7 common DIY computer repair mistakes to avoid

So you’ve decided to fix your computer by yourself. Great! A lot of computer issues can be fixed easily, and we encourage users to take the leap to do so. Whether you are a computer enthusiast or just keen on DIY projects, you can certainly complete computer repairs on your own. All you need is enough research and the right tools to fix your laptop or desktop computer.

However, some computer users with little technical knowledge make mistakes by following amateur advice from family or friends, or even complete randoms on the internet. Their negligence in following the wrong advice or their ill-preparedness can lead to bad fixes or even further damage on their computer. This can cost you the time needed to fix your computer and possibly more expensive professional repairs.

It’s better to be prepared than be completely in the dark when you’re dealing with complicated and delicate computer hardware. DIY repair mistakes are sometimes something you aren’t aware of and might not be able to catch. Here are some common DIY computer repair mistakes to avoid and learn from:

1. Opening up the computer unnecessarily

While it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with your computer’s hardware, opening up your computer too many times might not be the right thing to do. When you open up your computer unnecessarily before preparing the right tools and parts that you need, you may end up with a higher chance of breaking things. And that’s definitely not what we want.

Other than for hardware tests, try not to do anything to your computer’s hardware before you have the right tools and spare parts to do so. Just like surgery, it’s better to go for a minimally invasive procedure than opening up the patient multiple times just to take a look inside. Try running a few tests and doing some research on what you need before you start doing anything.

2. Misdiagnosing the problem

Research is very much an important first step in solving your computer issue. We recommend doing a fair bit of reading before doing anything on your laptop or desktop computer.

Even so, some online advice from people on support forums or tech discussion boards might not be right for your specific problem. You might end up following some complicated solution to a basic problem that might not even help. Without an accurate diagnosis of the problem, you probably can’t get anywhere by blindly going forward with the repair.

It’s often better to get advice from trusted sources, or simply from your computer’s manufacturer. Try calling or chatting online with a support representative to diagnose your problem properly. You can usually get the right support advice from them without even leaving your house.

After getting an accurate diagnosis and solution to your issue, we can then start looking at how to get that done. You’ll need the right tools and spare parts to complete the job.

3. Not preparing the right tools for testing and repair

To find out what’s wrong with your laptop or desktop computer, you might need to do some extensive tests on your hardware first. This includes basic diagnostics and in-depth tests on specific parts on your device.

Using boot diagnostics is a good first step in your process. It is also known as pre-boot diagnostics or Apple diagnostics on Mac computers. This is a simple built-in tool on most computers, where you can test almost every hardware part on your laptop or desktop computer. It can report any possible hardware issues on parts like the hard drive, RAM, or optical drives. To enter pre-boot diagnostics, enter a key specific to your computer’s brand (“Esc for HP, “F12” for Dell, “D” for Apple…) when your computer is booting up. Then it should run and find what’s wrong with your computer.

You may also want to try using branded support apps like Dell’s SupportAssist or HP’s Support Assistant. These support apps also come pre-loaded on your computer when you buy it, and can help with diagnosis and troubleshooting as well.

In-depth testing

Other than using general hardware testing tools, you might also need to do some more extensive tests on specific parts on your computer. There’s a chance that you can’t get much conclusive results from running boot diagnostics. It is only a basic diagnostic tool after all. So for these part-specific tests, you’ll need different kinds of tools and software to complete.

Be prepared to have the tools ready to take out parts of your computer for testing. You’ll also need a separate desktop computer for this as well. This gets you better isolation for the part while you test it with dedicated software. A desktop computer will also also come in handy when you need to create a USB bootable installer to reinstall your OS.

A mistake that some amateur computer repairers make is not having the things that they need for testing their computer. This may include your standard toolkit for disassembling your laptop or desktop computer, or the spare parts needed to test for hardware faults.

Some other tools that you may need are: a SATA to USB enclosure box for hard drive testing, spare RAM chips, or power adaptors from kitchen appliances for desktop PSU testing. It’s a good idea to have these tools and parts at the ready. That way you won’t have to waste your time and effort to open up your computer more than you need to. Learn more about the different free tools that you can use to test your computer’s hardware here.

4. Buying incompatible hardware

RAM memory chips

Another computer repair mistake that some might make is buying the wrong replacement part for their computers. Each computer model is different and may need specific types of hardware. And as technology advances, computer parts come and go when they become obsolete. Newer models come with newer versions of hardware. This can make it harder to repair older models, as some of their parts can go out of market while the manufacturer stops offering support for them.

A lot of computer users might not know what they actually need and buy the wrong replacement parts for their faulty devices. This may be because of misdiagnosis, or that they do not know what is compatible with their computer.

What to consider

For the most repairs, it’s safe to just go with the exact same part as a replacement. If you can find a compatible alternative, that also works. You can look up these parts and their reference numbers from your computer’s manufacturer. However it will be a little difficult for Asus or Acer users. Their branded parts have no part numbers and are quite hard for regular consumers to identify. Mac users also need to pay attention to the Apple proprietary parts in their devices, to make sure that they don’t get the wrong replacement parts.

For parts like the hard drive, you will usually have more options to choose from. As long as the drive is compatible with your computer, you can choose to get a faster drive or one that has more capacity. You can also consider upgrading your hard drive to a solid-state drive as well, if you are looking for a performance boost.

Repairs for laptop screens and motherboards on the other hand, don’t have that much elbow room. You will have to get the same exact part to replace your faulty one. But you probably won’t have to worry much about these. Motherboard and screen repairs might be a bit too complicated as a DIY project. They require a great deal of care and expertise in computer tech that not many computer users have.

5. Not testing thoroughly after repair

To make sure that the fix actually worked and everything is installed properly, take the time to run boot diagnostics again. You can do this before closing up the cover on your laptop or desktop computer. All you need to do is install all the essential parts, and run boot diagnostics. If there is any problem, this could save you the time from taking everything apart again. As we’ve learnt, it’s best not to open up your computer too many times.

6. No backups

external hard drive data transfer

Keeping regular backups is a healthy computing habit. Even when your computer is working fine, it’s always useful to have a backup of your files or even your entire OS.

Having a backup will certainly be helpful if your computer crashes, or if anything happens while you fix your computer. It will also make the whole process easier when you don’t have to worry about your data. Keep your data close by with an external drive or simply put it up on a cloud-based storage system.

7. No static protection

While this isn’t that much of a troubling issue for most repairs, protecting yourself from static is always a safe practice. Always turn off and disconnect your computer from its power supply before opening it up. Also, make sure you’re not working on carpeted surfaces or near any pets. That could accelerate the chances of static and also make it harder to disperse.

Learn to ground yourself in case you do catch static while working on your computer. You simply need to discharge the static by touching the ground, or a metal object that is on the ground.

desktop PC motherboard

Some of these mistakes are pretty easy to make, and these missteps could sometimes complicate the repair or even cause further damage. Try learning from these mistakes and become better and more skilled at repairing your own computer.