Help KeySince I am pretty knowledgeable about the internal workings of a computer, I often find myself helping others find the light at the end of the tunnel. By that I mean people who are having problems with their computers and have no idea where to begin. Typically they will just take it to a computer repair shop, but when you know someone that understands how computers work then you will of course turn to them first.

Most of the time the questions come at the most inopportune time for me. It is often when I am busy working on something else, but I always try to help others out with their problems…normally without charging a fee. For the most part no one really takes advantage of me, and if I feel that they are I will start billing them for some of the work. So why do I want to help people with their computer problems in the first place?

There are so many computer repair businesses out there that it is almost disgusting. People prosper from hard drives failing, motherboards getting fried, and the list keeps on going. Best Buy even has their “Geek Squad” that offers to not only fix your computer problems, but also setup networks among other things. The problem is that these companies pride themselves on having a “knowledgeable” repair staff, when most of them are lacking a lot of the experience that they need to be qualified for such a job.

The video below clearly demonstrates why I like to help people out with repairs, especially when they are minor ones. Basically this news station took a “broken” computer to 8 computer shops in their area. They had the computer checked out by a professional before hand to make sure it was in perfect working order, and then all they did was disconnect the cable that connects the hard drive to the motherboard. A fix that would take just seconds for any good computer repair person to complete wasn’t as cheap as you may think:

Here is what some of the different companies were charging to “repair” the computer:

  • Best Buy’s Geek Squad: They couldn’t fix it because they claimed the computer needed a new power supply that they didn’t carry. Best Buy responded to the misdiagonoses saying that “Computer malfunction can be hard to pinpoint.” If they can’t diagonose a disconnected cable then what can they do right?
  • Circuit City: Fixed it for $59.99 after saying there were also issues with the jumpers being set incorrectly on the hard drive.
  • CompUSA: Fixed the problem and didn’t lie about what was wrong, but still charged $119.99.
  • Fry’s: Charged $69.99 for the repair and also didn’t lie about the cause of the malfunction.
  • Torrance Computer Repair: They fixed it for free!
  • BMI Computers: Claimed there was a power short and that the motherboard and hard drive were bad…and it would cost $275 to fix!

I am still not sure if I should be shocked at the results or not, because I knew that the services were a rip off. I guess that is what keeps some of these electronics stores in business.

If you know anything about computers at least try and give people advice when they need to get something fixed, because I’m sure you would feel bad if they had to shell out that much money for something so simple!

Thanks for the tip Jason!

Source: Daily Cup of Tech

There Are 23 Comments

  1. I am not shocked at the results at all of this.

  2. One of our local stations here did the same thing a few months ago and the results were about the same. I do most of my own repiars and upgrades. For those I can’t do, I have taken my system to a small and independt shop where the people there are more intersted in getting your computer working again then trying to get as much money out of you as they could. I have heard from other folks not to deal with Geek Squad as they have actually made the problems worse.

  3. The funny thing about the Geek Squad is that they boast their at-home service, when most of the people I know who are having computer problems say that the Geek Squad comes to their home, looks at their computer, and says that they have to take it back to the store to fix it. Then the people have to pay for them making the trip out too! Pretty ridiculous.

  4. Thank you for being honest. I know how to use a computer but to fix it is another thing. It is sad to know that they’re people in the world that would lie and cheat us for our money. Thank you for helping people like me who are not computer wise.

  5. I work in IT and occasionally fix computers for home users, i also do some volunteer work fixing computers. I’ve seen some pretty bad stuff and some really honest hard working people getting cheated out of their money (pretty bad in the Hispanic communities mostly because of peoples ignorance). It’s unfortunate that things are the way they are.

  6. I do computer repairs, but in my case, I charge on a case by case basis and do not have a fixed amount of fee. For example, in the case illustrated on this blog, I would charge maybe just the “Visit fee” (a range depending on the distance between my central office and my customer’s place) and just fix the problem for free (the IDE (or SATA) cable reconnection to the motherboard. I will only charge the real fees if I have to stay in my customer’s house for a considerable amount of time fixing a REAL issue with their computer(s).

  7. I am 26 and i have been building and fixing computers since i was 13/14. My first computer was a 386 (back then i bragged about its super fast 400Mhz Processor, which was actually top of the line at that time. It was a Server but i used it as a home pc and tweaked it enough to make win 95 as at the time it was the best Gui) That was the good old times. Now 13/14 years later I own a laptop my first. And now It has the worst problem i could ever imagine. I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT it could be. Here is what happens, The computer worked fine a week ago but was sluggish and time for a format. so I did so almost 10 times I am able to run it, install my drivers, and preform some windows updates, (my Windows CD is XPsp2 so it is old and requires over 100 updates) then I install a few programs starting with my anti virus and anti malware (i thought it could be a piece of software so i installed each program then restarted it to see if thier are any issues) now it doesnt matter what programs i install if i install more than 5 the next reastart it loads and right before the wireless connection shows up on my taskbar it becomes frozen although the mouse still moves but does nothing. Being i am using a laptop I have very little knowledge about them. I know how to update everything in my laptop except the motherboard and the Cpu, I know how to replace a HDD, a Optical Drive, Memory and the wifi card although since its a laptop it would have to be the same card as the way it is situated.

