/ Technology

High street PC repairs rubbish, why not fix it yourself?

Windows 'blue screen of death'

If your laptop breaks, you could be better off attempting a DIY fix than trusting a high street computer repair service. Our undercover researchers found poor repairs at PC World and Carphone Warehouse.

The ‘blue screen of death’ ranks up in my top computer-related fears, up there with ID fraud and uber-viruses.

Last time I experienced the dreaded screen, it tolled the death knell for a laptop that – to be fair – I should have replaced at least a year before.

And stupidly, I hadn’t backed up my files for a while (and by a while, I mean around a year). Some were still hanging around on various memory sticks – but others I lost permanently.

My experience shows how much we rely on our computers to keep files and photos safe. So if your PC develops a fault – maybe you get a blue screen of death, maybe it won’t start at all – panic can set in.

Unless you’re a computer buff, you’re likely to throw yourself on the mercy of a professional repair service. And unless you happen to know a reliable local firm, you might be tempted to go for the ‘safe’ option of a trusted household name, like PC World or Comet.

High street computer repair fail

We’ve found that that could be a costly mistake. When our undercover researchers tested out the repair services offered by Best Buy, Carphone Warehouse, Comet and PC World, we found a litany of incorrect diagnosis, bad advice and poor repairs. None of which you’d expect from such popular, big name brands.

To be fair, it wasn’t a total disaster. Most stores did successfully reconnect a couple of cables we’d loosened in a desktop which were stopping the computer starting up. Though unbelievably, one store reckoned we needed a new hard drive to fix the problem.

But when it came to a laptop software problem that we’d introduced – which should have been easy to fix with the repair function on any Windows Vista installation disc – only two stores out of 12 carried out the perfect fix.

Many others recommended a completely unnecessary motherboard or hard drive replacement. Not a single chain properly diagnosed and fixed all laptops we took to them.

Recommended independent repair services

We didn’t test independents, but if our findings have put you off high street repair services, Which? members can use Which? Local to choose from more than 1,300 member-recommended repair shops across the UK.

But don’t resort to a professional repair service by default. Many computer problems – including both of the faults we’d introduced – are easy to repair yourself even if you know very little about computers.

Take a look at our easy tips on how to fix common computer problems. If our investigation findings are anything to go by, it could save you shelling out on costly and potentially unnecessary PC surgery.


Yes from experience I’ve also found these repairers not very good, and not cheap either.
But you need to be very brave to take a screwdriver and or pliers to you laptop. It can be done if you research in great detail first. I’ve carried out simple repairs like changing ram and the hard drive, but try changing a video chip or the CPU and you can find yourself in very dangerous territory.

Getting the thing apart without breaking fragile plastic covers which clip in is hard enough nevermind messing with complex electronic components.

Having said that I wonder how competent some of the “professional repair people” are too.
Could be that a DIY repair is worth a go if the professional repair cost renders the exercise beyond economic sense in comparison to a replacement.


We’re going to pick this up on the podcast this week – listen on Wednesday at http://www.which.co.uk/podcasts, but we’d love to hear your stories here. I’ve had good experiences with local independent repairers, and awful ones with the big chain guys

Matt, Nottingham says:
25 February 2011

I have not been in possession of my laptop since December thanks to the incompetance of PC world and they still have it, this is the third time it has been in, I don’t know how much money I have spent on phone calls and calls to the store and it is still not resolved. The promise of there” WHATEVER HAPPENS, RELAX NO HASSLE” is a load of rubbish.

Cambridge PC Support says:
26 February 2011

I run my own computer repair business in Cambridge, and have built up a good client base over the last 8 years.

I get a lot of PC World refugees and very rarely hear anything good about them.

James says:
26 February 2011

I too work in a small-scale computer shop, and it’s not just the bad repairs that they do, it’s also the way they tell you to buy a new computer with not very serious issues and the way they practically force upon you Norton or McAfee, or whatever they’re selling that month, and how they have no regard for your data (often permanently erasing it). It goes to show that they are more interested in profit than quality of service. Next time you want your computer repaired, go with a small business

Cadishead says:
26 February 2011

I also run my own computer repair company in Cadishead (Gtr Manchester). I have also built up a really good client base over the years. Most of my work now is from recommendations, and word of mouth.

I detest it when the big box stores, literally force Norton / Mcafee onto their clients.

I also detest it when ever anything goes wrong with a clients computer, the big box stores usually always revert the computer to manufacturers settings. Completely ignoring any backup of data.

Another of my pet peeves. Say for example you have a laptop, and the dc socket has broken for one reason or another. No prizes for guessing what the big box stores say.. its either a new motherboard is required, or they sell a new system!. The DC socket can be repaired!, thus saving the client a couple of hundred £’s!.

Most independent companies, are far better than the big box stores. We go out of our way to repair the computer. We do not revert the pc back to factory settings, each time there is a small problem (unless it is drastically necessary). We do not force upon you things you do not need.

Please try your local independent store. You will be very surprised at the level of service you receive.

Ken says:
24 May 2011

I live in IRLAM and looking for person to fix my laptop can you reply



M21 Tech says:
26 February 2011

I also run my own IT support company but I did work for a big chain for a while [as a sales assistant. If we had any machines which were locking up we would simply do what we called a re-image. This meant that data was lost. I often got annoyed because a lot of the time the original fault (such as a failing hard drive) was ignored.

If a tech says they need to re-install windows and the fault is something simple then always seek a second opinion. It can be the best thing to do but very often the fault is very simple and just needs a bit of research.

The main issue with the big companies is you don’t know who is working on your PC. When choosing your local tech try to see how long they have been in business, make sure they are insured and have a trading address. Don’t invite anybody into your home unless you have a contact address for them.

HOBIT says:
26 February 2011

I agree with the other posters these big box stores are just interested in sales that earn them big money. They have no idea about customer service. My next door neighbour had a computer that they took out an extended warranty with a big box company. This involved a seal on the computer so it couldn’t be opened. They had a motherboard failure so they couldn’t extract their data to a usb drive. My neighbour asked me to save their data before it went in for the repair. Because the usb wasn’t working the only way was to take out the hard drive and extract their 6 years of photos etc. I told them to check with the company to see if they would allow it. Of course they wouldn’t and wanted £200 to take the data off, the neighbour declined and lost the lot!!! It didn’t end there, 3 times they sent the computer back not working, once the power supply wasn’t screwed in at all and couldn’t have been checked.