/ 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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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.

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

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!!

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.

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.

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.

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!


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.

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.

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

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.

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. 🙂

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.

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 🙂


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. 🙂

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..

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.

27 November 2012

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

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.

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 !

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]

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.

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!

Marry Anderson says:
22 May 2014

Help me to decide the computer repairs for my company Thanks

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!

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 ?


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.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I had a problem with my computer. My friend recommended LightningFix, which I never heard of but I tried. They were cheaper than what I could find on the internet and I didn’t have to give my computer to any person as it was repaired remotely while it was at home. I would recommend them mostly as they’re a small business that has affordable prices and knows what they’re doing.