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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | Repairs, Returns and Refunds | Determining the Feasibility of Repair ]

Factors To Consider When Deciding to Repair or Replace a Component

If you don't know what is wrong with your PC, you will want to troubleshoot your system to find out what the problem is. Often, you will discover that there is actually nothing wrong with your hardware; your problem was a loose cable, incorrect jumper, a virus, or something similar. However, in some cases your efforts will point to a particular component being bad. You may also take the PC into a repair shop, where they may find a bad component and ask you what you want to do about it.

Now obviously, if the part or system are brand new or still under warranty, you are normally going to want to take advantage of your warranty (or money-back guarantee, if the part was very recently purchased and you have one). See here for more on these various options. However if it comes down to you having to pay to either repair or replace a component, consider these factors:

  • Reparability: Some components cannot readily be repaired. You are not going to have any repair shop offer to fix a dead memory chip or processor (or if they do, be very suspicious!) because this cannot generally be done. (I suppose you could replace a chip on a damaged SIMM or DIMM to repair it, but that's not done in practice either).
  • Labor Cost vs. Component Cost: This is really the driving consideration in making decisions to repair or replace. In the last ten years, the cost of "things" has dropped tremendously, but the cost of people has continued to climb. As a result, there are many components that are very rarely if every fixed any more. A good example is a standard 3.5" floppy disk drive. The $25 or so that a new drive costs is less than the cost of a technician even starting a repair on a damaged unit. See this section for more of this analysis for different components.
  • Warranty / Guarantee: If you decide to repair, you need to find out whether the repair shop or manufacturer is going to guarantee their repair work, and if so, for how long. You need to compare that against what the warranty would be on a replacement part.
  • Throwing Good Money After Bad: If you have a component that has already failed once recently, was repaired, and now has failed again, you need to consider at what point you want to quit trying to fix the part and just get a new one. Even with devices that make sense trying to repair, after a few repairs you will probably be close to the cost of a new item.
  • Quality and Source of Replacement Part: If you are replacing an out-of-warranty part with a new part you yourself are purchasing, you can control the quality level of what you use. If you are offered a replacement part by a repair establishment (or manufacturer) then you need to be very careful to find out exactly what you are getting. Is it a new part? Is it refurbished? Where did it come from? How old is it? Don't assume that you are going to get a new device sent to you. Even if under warranty, you may not feel comfortable with what you get back in return for your defective item.
  • Downtime: If the problem means that your PC is out of operation, and this is causing you difficulties, then you need to find out whether repair or replacement will be faster. Replacement is often faster if the component is easy to swap and it is in stock. Repair may be faster if the replacement part needs to be ordered.
  • Advances in Technology: Sometimes a failed component can be a good "excuse" to upgrade to newer technology. While some components don't really change much--a 3.5" floppy disk drive is a 3.5" floppy disk drive--others do. If you have a 2X CD-ROM drive, there really is not much point in bothering to get it fixed when it breaks. The reason is obvious: if you spend $50 to fix it, you're still stuck with a very slow drive. Instead, you could spend $75-$100 and get a 12X drive or faster.

Remember to get all the facts when you are considering the decision of repair or replacement, or when you are offered the choice of repair or replacement by a repair shop. Make sure to get the costs given to you, for both labor and parts, up front for both ways so you can make a good decision.

Next: Component Failures, Infant Mortality, and the Bathtub Curve

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