September 3rd, 2006

What to Do When your PC is Damaged While Having it Repaired

About a year ago I had my PC repaired here in Davao City at Columbia Computers. The only problem it had was a faulty power source. Being the smart computer owner that I am, I took out my hard disk and connected it to my PC at work to check if my files are intact and if they were, back them up. Indeed they were still fine, and I copied some of them just to be sure. That hard disk was a 40 gig Seagate.

When I took my PC to Columbia, I was pretty darn sure there wouldn’t be any problems because:

1) I had the same problem before and was quickly resolved by just replacing the power source with a new one, albeit by a different repair center.
2) I checked the hard disk if it was still ok, and it was and was able to back some files up.
3) My PC, although already about 3 years old that time, was working perfectly. Everything was updated from the OS down to the anti-virus and firewall.

So I told the technician on duty at Columbia what the problem was and that I needed to have the power source replaced. The guy told me to come back the next day since they had a lot in their hands that time.

The next day, I got the dreaded call from Columbia. The guy said that my PC would no longer boot with the new power source, meaning that my hard disk is completely busted. I asked how that could happen since I checked it the day before and found it to be in fine form. He said that it could be a number of things, from the motherboard to the new power source and several other lame excuses. I immediately got in my car to handle the situation in person. I spoke to the technician and he just rambled about the same stuff he said over the phone. The manager was not there at that time. So I took my unit home to do some investigation to what could have happened.

I did recall from our phone conversation that the technician somehow damaged a part of the hard disk where the pins resided. True enough, one side was chipped off. Now why did I ignore this little fact when I was talking to him? I called them again and asked them about it. The technician said that happened while he was trying to disconnect it from the motherboard. That’s just insane because it doesn’t take that much effort to do that to the extent of causing damage. My suspicion was that he might have dropped it by accident or quite possibly on purpose. The strangest thing was why he chose to disconnect it when I specified that it’s the power source I asked them to replace! I finally got the manager to speak to me, who happens to be a woman. I demanded that they replace my hard disk with a new one. Being the shrewd Chinese businesswoman she was (I don’t mean to be racist, but don’t they always are), she said that the technician should pay for it since he was the one who destroyed it. What kind of crappy company policy is that?? I certainly wasn’t the typical clueless customer they usually encounter. I actually knew what I was talking about, which I think, took her unfortunately by surprise.

But nevertheless, I was left with two choices: to buy a new hard disk or to drive the technician to further poverty by forcing him to pay for it. Of course, I chose the former. Suddenly, the manager came on to me like a rabid sales robot, offering me a new motherboard and different hard disk models and sizes at supposedly “discount” prices. I was so flustered and exhausted at that time that I decided to give in to her sales pitch.

My biggest mistake was I didn’t insist on having my unit tested if it still worked with a different power source. That way, I could have made a better argument with the shop owner. Second, I left my computer in the hands of total strangers. I should have just brought it to the place where I usually have it fixed.

Fast-forward to present day. I helped out my cousin Jonathan with a problem with his PC. It was nothing hardware-related but OS-related. I recommended that he back up his files because I concluded that the OS needed to be reinstalled, meaning the hard drive needed to be reformatted (ergo, erased). I personally took their unit to Electroworld to have the OS reinstalled. Same thing, I had to come back the next day.

Like deja vu happening all over again, they called my house (since I left them my number, not my cousin’s) and informed me that the hard disk could no longer be detected and that it was making a loud clicking sound. That simply meant Jonathan needed to buy a new hard drive. Again, I repeat, it was working like a charm before I took it in and even did a live check with the technician.

But it all became clear to me now. I wonder: Do computer shops have a sick habit of destroying people’s property just so that they would be forced to buy new stuff from them?? I think it’s a totally valid question. Why of all places would a PC turn for the worst while it is sitting in a repair shop?? It’s just not right!

I concluded that like Columbia, Electroworld had just screwed us over. I withdrew my cousin’s PC and advised him to get the new hardware from somewhere else. We decided to go for a more commercial establishment, Octagon computers that handled our case in a more professional manner.

