/ Technology

PC repair companies: are they the ones that need fixing?

What are the chances of getting your data back and laptop working for a reasonable price at the hands of high street repair experts at Apple, The Carphone Warehouse and PC World? Not great…

Back up? Who does that? We all know we should back up our data, but how many of us do? So when your laptop loaded with photos, saved emails and important documents has a hissy fit, the recovery of the last five years is in the hands of self-proclaimed high street repair Geniuses, Geeks and those with the Knowhow. But are they hands you can trust?

Many of us rely on our devices – I know I do – so when they stop working without warning it can be more than a mere inconvenience. Sometimes switching it off and on again just won’t solve the problem. What you need is a professional repairer.

The laptop repair lottery

Laptop repairs infographicTo investigate the quality of high street laptop repair services we introduced a simple fault onto 24 laptops – including Windows laptops and Macbooks – that meant they wouldn’t start up. We then took six each to Apple’s Genius Bars, Geek squads at The Carphone Warehouse, PC World’s Knowhow service and to independent PC repairers from the Brigantia network.

We last conducted this investigation in 2012 and only around half of our laptops were successfully repaired. We contacted the companies concerned at the time and a year and a half later it appears little has changed.

Only around 40% of our laptops were successfully fixed this time; at costs ranging from free to £170. There were also inconsistencies in how branches of the same chain approached fixes, highlighting just what a lottery you’re entering into when you take your laptop to be repaired.

Some good repairs

Good fixes were possible – Apple got four of the six Macbooks working again for free, but the last two remained unfixed because they were deemed ‘vintage’ and Apple doesn’t stock parts for them, even though our repair didn’t require any new parts.

The Carphone Warehouse also clocked up two very good repairs, each costing less than £50. However, another repair came at the expense of our data. PC World and the Independents achieved lower success rates overall in our snapshot test of repair services.

The fact of the matter is, when it comes to laptop repair services, a consistent approach is lacking and it seems that you’re reliant on the expertise of the individual behind the counter, or behind the scenes, when you hand over your laptop.

We approached each of the retailers as a result of our investigation. Apple failed to respond to our repeated attempts to contact the company, but the others each expressed a willingness to improve their services. We want to see improved staff training and repair procedures, as well as fair and consistent pricing so you can be confident in the services you get.

Our investigation only touched upon a small number of stores. If you’ve had a poor experience with repairers, or think you’ve paid over the odds when putting your PC in the hands of the experts, we’re keen to hear your comments.

Comments
Member

It would be interesting to know what legal rights we have to challenge a company for making unreasonable charges or replacing parts that are not faulty.

Unfortunately, anyone taking a computer to be repaired is unlikely to know how much work is involved and if new parts are needed, otherwise they would have probably tackled the job themselves. My recommendation is to try to fix problems yourself, making use of information available online.

Member
redline says:
20 July 2014

I wanted to give the name of someone I would highly recommend as a computer technical expert in response to your request for star tradesmen in my area, but was astonished to find these were not asked for on your list of specialisations. I would have thought they would be in great demand.,

Member

I accessed Which today specifically to find a recommended laptop repair person locally so I am very disappointed that Which local does not have this category. Does anyone know a reliable person near Fleet in Hampshire?

Member

Hi redline. Apologies for any inconvenience caused. I assume that you are referring to the Which? Trusted Traders referral incentive, in which case, you are correct that we are not currently endorsing business in this particular sector. As the service grows, we will be diversifying to cover categories such as computer repairs.

All the best
Which? Local

Member

Hi anthony51

We do indeed have recommendations for computer repair businesses on Which? Local, so do take a look at these. Once you have activated your Which? Local account then you can view the nearby options (20 businesses withing 10 miles of Fleet) via the link below:

http://local.which.co.uk/members/recommendations?cat_id=79

I hope that helps, and be sure to share your comments with the Which? Local community if you decide to use any of the businesses.

All the best
Which? Local

Member
Alex says:
21 July 2014

This is a very short article – where’s the full report?

Member

Hello Alex, the full report is in our latest Which? magazine. Members can access it online: http://www.which.co.uk/account/which-magazine-archive/august-2014/

Member
Darmzy says:
21 July 2014

I found your laptop repair write up interesting. I took my Sony Vaio to a local repair shop because I had purchased a external hard drive and attempted to upload/back up all my pictures and videos (about 90GB total) to it and then they all disappeared (the files where all empty). When I took it to the shop they could not understand what had happened or why. All they said was the external hard drive was not faulty but it could be my PC but could not tell me exactly what! They did manage to retrieve about 15,000 files and placed them on the external drive. Since I’ve bought my laptop back home I cannot bring myself to look at it or attempt to do anything with it in case it happens again and what makes it worse it all the baby photos of my kids over the course of 11 years. By the way I was charged £50. How can you possibly tell a repair shop or technician is competent enough to repair your computer?