Computer repair fraud, like mechanical repair fraud, construction repair fraud and a million other kinds of fraud, is on the rise. You drop your computer off to be repaired. The shop runs a defrag, charges you $100 and claims it can’t be fixed. You get a bit suspicious, because after they say it can’t be fixed they decide that they want to keep it “if you don’t mind”.
This kind of repair fraud has always been a common practice at shady mechanical shops, and now it’s becoming more prominent in the computer industry. A mechanic will say that you need a transmission rebuild which is $1500 and what he really does is wiggles your transmissions computer wires.
Having never personally experienced computer repair fraud, I can’t give you some compelling story about how I got screwed by that dirty company on the corner. What I can do however, is give you some tips so you never have any issues with computer repair fraud again.
By the time you finish reading this article you should know enough computer jargon to convince any repair place your not a “total” fool. Despite your best efforts you may have some issues, but I will try to teach you the basics, and how to do some of the common tasks you need to do yourself. With this knowledge, you should find it much harder to get caught up in computer repair fraud in the future.
When you get a new computer keep every single install disc that came with it. Either inside the case, near the case, or underneath the case. You won’t be needing them right away, but if you have any issues with your computer you will be needing them, so keep them on hand.
Before you bring your computer into a computer repair shop think about what it needs. What is the problem it’s having? Computer repair fraud starts with a computer user lacking in knowledge. If your computer doesn’t turn on, it’s likely a hardware issue meaning a physical item inside your computer.
If your computer Turns on but does not load into windows this is most likely a Software problem. I will assume you’re not over-clocking your computer throughout this article. If you are reading this article it means you most likely are not even clear on the meaning of that term.
So the computer won’t turn on anymore? Do the fans turn on? Does the computer Beep? The key to preventing computer repair fraud is knowing what is wrong, and communicating that to your technician.
One thing to remember before you let a technician look at your computer is that the bios has a self diagnostic and can tell you what the issue is on its own. Some computer have speech posts which will play through your on board sound card and tell you exactly what the problem is.
The majority of computers however have internal speakers which beep similar to Morris code, if you can remember the manufacture of your bios, you can look up on a friends computer what this code means on the Internet.To look it up simply search something like “POST beep (your bios name here)”. If you know what the problem is you may not even have to bring your computer in! The best way to prevent computer repair fraud is by not having your computer repaired by a shop.
If your fans turn on and the computer gives you a code then your probably not too bad off. A stick of memory may be bad, the fan may not be rotating at it’s proper speed, or a card may have become loose. These are just some of the things that may be wrong and the bios code will tell you what it is. If your fans come on but you get no error code from the bios, it’s likely the CPU is bad. Once you have the information off your post you can pull the suspect part yourself. Bring it to the shop to get a replacement or you can bring the whole computer in to them. Replacing a part takes less then 20 minutes for any given part.
Most shops will charge $40 an hour for labor if your a walk in. The minimum charge is 1 hour labor. Know which component is bad before you bring the computer in to them. This will save you money on diagnostics. Since you know which component is bad, tell them you would like them to replace it. Ask them how long it will take for them to get to your computer. If it’s going to be a while then you may want to try another repair shop. This task should be simple and take no more then 20 minutes, unless parts are no longer available for your system. Computer repair fraud often will require you to leave your computer with technicians so they can mark up the labor hours.
If your fans don’t come on at all the system most likely has a bad power supply. This can be easily tested if you have another one around, but I’m assuming you don’t. So just ask if you can watch as the technician tests this theory. Any reputable repair company will have no issues with you watching as they make minor repairs. If they refuse this is a red flag for computer repair fraud.
If your computer isn’t loading windows, but is turning on you probably have a software issue. These can be the hardest to find. Fortunately you don’t have to. If your computer came with a Windows installer find it and reinstall Windows. But be careful if you do this improperly, you will wipe your hard drive. Depending on your situation this could be bad.
When installing windows it will ask you which partition to use select the default one and hit enter. Do not format or otherwise modify this partition unless you don’t care about your data. Once you are ready to install the installer will ask you what format you want the partition as. Tell the installer to just install on the format already available.
Once you have done this it will tell you “Windows is already installed on this partition” it will then ask you to choose another folder to install to. Pick any folder and install it there. You will have to name this folder yourself. When the installation finishes you should have all your drivers and a factory original windows install. This should run perfectly and your old install is still on the hard drive, so you can now use this install to backup any files you wanted to keep prior to wiping the drive.
Software issues are best if you handle them yourself as removal of a virus without wiping the hard drive can take many hours and at 40$ an hour or more, this can be more costly then buying a new computer… Repairing a bad operating system can take a lot of time as well… the cheapest solution is above. Another form of computer repair fraud is operating system installs a simple O.S. install only takes moments of a technicians time, yet they will charge you the 8 hours the computer took to install, even though they where only present for at most 1 hour of that time.
Do not leave your computer at a repair shop ever. If they want to order a part keep your computer. Give them the money to order the part and come back. Make sure you get a receipt, because if this part never shows up you want proof you paid for it.
By following all these rules you should never have a repair bill more then 100$ that is part + labor. Many shops may drop the labor fee for a 5 minute job if you purchased the part from them. If a shop charges you more then $100, you have most likely become the most recent person to experience computer repair fraud, and you should dispute the validity of this bill.
If your not sure about installing windows and really concerned about your data. Get a quote in writing, a receipt, and pay in advance. Then leave your computer with the technician. Fully installing windows can take all night. However much of this time the computer does all the work and doesn’t need to be attended leaving the technician available for other tasks.It would be unreasonable for a technician to charge you for 8 hours to do a install. A reinstall done by a technician should not cost more then 60$ upfront.
Here are some things to do to prevent your computer from needing repairs. If you are running windows 2,000 or above create a guest account which only has access to play games and basic browsing of the Internet with no write access except inside there own folder and no installer access. This isn’t as hard as it may sound once you have your computer, click on the “Start Bar” go to the control panel and click on user control. Create a new user with guest privileges. It’s that easy; don’t close the window yet inside the same window click on your current main account and set a password. Now only you can install or uninstall things from your computer.
Always log out of your account when you leave the computer. Do not installed pirated software they are a good source for viruses. Kaspersky is a good and free anti virus software scan every file you download off the Internet before opening it. Don’t install excessive programs. Get a UPS(Uninterruptable Power Supply) This will protect your computer from electrical surges. Don’t let guests on your account as the may not follow the rules for a clean computer, this is why you create a guest account for them.
And that’s about it for preventing computer repair fraud, if you have done everything listed here you should not have to worry about computer repair fraud ever again. Good luck with all your future ventures.