/ 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

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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.


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.


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.

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…

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)


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.

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

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)


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.


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.


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.

26 August 2012

Spot on Ian!


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 st