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Computer Care: Prepare your PC properly for repairs

POSTED: December 14, 2012 11:59 p.m.

Attempting to create an image of my hard drive to DVDs recently, I discovered I had a nonfunctional optical drive. So I ran it through all the tests I could think of and came to the conclusion that is was in fact a hardware issue. What was so unsettling is the fact that my laptop is only four months old.

After about an hour on the phone with support, I was eventually given a Return Merchandise Authorization number and sent it off to Texas.

Since I, too, am a technician, I tried to save everybody some time by explaining to them I was able to troubleshoot the system and determine the problem was the optical drive.

Often when a computer is sent in for repairs, the hard drive is wiped clean and Windows is reinstalled. The result is total loss of your data. This is often considered to be a panacea for whatever ails the system. In my case I asked them not to do that, as it had nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Although I did have a backup of my data on an external drive, I preferred not to go through reinstalling everything once I got the laptop back.

After 12 days, my laptop was returned to me, repaired. To my relief my drive was not wiped, but now something else was broken.

The optical drive was replaced, but when I attempted to open the drawer of the drive, the plastic cover that holds the eject button simply fell off. Whoever did the repairs forced it on and broke it.

It’s only cosmetic and I’m able to burn DVDs, but this is a new laptop. So I phoned once more for support.

I explained what happened and that it didn’t require me resending the unit back to them. I enlightened them that I was more than capable of popping the cover on if they would ship a new one. They complied.

There are lessons to be learned here. Let’s begin with warranties.

I’ve worked on computers that were still under warranty. Even though clients knew I had to charge them (and the manufacturer wouldn’t), they advised me to continue knowing at least that repairs would be completed more expeditiously.

Most computers have at least a year’s warranty. Usually the store will deal with issues for the first month; after that it’s the manufacturer’s problem. If you got an extended warranty at the time of purchase, you’re covered even longer.

Generally, I refuse the offer to purchase extended warranties, but on laptops I make exceptions. For what it would cost you to repair a computer one time, you could have an extra year’s protection.

Some brands offer in-home repairs which may cost a bit more, but will save you time in the long run. Usually a purchase through a business will get you that same in-home service.

When you do have to call customer support, allow plenty of time, have a pen and paper and your computer in front of you. The agent will want you to try various things first, even if you will be sending it in for repairs.

Many companies now outsource their support and yes, you may have trouble understanding your technician. Be patient. He or she can’t understand you well, either. This is one of the costs of cheaper computers.

Some agents may come across with a condescending manner. Worst-case scenario, ask for another agent or politely hang up and call again in the hopes you’ll get someone easier to understand or at least one with a better attitude.

Always get the name of those you spoke with and if possible, as my dad used to advise, ask for the head barber. Although I don’t require exceptional haircuts anymore, management usually has more experience and may be able resolve your problem more efficiently.

If sending your computer in for service is required, remember you may get it back devoid of any of your personal information. Back up data from the hard drive. Look in your Documents folder for photos, spreadsheets, documents, music, videos, downloads and anything else you wouldn’t want to lose.

Burn the data to DVDs (as I initially tried to do) or copy to an external hard drive or to the Cloud. You can’t save programs, only data, so be prepared to reinstall anything you got after you bought your computer. This includes programs like Office, Photoshop, anti-virus and malware apps or games.

Applications that came with the system may need to be reconfigured. That would include things like your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox), Skype and even your Windows desktop.

Make sure there aren’t any sticky notes taped to your keyboard with passwords on them. Don’t give them anything they didn’t ask for. They will need your Windows password though, if you use one.

Computers break. There’s no way around that. If yours is under warranty and in need of servicing, get it fixed by the manufacturer. To repair an older system with an expired warranty, look locally for a technician.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on


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