What to ask repair centers when your PC crashes

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Computer repair center cautions.

Who do you trust with your beloved computer and all the data residing on it? It’s a question most of us take for granted as we drop off our computer at the local repair shop. Photo’s, legal documents and passwords are just a few of the things that we store on our computer thinking it is safely tucked away. Once the computer leaves your possession and is placed in a shop, how do you know all is safe?

Below is a list of important questions along with the expected answers you should receive when shopping for a repair center. If you are not comfortable with the answers your getting from a local computer repair shop or individual, you should consider other places.

How much do you charge per hour or service?

Most respectable computer repair centers will charge either by the hour or by task, depending on the issue. The hourly rate should range between $50 – $75 ‘depending on where you live.’ Too high of a price may mean that you are being overcharged and too low may mean that the repairman may not know what he is doing or he may be planning on billing for an excessive amount of hours.

Some services will be billed by “bench hours,” meaning, how many hours the computer is actually on the work bench whether attended or unattended. Expect to pay for unattended hours when your computer is using electricity and bench space while a program is being installed or updated.

Other services will be billed by  “product,” meaning, they charge a flat fee for installing a new video card or power supply.

How many billable hours will this take to repair?

The last thing you want to do is pay $60 hour for nine hours of labor, totaling $540 to repair a computer that can be replaced for three or four hundred dollars. This is where cost vs. reward comes into play. Is it worth it to fix the computer or just purchase a new one?

You should expect to hear from the repairman, “I can’t be totally sure, but these types of repairs in the past have cost an average of (x) dollars to repair. We can certainly call you if we see the cost is going to exceed the value of the computer.”

Don’t be alarmed if the technician can’t give you an exact amount over the phone, some computer problems may seem similar but are very different in reality.

Do you have a minimum charge?

Not all computer problems require nine hours on the work bench. If your issue takes only 15 minutes to repair, you may be slapped with a minimum bench time.

You should expect to hear “yes, we have a one billable hour minimum.” On part replacements, it is also common to have a flat rate for installing new hardware.

Will there be any additional charges?

While some companies stifle you with hidden fees, this simple question should clear the air. No one wants to get a quote only to find out the actual cost is much higher.

What you should expect to hear; “No. If it looks like it is going to cost more than we quoted, you will receive a phone call notifying you of the added expense and an explanation as to why.” At this point you may choose to go forward with the extra repairs or simply pick up your computer as-is.

Do you guarantee your work?

Guarantee’s and warrantees are a given in today’s society, but are they worth anything? Ask the repairman the conditions of the guarantee, if they fix the problem and it returns, what will they offer? If their response is “uhm or I’m not sure,” then try another repairman. No one wants to pay for repairs and have the same issue again two weeks later. This does not apply to all issues, for example; viruses. You may have your computer completely cleaned of all viruses and three days later be infected again.

You should expect to hear; “Yes, for most repairs we guarantee our labor and/or parts for 30 to 90 days.” Most hardware comes with a one year warranty from the manufacturer in conjunction with the local shops warranty. When replacing or upgrading parts, make sure you get new, not used if you want a warranty.

Anytime you have hardware or software programs installed on your computer, make sure you get the box, CD and literature for the product when you pick up your computer. Usually software will have a CD Key that you may need to register the product later.

Will you save my files?

Your computer is an assembly of parts that in most cases can be easily replaced. The digital items such as photo’s of your dog, video’s of your child’s first steps, legal documents and spreadsheets with your usernames and passwords are what’s really important to most of us.

The answer you should expect is; “yes, if they are retrievable.”

This also happens to fall under one of those items that are listed as a flat rate in most cases. Expect to have to pay $x per gigabyte of data retrieved. Most places will charge a flat rate of about $85 for the first gigabyte and $20 for each additional gigabyte. If your primary goal is to retrieve data from a dead hard drive, expect to send the drive to a professional lab. Generally, local computer stores do not have the ability to do this level of work. Professionals can most often retrieve data even if the drive has been formatted two or three times.

Summary:

When shopping for a computer repair center, do not hesitate to ask questions. Ask about certifications, knowledge level of the technicians and years of service. This is your computer and your sensitive data. Most often, your best option is to take it to a shop as opposed to a local guru’s house. On the reverse of that, some techies that work from home after their day job, are real brainiac’s and some are want-to-be’s, so beware.

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