Cheaper is not better

Everybody thinks they’re a computer guy these days.  Having worked in the industry for 30+ years, I can tell you that the good ones are far and few between.  Guys like this piss me off.  They damage the credibility of the entire industry.

Money is tight.  She is working part-time.  She took the machine to him because he was cheap.  When she went to pick her computer up … she got a bag of parts … and brought it to me to see if we could put it back together …

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When I opened the bag, it was, indeed, a bag of parts.  The memory, the battery, the hard drive, and the keyboard were all laying loose in the bag.  The top and bottom of the case were separated from each other.  On closer inspection, the case looked like it had been pried apart with screwdrivers – and to my shock – the case itself had been ‘peeled back’ from the power source.  I mean literally peeled back – like someone had taken a cutter and a pair of pliers and peeled the case away from the power supply.

Apparently it had a video display issue – it was displaying lines on the screen.  He told her that he could fix it with a $5 part and $70 labor.  He said that he had to solder something onto the motherboard… now she doesn’t have a computer – and can’t afford to buy a new one.  This machine was about 5 years old, a Dell Inspiron 2650 with a Pentium 4 processor and 512mb ram.  Not top of the line, not the latest greatest but an okay machine for getting on the internet, checking email, and writing letters …which is all that she used it for.  Before the genius worked on it, we could probably have fixed it.  Now it’s parts.

Several things here:
1.  $5 parts are usually taken from the scrap heap.
2.  Soldering anything to the motherboard doesn’t need to be done.  If you have to solder the thing back together, it usually isn’t worth fixing.
3.  The case NEVER has to be pried apart.
4.  Motherboards are not that expensive.
5.  The least he could have done was put the machine back together and gave it back to her in the condition it was in when she brought it to him.

I don’t object to cheap – we all like cheap and money’s tight after all – but you need to be careful when you go cheap.  Sometimes you luck out and get a helluva deal – more often than not, you get the shaft.  Computers are a lot like cars – and when they need repair you’ve got two choices; fix it yourself or take it to someone else.

Reconsider cheap.  If you pay someone $30 an hour for five hours to fix your computer and they charge you three hours; is that cheaper than taking it to the guy who is more expensive but can do the job quicker and when you get it back, it’s right?

If you have to go cheap, you might be better off to give it your best shot.  Go to the library and google it (but be careful; these guys are on the internet too).  Join a community group where users help each other; our forum is one of them.  Even if you can’t fix it, you get the benefit of the experience.  Then call a professional.  You might find out that they are willing to work with you.