So your computer broke...
Whether it was an issue with a fried motherboard or a burnt out graphics card (hardware malfunctions), a booting problem (you hit the power button and get a black screen or a white error message), or any other hundreds of possible issues.
The fact remains: You need to find either a computer repair shop, technician, or someone knowledgeable enough to guide you through the process of repairing it yourself.
And you need to find them ASAP! But don't rush out too quickly - you need to do this right the first time to save yourself a few headaches and future pain. Read on for our recommendations.
I'm going to say this up front: Finding a local, smaller repair shop is much, much better (in most cases) than going to a large retailer like Best Buy.
Large retailers have their "technicians" or "geek squad" who claim they could help, but oftentimes, you'll find yourself overspending for lackluster solutions that don't really get the job done.
I've lost count of the number of times someone told me they spent upwards of $500+ on computer repairs, only to have the so-called "technicians" do some extremely basic troubleshooting.
They didn't even try to get to the core of the problem.
And again, circling back, this is precisely the reason why you should go with a small local shop.
So now let's get to the crux of it: How do you find the true best computer repair shop in your local area? We'll cover a few methods.
This is the best way, and it'll be my first recommendation every time.
To be fair, you've probably already used this process (or something similar) in the past. It's just your basic review lookup, making sure the company is reputable, seeing what others said, and looking at cost.
For 100% clarity, let's run through the process start to finish.
You'll want to head over to Google and type in: Computer Repair Near Me
And you'll see your typical map search result with a listing of all the computer repair shops within driving distance...
I typically look at the highest rated repair shops with the most reviews.
Here we see "SD Computer Repair" at 4.8 stars with 149 reviewers. Not too shabby! Looks like they've had a few dissatisfied customers over time, but overall, they're looking pretty good.
We also see "San Diego Computer Help" with 5.0 stars and 151 reviews! This place seems pretty good.
#1 is the holy grail. If you find a reputable shop with 5 star reviews from real reviewers, I'd jump on that opportunity right away.
#2 is where you really have to be careful, though...
Some repair shops give incentives (like gift cards, coupons, etc.) to people who give them a 5 star rating online.
Other repair shops (who don't factor in ethics and integrity into their business plan at all... big red flag) -- they go out and buy fake reviews.
You've gotta look at the reviews and use a little bit of common sense.
After you've looked at all of your local repair shops at a high level, you'll want to read through the reviews.
A good rule of thumb is to read anywhere from 15-20 reviews to get a taste of their customer service, what kind of computer issues they typically solve, and so on.
These are usually either dissatisfied customers who are severely exaggerating what went wrong, OR they could be legitimate complaints that you want to be on the lookout for.
Once you've gotten a good idea about their service, how they treat their customers, what typical issues they solve, etc., browse over to their website.
Here you'll want to take a look at their price structure (if they list it on the site), and get their contact information.
Narrow it down to a couple repair shops, call them up for a quote (describe your problem as best as you can), and make a decision!
Choose the repair shop that can take you in the quickest, has the best pricing options, and gets the best ratings from its past customers.
Once you've narrowed down your choice, call them up to get a quote or go over there directly in person.
You should be set, and your computer will be up and running in no time at all!
If you're interested, we'll cover pricing options next, going through typical price quotes you can expect to get from local repair shops and how you can tell if the price is fair.
How much can you expect to pay for your computer repair?
Well, the quick answer here is : It depends on the repair!
But the in-depth answer is more complicated than that.. I'll explain why in a second.
This is a big one. Definitely be aware of this.
One of the first questions you need to ask your repair shop is how much they charge per hour.
If they charge higher than that, it's probably overpriced.
If they charge lower, you might be getting low-quality work (or falling into one of their "traps" where they bill you more and tack on a bunch of fees).
This is another one to watch out for.
If you find out that the cost of a long repair and a high hourly cost add up to more than a new computer would cost -- that's definitely something you don't want.
This is why you have to be extra careful and ask them up front:
"How long (approximately, in billable hours) will this take to fix?
Let's look at some of the most common computer repairs, and approximately how long it'll take to fix each of them.
This is a common problem that's (in almost all cases) caused by Spyware running in the background and bogging down the computer OR a bunch of a background applications / services that are taking up a bunch of memory.
Expected Time to Fix: 1.5 - 3.0 Hours
Expected Cost @ $50/hr: $75 - $150
Expected Diagnostics: Install anti-spyware and antivirus software, perform a registry cleanup, clean cookies, defragment, look at start up applications.
Another common problem. Even more common with new and/or inexperienced computer users who can't detect malicious links, websites, or software quite yet due to lack of experience.
Expected Time to Fix: 1.5 - 3.0 Hours
Expected Cost @ $50/hr: $75 - $150
Expected Diagnostics: Install anti-spyware and antivirus software, look up virus removal techniques (if special removal required), reboot, ensure all malware is removed.
This is something that comes up suddenly, unexpectedly, and when you least expect it. Sometimes your computer just refuses to boot! What gives? Well, it can be anything from a damaged boot record, to a fried motherboard, to a partitioning issue, to a non-functioning power supply.
It may either be a very quick diagnosis, or it may take some time.
Expected Time to Fix: 2.0 - 6.0 Hours
Expected Cost @ $50/hr: $100 - $300
Expected Diagnostics: Check software / operating system. Are there any startup errors / messages on boot? If it's not an OS issue, begin hardware "debugging". Repair OS / Partition Table / Replace Hardware, depending on the cause.
There are online computer repair services that can guide you through common computer issues and help you troubleshoot.
This is typically an experienced computer repair technician (or technical support personnel) who can tell you what to do for you to arrive at a solution.
Be aware, though. You can be guided through the process if its a relatively simple software or system issue, but for anything more complex, the computer repair technician might remote into your machine.
As I mentioned, this is usually only an option if the repair technician knows that the problem is relatively simple to solve and can be done in a quick manner from your end.
If you're having issues with a particular software program, or settings on your computer, or installing an app, etc. -- the technician can guide you through step by step.
For anything more complex... you'll probably be looking at Option 2.
This is more common with online computer troubleshooting / repair.
If the problem is more complex or more severe, the technician will ask you to either install a remote desktop application [This is Common], or ask you for some technical details about your machine (IP address, computer name, etc.) [This is NOT Common] so that they can log in and help you remotely.
You'll see your mouse moving about "on its own" and can watch the technician do their work.
They'll get the process sorted out and have your computer up and running in no time!
Feeling brave? Have some computer experience? You just might want to look at fixing the issue yourself.
With DIY Computer Repair Kits, its typically hardware issues your fixing. Here are some potential issues you might be looking to fix on your own (and therefore, will need to buy the corresponding repair kit and/or hardware):
These are all repairs that you can do at home. All you need is the right repair kit, which will typically include a fine point Philips screwdriver, a regular-sized screwdriver, an ESD wrist strap (for electrostatic discharge), and the components you need to replace.
Don't stress out, take your time, and you'll have your computer fixed in no time at all!