    Now if this was a desktop i would Test each component by taking everything out and testing each piece of hardware. (i wont go into how to do it but i know how but i have no idea what to do here.)

    I Feel Like maybe a car guy or mechanic that has to take his car somewhere else it mase me feel weird. If i had more money I would just buy a new oneif anyone reads this. I live in the north county area of san diego county california in the city of escondido. (i know its a shot in the dark but here is my email it will expire on october 8th 2009.

    Compaq presario v2000 Freezes with startup Needs computer laptop notebook Repair Windows XP service pack 2

  8. i bought a 500 gb drive on advertised special from OEM It was supposed to be a 500Gb OEM western digital drive. sold for $44 each. i paid by credit card and paid the shipping charges too. When i installed it the drive booted right up in XP and had some guys website and personal stuff on it. a site. The CMOS indicated the drive to be an 80Gb and so does windows but the plate says a 500Gb. after numerous emails to both frys and western digital, frys refused to refund original shipping charges and western digital buffs it off as frys problem. the guy in the photos was called his name and number are on there. i really wanted the 500gb for a computer i am building for some kids, but why should i pay the $6.99 shipping out of my own pocket. I rather keep the 80Gb and use all the software this commercila vendor has on it. Is there any way to get more GB out of this drive? If I reformat it will it then go to a 500GB drive?

    • Hello Anon:
      I hope somehow/someone has told you the solution to your problem. Many times on they sell refurbished units. If this is the case, then someone did not properly run a DOD disk wipe on the hard drive. Usually, this is the manufacturer’s mistake and not the site that sold it to you.

      That being said, someone (Fry’s or WD) should gladly replace it for you. If bought on, you would need to call them.

      However, to further answer your question: Yes, if you reformat it you should gain your total of 500GB, unless the drive is mislabeled. This mislabeling most likely was someone ripping off WD on their returned drive (in the case of purchasing a refurbished OEM hard drive.) Again should have been caught by WD.

      The reformatting will delete the partitions created by the old user. Partitioning the HD is basically breaking 500GB into smaller pieces. I.E. 80 GB to the system drive, and the remainder to a Backup, Multimedia, VM or Encrypted HD partition.

      Most CMOS setups will see the drive in it’s entirety, however, that’s most in use today. High end “gamer/multimedia” motherboards actually will see partition by partition. If the other (420GB) of the drive is encrypted, then a CMOS may not see it.

      I suggest backup it up first should you choose to reformat it, that way you may be able to keep your software you gained by having someone’s older drive. Also, when reformatting, make sure you do not bump/hit your computer or turn it off during the reformat. The HD will be pretty busy writing 0′s to a 500GB system, and make take awhile to complete.

      Hope this helps, and I apologize I did not see this thread earlier to help.

      -Justin Baney
      CompTia A+, Network+, and Security + Certified

      (If anyone catches an error in my reply, please feel free to correct my mistake)

    • Hi there,

      Justin is right about the issue and I hope you had it solved.

      I have worked at Fry’s in different department and I know for sure the most of the staff is not qualified for the positions, sales or support. I had over 10 years of experience and a degree but I did not tell them that when I applied because they wouldn’t have hired someone with degree for min. wages.

      I was once on the sales floor and a frequent customer walked up and told me he came over to have his laptop fixed. Its not powering up, but all he need is the disc taken out from the optical drive and the support people were asking him to bring the adapter and everything for the unit and would charge $70 (i think) to get the disc out. I simply poked the hole with a pin and got him the disc out in 3 seconds.

      I have been working on computers since 1993, and have see a lot out there. I run my own consultancy and most of the times I don’t charge my repeat customers for minor things or suggestions. Anyways:

      Here are the possible cause to the problem. When Fry’s return stuff normally they don’t check the contents (not all staff are lazy btw). So someone could have bought the 500GB and put back a 80GB in there and return it saying its not working or something. The staff probably took it without verifying and resold it to you.

      But I hope thats not the case, a simple repartitioning and reformatting should solve the problem if the hard drive indeed is 500GB and not defective in any other way.

      I am not including my info for two reasons:
      - Possible retaliation from ex-employer, which is not the main reason though.
      - Don’t want to brag or advertise my business for free on someone else’s blog there are too many opportunists out there and I am glad to be NOT one of them all of my customers love me and I take good care of them.