Here are some lessons:

If you experience a problem with your computer, whether hardware- or software-related, try to establish which hardware parts are still working.

To check your hard disk, simply turn on your computer. If Windows boots up and your desktop appears with no strange clicking/clunky sounds, it’s fine. If you have multiple hard drives, check the files inside those too. Open, edit and save them. If you can do those, they’re ok.

To check your video card, same thing. If you see your desktop appearing on your monitor, your video card’s allright.

Check your internal CD-ROM drives by pressing the eject button repeatedly. Play DVD’s or VCD’s to see if they work. If they do, they’re fine as well.

If all of the above have been positively accomplished, it’s safe to say that your power source works too.

With that in mind, take your PC tower to your most trusted computer repair center. That way, the chances of them taking you for a fool is lessened. But still, when talking to them, sound like you know exactly what the problem is. Don’t leave it to them to figure it out for you. If it’s a virus, say so and make it a point that your problem is ONLY software-related, NOT hardware-related. Now, if it’s hardware-related, pinpoint the exact hardware involved:

1) If you press the On button and absolutely nothing happens, it’s your power source.
2) If you press the On button and you see nothing on screen and hear a loud beep, it’s most likely your video card or your motherboard or your RAM.
3) If you press the On button and see nothing on screen and hear a winding, clicking sound, it’s your hard drive.
4) If you press the On button and see stuff happening on screen but doesn’t go past the “Welcome” screen (on XP), it’s your OS or some corrupted software.
5) If your computer refuses to shut down, it could be your OS, or something busted on your motherboard.
6) If you find that some of your files have been erased, it’s most likely a virus.

Make it a point that the technician checks your computer while you’re present. Get his name and cellphone number. Walk him through until you encounter your problem. Ask for a diagnosis and what he will do to solve it. Be the boss of the situation. Don’t act like a pushover. Inform him that you have very important files that need to be backed up and tell him to do it for you. That way, if he backs your files up, you can assert that your hard drive was still working at the time he was handling your PC. Have in handy a USB, flash or external drive (that you own) for that purpose. If you don’t, ask to have the backup burned on several blank CD’s.

Some technicians like to ask how old your computer is. Just say that it was upgraded recently. Don’t ever say it’s over 4 or 5 or more years old! They will use that against you! If your computer is under warranty, you have nothing to worry about. Read the shop’s job order sheet carefully and look for a clause that disclaims them of any liability of damage. But anyway, you don’t have a choice but to sign it. It is best if you go to the shop early in the morning. There’s a good chance you might get your PC back later in the afternoon.

Now, if some hardware parts of your PC unfortunately meet their untimely death inside a computer repair shop, here’s what you should do:

1. Ask for a thorough explanation from the technician who handled your case. Do not settle for lame excuses because they usually don’t have a credible one. They tend to throw jargon that they think you won’t understand because they assume that you know nothing. Make an assertion to what state of damage your PC was in before you submitted it for repair. It is usually written in your copy of the job order.

2. Talk to the shop manager. If you think you have a good case against them, demand for a full refund or replacement of the part they destroyed. Hold the whole establishment responsible, not just the technician. If you know a good lawyer friend, it helps if you use that threat to get what you want.

3. If #2 fails, get to action. Talk to your lawyer and go over their terms of service stated in the job order. Find loopholes, know your rights and get the lawyer to speak to the manager on your behalf and make the same demands.

4. If #3 fails, I would not recommend filing a lawsuit because knowing how justice is in the Philippines, it will take years before it is settled.

5. If you fail to reach any sort of compromise, demand for the backup of your files and take your PC back from them. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT buy anything from that store and DO NOT pay them for their sloppy service!

6. Ask friends where they have their computers serviced. Take your computer there and get all the necessary parts it needs to get its groove back. Check everything you’re buying. Make sure they’re BRAND NEW and not refurbished. There are cases when computer stores put used parts and simply clean them to make them look new. I once caught a shop doing this to my uncle a few years ago. He bought a PC from another store. When it was supposed to be about 3 months old, I right-clicked on the Properties of Drive C:, and it said that the last time it ran a disk check was 400 days ago!! This means that they gave him a used hard drive that was at least a year old! He quickly had it replaced and admonished the store owner.

