A few weeks ago, Diane approached me about having a lot of unwanted, annoying, and sometimes obscene pop-ups appearing on her laptop. She inquired about what might be causing them, what I recommended be done to get rid of them, and how much it would cost.
Having never seen her computer, I suggested she schedule an appointment for me to run full diagnostics to accurately determine the problem and best resolution (remember my last column?). I also gave her a ballpark estimate of what the repairs would cost.
“But I only paid $299 for it!” Diane sighed. “It’s just a cheapy I bought at Walmart around the holidays.”
I hear this comment quite frequently from computer owners who are experiencing troubles with their desktop or laptop. Many of them saved money up front by purchasing cheap devices at the big box stores. Then when they experience issues, they find the cost of repairs is easily half or more of what they paid for the machine itself.
The unvarnished truth
First, let me boldly address the elephant in the room.
When you buy cheap, you’re going to experience problems faster and more frequently than if you had invested in a good computer. The only way retailers can offer you ridiculously low prices on a computer is for four reasons:
1. They’re made with lower quality components that have a higher failure rate. Meaning you will have to either repair it or junk it.
2. They’re loaded with useless software that slows the computer down and can cause problems right out of the box.
3. They lack the essential hardware to adequately run the operating system and your software programs.
4. They’re taking a loss on it just to give you a good deal (unlikely, but does happen around holidays).
No matter why it’s cheap, the fact is ANY type of repair will cost 50% or more of what you paid for the computer.
You just have to decide whether you want to spend your hard-earned money to repair it or waste your cash again on another cheap piece of technology that soon will cause you the same problem.
When should you repair and when should you replace?
In Diane’s case, her problem resulted from a virus or malware infection. It’s a software problem that can happen to any computer no matter how much one paid for it.
Other clients, like Rick, experience a hardware problem – like a failed motherboard or crashed hard drive.
Software problems, especially virus infections, happen on every computer. I recommend spending the money to repair the computer because it’s typically going to be cheaper than buying a new one (especially a good one).
Even if it ends up costing slightly more than you paid for it, it may be worth repairing because some of those costs may be for actual software programs, such as virus protection, which you would have to pay for with a new computer anyway. So those costs can’t really be included in the cost comparison.
Hardware problems are a different story. If you bought a cheap laptop or desktop and find it needs a new hard drive, the cost of hardware and labor will probably be equal to or more than what you originally paid.
In this case, I would recommend replacing the computer – but don’t make the same mistake by buying another cheap device. Instead, wisely invest your money in a reliable computer recommended by a true PC tech, not some sales geek at the big box store just looking to earn a commission.
If you wisely purchased a good computer, but are unfortunately suffering a hardware failure, I would recommend repairing it only if it meets these criteria:
• The total cost of repairs is less than 60% of what you paid for the computer
• The computer is less than 5 years old
• The computer adequately performs the tasks you need it to
Otherwise, you’re smarter purchasing a new, reliable computer – again from a true PC tech, not a sales geek.
Your individual situation may be different, but these are my general guidelines when making repair versus replace decisions. I would be more than happy to advise you what’s best for you. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.