[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting
and Repair Guide | Repairs, Returns and Refunds | Determining the Feasibility of Repair ]
Reparability of Various Components
Components vary greatly in terms of how readily they can be repaired. This is an
important consideration in making the decision of whether to repair or replace an item.
Also, you should have an idea about how often components of various types are repaired, so
you can deal more effectively with repair shops, and so you have a better idea of what to
expect. Some disreputable companies may try to repair items that are not usually repaired,
in order to bump up their labor charge. This isn't common, but it does happen, so it is
better to be more informed than less.
Here are the various components in the PC and how repairable they are, in general
terms, along with my recommendations about whether the average person will normally
want to get the item repaired. As with everything else, this is a basic guideline and not
definitive law, because of all the different factors involved. As I've also mentioned in
other places, most components don't make sense to repair, and so you'll see me recommend
against it for most components:
- Power Supply: Some problems with power supplies can be repaired, but in practice
they rarely are. The main reason is economics: power supplies are cheap, generally being
$50 or less, and they take only a few minutes to swap. Repairing one requires someone with
fairly good power electronics understanding, and that is not cheap. Also, the power supply
is a wear item, and getting a new one every few years is not a bad idea even without
experiencing a failure.
- Motherboard: Motherboards are complicated multi-layer circuit boards and cannot
usually be repaired. Some simple problems can be fixed by the manufacturer of the board;
this usually means swapping some chip or other component on the board out in favor of a
replacement, but this is not often done. The typical PC repair shop has very little
ability to do anything about fixing a motherboard. Many motherboard failures are
misdiagnosed because of how many different parts of the PC connect to the motherboard, but
if it is truly bad, a replacement makes most sense.
- Processor: A failed processor cannot be repaired, period. It needs to be
replaced. In the real world, an actual failure of a processor is extremely rare unless it
is abused, typically by insufficient cooling over a
long period of time, overclocking, etc.
- System Memory: Memory chips cannot be repaired. Memory modules can be repaired by
a company with the right equipment, by diagnosing which chip is flawed (assuming a failure
of the memory and not the module circuit board) and replacing it with a good chip. The
equipment required to do this is expensive and repair is usually not worthwhile.
- Video Card: Some problems with video cards can be repaired, but not many. For
example, if the video memory is socketed, it may be loose and need to be reinserted. It
may also have failed, and can be replaced. Some other components can also be replaced. In
practice, if the repair isn't simple, the card is usually tossed in favor of a replacement
due to the amount of time required to execute a repair.
- Monitor: The system monitor is probably the most repairable of all of the
components of the PC. Monitors are have a lot of internal components that can fail and be
replaced by a qualified technician. They are also ideal candidates for a repair job
because they are expensive, they hold their value over time, and they don't become
obsolete rapidly. As long as the CRT itself is not
gone, repair of a monitor usually makes sense. If the CRT is gone, repair is rarely
worthwhile. Also, the decision depends a lot on size. A 17" or larger monitor usually
makes sense to fix due to its cost. A five-year-old 14" monitor is a tougher choice
since the replacement value of a used monitor of this sort is close to the cost of many
- Hard Disk Drive: Hard disk problems have very few solutions that are available to
anyone but the original manufacturer, or specialized data recovery firms. Repair shops can
try a simple operation like replacing the logic board on the drive, but their repair
options are extremely limited. Manufacturers will repair drives, but usually what happens
is that since they know their customers are down waiting for the drive, they will take the
damaged one in exchange for a (refurbished) replacement unit. Someone else may get your
drive, refurbished, if it is fixable. Data
recovery companies use special techniques to get drives running again long enough so
that critical data can be restored from them. Using a service like this for routine repair
would be prohibitively expensive.
- Floppy Disk Drive: Floppy drives can often be fixed, but are usually not repaired
because they are a cheap, universal item that costs much less to replace than to repair.
The only case in which you might want to have a floppy drive repaired is it if were a
specialty item such as a low-density 5.25" disk that you needed to keep using for
some historical reason, or a SCSI floppy disk drive, or another non-standard device.
- CD-ROM Drive: CD-ROM drives are sometimes repaired, because there are some types
of problems that they can experience that can be fixed without too much fuss. Due to the
physical mechanism that tray-loader models use, there can be mechanical problems that can
sometimes be fixed. They often are not repaired due to the rapid obsolescence of older
drives. It doesn't make a lot of sense to pay $50 to fix an aging 2X model when you can
get a new 12X (or faster) drive for just a little bit more.
- Keyboard: Standard keyboards are practically disposable items. Simple problems
are not hard to fix, but it's not generally worth paying someone to fix a keyboard unless
it is either a special keyboard that will be hard to replace, or you are "in
love" with the feel of the keyboard and can't bear the thought of replacing it with
another. (You'd be surprised how often this happens.) Most keyboards that cause persistent
problems are just replaced with new ones.
- Mouse: Like the keyboard, a mouse is a cheap and generally disposable item.
Again, unless you paid a lot for your mouse and think it's the cat's meow (hee hee, sorry
:^) ), it's not worth paying someone to fix it.
- Modem: Modems are similar in construction to video cards, and also similar in
that there are not too many things that can be fixed on them. They also are very
inexpensive, and most of them that are old enough that they would require a repair, also
aren't worth fixing because a faster modem would cost less new than fixing the slower one!
Next: Deciding On A
Course Of Action
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