This article is meant to educate you, the computer owner, on what goes on in computer repair shops and how to protect your rights and interests as a consumer. I’m not insinuating that the cases I mentioned happen in all computer shops, but it is only right that you know what COULD happen. Let’s admit it, computers aren’t for everyone and not all can understand the intricacies of hardware and software. But don’t let that ignorance put you in a vulnerable position to accept whatever they tell you. With these pointers, you can have your PC repaired with enough vigilance to get what you want done, and not the other way around.

Posted in Me, Opinion, Software, Tip of the Week


  1. 4 Comments

  2. mac said...

    about a year ago, i too had a similar experience and sent my pc to wren computers. ended up buying a new power supply, second hand motherboard and new ram in their store :c should’ve bought a new PC instead ;c

    Sep 4, 2006

  3. spyware said...

    Hi, what a great blog you have here.

    Sep 17, 2006

  4. Jason T. said...

    I repair computers in my spare time, and I have a 100% repair rate now for the last 10 years.. until now.. (well I guess still is 100%)

    Here is my story…

    I had an acquaintance of mine (my bank teller) that needed her computer cleaned up of viruses and spyware etc.. no big deal I can handle that I told her..

    Well I got her computer to my house plugged everything in booted up, did some preliminary scans and etc..

    Wrote her a quote for a total of $60 which would include my time to remove the more than 900 spyware and over 40 viruses and to install better antivirus etc..I also told her that I recommend more Ram as she only had 256MB, and I would put an extra 256MB for an additional $30.

    She agreed to the quote and the next day I did some cleaning to the inside of the system, installed the 256MB ram chip. then when I turned on the system, all I got was the CPU fan on and no post beep, no video display and no boot up of the hard drives?

    I was amazed, as I have never experienced this before.. so I removed the new ram, and it still did not post or boot correctly, so I then removed everything except for the CPU & monitor, and still nothing… I was feeling REAL bad that SOMETHING went wrong while at my house, so I told her the truth, & I figured that the Motherboard or power supply must have went bad, so I ordered new ones, I told her that of the $90 she was gonna pay me I would only charge her another $40 for the new parts, which actually cost $100 (gateway replacements)

    The new power supply arrives, I install it and to my surprise, it does the same thing and does not boot etc..
    Now the new motherboard arrives I re-install everything (even the power supply) everything works just fine (must have been bad motherboard & powersupply?) I finish removing the viruses & spyware etc.. and the system was running GREAT!
    My cost was about $100 her bill $130.
    she was happy, I was relieved!

    For 2 days… then the SAME THING HAPPENED AGAIN!

    Now I was really stumped but I thought hummm maybe the power supply is sending too much power to the motherboard?? so I bought a power supply tester as well as ordered a new motherboard (again) $90, which I told my client that I WOULD EAT THE CHARGES as I mis-diagnosed the problem (I know, strange to hear repair people be honest)

    So now I get the tester, and test the ‘old’ power supply it shows OVERVOLTAGE on the -5v leg of the power supply… so I think maybe the old motherboard died because of this power supply, but why did the new motherboard die with the new power supply?? I tested the ‘new’ power supply, and it ALSO READS OVERVOLTAGE on the -5v leg of the power supply!

    So now I am out over $130 worth of parts, I then ordered ANOTHER power supply this time from a different company and this time a better wattage etc.. The new ‘new’ power supply is testing good, and I am now going to re-install the new motherboard etc…

    And I hope that all is fixed this time.. but I have heard of stories of even bad CPU’s causing motherboards to go bad.. So I guess what I am long windly saying is that things DO happen, but us ‘experts’ that say we can fix it have to be willing to put our money where our mouth is if we diagnose something wrong or damage something and just be honest about it!

    Thats my story.

    Jason T.

    Dec 4, 2007

  5. Computer Shop Fider said...

    I simply take to a repair shop and put in front of him. I never try to dwell with it since its too risky

    Jan 23, 2008

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