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[ 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 repairs.
  • 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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