:
2 August 2013

The problem with many of the High Street repairers is simply that they are Desktop PC repairers tinkering with laptops. I have my own laptop repair company (having worked for many years in the UKs largest laptop repair company) I set up on my own. From experience I can tell you the issue is all down to specialization or lack of it. This isnt a shameless plug for my company but we arent all bad! Just thought I would let all of your readers who have been ripped off by rogue repairers that there are still good decent repairers out there!

I would be more than happy for which to send over some laptops and we will restore your faith!
[comment edited by moderator to remove website link]

Member
rdrcaddesign says:
5 April 2014

PC WORLD. Never buy a pc from pc world! 7months I had mine and it broke! They picked it up on time to repair it! But have failed to return it 3 times, in the last 2 weeks, where I have had to be in for 4-5hrs waiting, where they dont even have the curticy to ring you and tell you sorry we cant return it today, and they have now confirmed they have lost it! With all my CAD Software, buisness information and all the hundreds of picturers of my kids on it. They say with the repair contract I have they will fix it and return it in 7 days! They have had it 2 weeks, and say becsuse its repaired, I am not elegable for a new replacement pc. The loan pc they said I could have was not capable of running my CAD Software, and they didnt bring one to lend me anyway, but rang me 3 days later to ask if I still required one, so for 2 weeks I have been unable to do any work. They just expect me to wait indefinatly for my pc to be found.

Member
James Thomas says:
17 April 2014

So you’re telling us you’re an engineer, and you didn’t have backups? Everyone should know to take critical backups of data before sending a PC in for repair, especially to PC World, they couldn’t give a damn about customer data, they’ll just say your hard drive is knackered and format the thing. Even better don’t take it to them.

Gary Glitter forgot to wipe his hard drive before taking it in to PC World, look where that got him! It revealed his secret life to the world, and rightly so!

Just a few days ago I recovered data from a customer’s external HDD that PCW had accidentally formatted, just lucky they did a quick format, the data was still there, just the file table had been wiped!

Member
Marry Anderson says:
22 May 2014

Help me to decide the computer repairs for my company Thanks

Member
Hilary says:
1 August 2014

My other half runs a domestic laptop and PC repair business which he set up in November 2013. He has been shocked by the quality of repairs (and sometimes damage) done to people’s equipment prior to him having a look. Frequently, people are told that repairs are uneconomical or that they need new equipment when they done.

His answer; charge a £15 diagnosis fee, which is waived if the customer chooses to go ahead with a repair once the budget repair costs are known. Then work on the basis of no fix no fee. In all the time he has been trading, machines have been uneconomical to repair only twice and he has never had to honour the no fix no fee element of his policy. People have returned to him time and again. It’s not difficult, but I would say that this business is his hobby turned into work. He loves learning, and he doesn’t care if things take him longer than he anticipated as he is learning. Domestic repairs is not business to be in if you want to make lots of money!

Member
DJ2888 says:
2 March 2015

I recently went to get my laptop repair and was quoted 75 pounds for dc socket replacement i went ahead and it still did not get replaced however the worker managed to make me agree to do motherboard repairs to bring it back alive and now 3 weeks later FAILED REPAIR he cannot repair it due to no supply of motherboard i am almost £200 out of pocket do i pay up or can i leave it there as i am not happy paying for something i already had which is a broken laptop that doesnt switch on what can they do if i do not pick it up or pay ?

Thanks

Member
Tony says:
2 April 2016

I’ve worked as an independent PC and Mac repairer for 20 years.
I haven’t raised my prices in 12 years, despite my costs of petrol and advertising rising hugely.
Depends where you’re based, but a good fixer in London area will charge about £60 an hour.That’s reasonable for a highly skilled job, a bears good relation to plumbers, locksmiths, etc.
I do have a no fix,no fee policy, but it’s strictly on the understanding I won’t charge if I don’t know how to do it.That has happened 3 times in 20 years.
If I offer a solution and it’s not accepted, that’s fine, but I’m entitled to charge.If I don’t I’ll end up travelling round at my expense, just to be a free diagnosis service.Sadly, I’m not a charity.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

This is one case where I understand a position of business which you have put well . I do my own repairs and building of systems and its no “5 minute ” job.