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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | Repairs, Returns and Refunds | Performing a Repair or Return ]

Choosing a Repair Shop

Deciding where to take your PC for repair is sometimes not a very simple task. The best choice depends on several factors, not the least of which is what kind of PC you have and where you bought it. Obviously if you have a PC or component covered under warranty, you should make use of that warranty and send the equipment back to the company that sold it to you. Otherwise, you are "on your own" and need to select a company that meets your requirements for service.

There are many different factors that you need to take into account when deciding on a place to take your PC for repair. I would make the point of saying, however, that trust is the most important consideration. You need to feel comfortable about the company you choose, and have a good feeling that they are going to do a good job without exploiting you, misleading you, or doing a bad job. If you don't know of a repair shop yourself that fits the bill, try to get a recommendation from someone whom you trust. Word of mouth is the best way to find service people, in my experience.

There are many specific things you should look for when evaluating repair shops. Some of these are questions you should ask the company on the phone before you agree to bring the PC in for repair.

Looking specifically at the repair situation, I would pay attention to the following:

  • Past History and Reputation: How well-known is this company for doing repairs? Have you ever worked with them before, or do you know someone who has? This is really the best way to choose a company, if possible. Bear in mind that a company may be well-regarded as a PC builder, but this does not necessarily mean that service is their forte. I have personally dealt with some companies where this was definitely the case.
  • Who Built the PC: All else being equal, you are better off taking the PC back to the company that originally made it, even if it is out of warranty, unless you don't like the company or there is another compelling reason to avoid them. The reason is obvious: they are going to be more familiar with the system, and they are more likely to have replacement parts of the same type as what is in the box, already in stock. This isn't always the case, but the original assembler of the box is always worth a look.
  • Service Policy: Some companies are better at providing flexible service policies than others. What you are looking for is a company that is easy to work with, that will put their terms in writing, etc. If you get an estimate, what does that mean? Will the company commit to limiting the cost of the repair to that number? See the section on working with a repair shop for some ideas of what you should be looking for here.
  • Cost: Cost is of course an important consideration when looking at a repair job. You need to find out what the cost of the work will be, taking into account not just labor charges but also the costs of any parts that are needed. Some companies try to get you "hooked" with a low labor rate, but then take longer to perform the work; others will put ridiculous markups on parts required for repair. Make sure to get all the data you need before committing yourself.
  • Estimates: It is extremely helpful to choose a shop that is willing to give you a free (or inexpensive, say $25 or less) estimate before you are forced to agree to a repair. A company that does this may have slightly higher general labor rates, but you remain in the driver's seat in terms of deciding if the repair will be done.
  • Speed: For most people, a repair means being without a PC for a while, so time is of the essence. Some shops are much better than others at doing their work quickly. Make sure you ask how long it will take for the estimate to be done, and get it in writing. Remember that the amount of time it takes to get the work done depends a great deal on how busy the company is, so a firm that is slow one time may be much faster the next. Follow up occasionally with the company during the repair; if they know you're waiting they are more likely to get the work done expediently.
  • Parts Quality: If parts replacements are required, you need to find out what sort of parts are being used. Parts for replacement in your PC should be chosen by you, not by whatever the repair shop happens to have lying around. A good repair shop will help you pick the parts that you are going to use, to match your existing hardware. Just make sure you find out exactly what they are using.
  • Warranty or Guarantee: How long is the company willing to stand behind its work, and under what conditions? Warranties provided by repair shops vary widely. Make sure you shop around because this is very important. You don't want to have to be paying to fix the same problem again 31 days after it was originally fixed. Look for at least a 90-day warranty, preferably 6 months or a year.
  • Location: You will usually want to pick a repair company that has a convenient location. This isn't usually a prime concern, because you (hopefully) won't be using this company very often, but a place that is nearby is better than one that is an hour away.
  • Possibility of Future Business: If the repair shop also sells new PCs (many do) or performs other services such as consulting or network setup, then consider the value of starting a relationship with the company. If you communicate the possibility of future business to them, you may receive more favorable treatment. You will also benefit by building a relationship with a company whom you trust, and whom you can use for future repairs or other work.

Next: Working With a Repair Shop


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