Getting a PC Repaired

In their most recent edition, the team at Computing Which, the specialist computing magazine at Which, the Consumers Association, did an investigation into computer repairs.

I suspect like many people who work in IT, I’m often asked for advice over new PC purchases, recommendations of good stores and so on. Often my advice is to go for small IT shops, and certainly to avoid the big so-called specialists such as PC World. Although I’ll quite often go into the store for something specific, I usually know what I want. I’ve only once bought a computer there, which was a special offer. What usually frustrates me about the place – and at times I’ve been tempted to cut in when this is happening, is that going around the store, especially around the new PC’s is that you overhear the sales staff trying to persuade consumers to purchase more than they actually need, essentially exploiting the ignorance of the consumer.

This is exactly the same description that is used by Computing Which of the repair service in PC World. Their investigation was conducted in much the same way that car dealerships are investigated. The components in the computer were secretly marked, and then two simple faults introduced, in one case a single file used as part of the Windows start up process was removed, in the other the cable connecting the hard drive was disconnected. Both machines were then taken to seven branches of PC World, and thirteen independents, and although they found problems at some of the the independents, the main thrust of the article was about concerns about PC World.

It is alarming how many of the PC World branches were diagnosing a corrupted hard drive and recommending a replacement drive, or even a whole new PC for the loose cable, and even when they found the loose cable were still recommending new PC’s. They seemed to quite often sell the customer an unnecessary new retail version of Windows, costing £200 at the same time, in two cases helpfully blanking down the machines to install this new version of Windows. On other occasions PC World refused to even look at the PC without the customer providing a copy of Windows along with the machine – PC World themselves have said that this shouldn’t have happened.

This is significantly more costly than the majority of the independents, indeed the cheapest cost for the cable repair from independents was £10, and £20 for the software repair. Compare this with the starting point of £69.99 for a hardware repair from PC World. It is worth saying that it wasn’t only PC World that come under fire in the report. Whilst a number of the independents found and fixed the problems, a couple of others reinstalled Windows, and one replaced the hard drive due to it being corrupt. Also amongst the independents is a store that claimed and charged for the hard drive, but thanks to the marked components was proved to have done nothing of the sort – that store has been reported to Trading Standards.

All in all it seems to be a bit of a minefield. The conclusion of the report says that they wouldn’t recommend PC World at all for repairs, however they acknowledge that the independents are a bit of a minefield too – essentially as with many trades, they advise getting recommendations from friends and family. Not exactly ideal really…

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