  9. What an ugly reminder. Take the money, take advantage of customer ignorance.

  10. Haha great! I live in 90278, North Redondo Beach in case you don’t know is right next to Torrance. I wasn’t sure what to do about my laptop and googled, “frys laptop repair” to get an idea how frys labor cost compared to the rest. How amazing that you live right here, I will definitely chose Torrance Computer Repair. :) I just hope it is the same Torrance. ;)

  11. On this computer the cursor pointer is erratic and the touchpad often is stuck or won’t respond to touch. Reviews seem to indicate that this is a common problem, so can this problem be repaired,I wonder.this is on a dell inspiron 1545

    • Jim:

      Try to use 80%+ isopropyl rubbing alcohol. This should break up some of the dander that may be causing your touchpad to not be as sensitive to touch as it once was.

      It may be a common problem with the driver or mainboard, but I would need to know where you are getting that info in order to assist further.

      -Justin Baney
      CompTia A+, Network+, and Security + Certified

      (If anyone catches an error in my reply, please feel free to correct my mistake)

  12. I have been employed lately as a laptop technician i know to repair and to service most of laptops if at all they have simple problems. My challenging moments is when i find that the machine has a main board problem and because am not very good in electronics practicals it always emerge a nightmare to please guide me on how to tackle these problems.

    • Jimnah,

      Depending on your clientele, most errors with laptop mainboards can evolve from some type of over-heating. [I'm assuming that you have checked all drivers and BIOS updates before pointing straight to the mainboard as the issue]. Look for discoloration around all electrical components and processing units, as this generally will show strain caused by heat. If this is the case, I usually replace the mainboard in it’s entirety, but you could look to see if any of the capacitors are bubbling. Replace those using a low temp electronic soldering gun made for motherboard/mainboards.

      For overall general laptop repair/upgrading may I suggest Scott Mueller’s computer book line, I believe he has a good one on laptops.

      -Justin Baney
      CompTia A+, Network+, and Security + Certified

      (If anyone catches an error in my reply, please feel free to correct my mistake)

  13. Yup if heard some similar problems from people that have taken their computers to Geek Squad. Usually they had a simple virus and they take it to Geek Squad. What do they do? They simply take the easy way out and format the hard drive and then they re-install the OS. I always tell them to tell me since i know about computer repair (CompTia A+ Certified) but they never listen. They want to take the hard way and spend alot of money thinking that the “Professionals” will do a better job than the real “Professional”

  14. Situation… got an HP DV6000 which all of a sudden quit working. Press Power button, all lights come on for 1 second then shut off & quits. No sound, no beep, no screen, no fan sound. Tried many times, no difference. Tried several fixes found via search with no results (did not try heating board with heat gun or oven). Did discover via removal of hard drive & hookup to external USB drive adaptor to extract data, that drive appears to be bad as will ot recognize, while beeps and clicks. So… replaced harddrove in laptop, but computer still does same thing – no startup & immediate shutoff. So what do I do now? Replace motherboard…? but laptop has harddrive now with NO OS installed yet. Will I get ripped on repair cost?

    • Your laptop’s GPU is more then likely cooked. This is a common problem on HP DV6000, DV7000, and DV9000. The GPU has lost its solder connection to the motherboard so to fix this you should use a heatgun and resolder the GPU on the motherboard. The problems is caused by a terrible heatsink design where the heat from the CPU is channeled right over the GPU overheating it. Resoldering it with a heat gun is only a temporary fix and you will have to eventually replace the motherboard or better yet get a new computer. The DVseries laptops were part of a class action lawsuit against HP and Compaq where similar design issues were discussed. The part that pisses me off the most is that these companies will continue to design computers like this so unsuspectng customers will pay hundreds of dollars for a fix that will fail again. Even getting a new motherboard only leads to the problem happening again. Best strategy in this case, new laptop.

  15. Hello. I have a HP Dv7 laptop and the screen will no longer show up. It seems to be somewhat dim in the background but I can’t see it. When I hook it up to my TV it shows up fine on the monitor. What could it be? And can I fix it myself?

  16. Any suggestions for honest repairs in San Diego?

  17. Goods of GVO can make the key of this Enterprise!! You make use of these, You get via then!! Many in vehicle initial…

  18. hey Justin;
    Just found this blog and am almost 60 years old. I have been using computers since college, so I well remember the first ones! 384′s.. anyway, I want a refurbished desktop. i have a laptop that I love but I want a home desk computer to type on. I am starting writing a book, and do extensive family genealogy; so my memory needs are great. Any recommendations? I just read to avoid HP DV6000, 7000 and 9000. my laptop is a dell by the way… thanks in advance


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