Before I start talking computer repair, I offer three caveats. First, I have no formal training in diagnosing, repairing, or even using computers. Second, I have no experience with repairing an Apple or Mac computer. Third, all of the below only applies to laptop repair. Its incredibly easy to swap out components on a desktop.
You’ve done the math and decided that it is a better use of your resources to repair your non-functional and out-of-warranty laptop.1 You know that sending an out of warranty laptop to the manufacturer is a bad idea. But, what about a big box store like Best Buy, Circuit City2 , and Fry’s?3
Option 2: Big Box Stores
When I’m not buying computer or electronics components online, I like Best Buy for products and Fry’s for components. However, I would never have a computer diagnosed or repaired by either place.
First, let’s recognize that a big box store has certain priorities. As such, their staff are trained to sell, not to diagnose or repair. I imagine their priorities are, in order: (1) Sell you things, (2) sell you warranties for things, (3) sell you new things, and (4) sell you warranties for those new things, (5) LLR. 4 From a capitalistic perspective, its hard to argue with a business plan like this.
A little burned out component on the motherboard takes very special equipment and skill to replace. When faced with such a problem you can replace the entire computer, the motherboard5 , or just that one component.
From calling numerous computer repair facilities, I know very few of them have the special equipment and skill required to replace a single tiny component on a motherboard. If dedicated repair facilities do not typically have this equipment, I doubt big box stores would be up to the task.
I think everyone’s heard the horror stories or seen the TV investigations of big box computer store repair services scamming unwary or uninformed consumers. I have friends who hired Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” and still didn’t have their problems fixed.
If I were a very cynical person6 I’d suggest that big box stores hire untrained staff who have a vested interest in charging a diagnostic fee to tell you that your computer and all your data is beyond recovery.
Luckily, I believe the third option, finding a reliable dedicated computer repair shop, is your best bet.