Choosing a computer repair professional

Computer repair is like taking your car to the mechanic, at least for most of us. As much as I depend on my car, it’s a mystery how all the parts work together to get me down the road.

Computer repair is like taking your car to the mechanic, at least for most of us.

As much as I depend on my car, it’s a mystery how all the parts work together to get me down the road. This lack of understanding of the car’s inner workings makes me feel vulnerable and out of control every time the mechanic tells me what’s wrong and what needs to be done to fix it. Finding a computer repair professional puts most people in the same uncomfortable position. Here’s my guide to the questions you should ask to ensure your trusty PC is in good hands.

Where will you fix my computer?

If you have a desktop system, taking it apart to drag it into a shop can be a headache. Some problems are best diagnosed and fixed at home in your computer’s “native” environment, like an inability to get online or a loose cable.

However, it’s often easier to drop off a laptop at the shop than it is to wait at home while a tech gets to you and fixes it. These days, some problems can even be fixed right away over the Internet, so you can hang out in your pajamas and still get back up and running.

Decide where it’s most convenient for you to have the work done and confirm there won’t be an additional or exorbitant charge to get it done your way.

Who will fix my computer?

Many larger chains outsource repair work overseas to reduce their overhead. This can make it difficult to get questions answered after service. Anyone who has spent an hour searching for their music files after having Windows reinstalled can attest to how frustrating this can be. If you’re considering an independent repair person, what happens if they encounter a question or problem they don’t know the answer to?

Can I get a fixed estimate?

It frustrates me to pay for an estimate. I know it’s broken. I want to know how much it will cost to fix it, not pay someone else to confirm it’s broken. When I started my company, it was rare to find a repairperson willing to look at a computer without charging something, but these days there is so much competition in the industry that free estimates are much easier to come by. What happens if the technician’s original estimate or what he/she thinks the computer will require isn’t going to work? This is not uncommon. When will you be provided with a new or revised estimate, and can you decline at that time without charge?

Do you charge by the hour, or do you offer flat pricing?

If you pay by the hour, technicians are inherently motivated to work slowly. If they aren’t initially familiar with your problem and need to research or work through trial and error, you pay for their inexperience.

What happens if I have a problem after service? This is especially important if you are considering a small or one-man operation. If there’s only one person doing the work and they’re likely to be busy with another customer when you call, how long are you going to have to wait to get help? What sort of guarantee or warranty do they offer on parts and service? Make sure that the company stands behind their work before you give them your trust.

If dropping your laptop off at the shop makes you as nervous as leaving your child at their first day of preschool, contact me for more tips to select the right repair professional.

Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, based in Redding, Calif., which offers on-site computer and home theater set-up and repair. Contact Eldridge at