Let’s analyse DIY computer repairs at home vs Professional repairs:
Internet research process
Surely everyone has done this. In facts, we ourselves love to do this.
And yes, even experienced computer technicians like ourselves will often need to look up on the Internet on how to fix certain computer problems.
It’s not just for repairing computers, I love DIY myself and we DIY lots of things at our workshop and at home too.
Two brains’ thinking is always better than one. Having feedback from other computer technicians and other computer users is always helpful.
So, don’t be surprised when we – the computer experts, say “we will do some research on the Internet”.
The main difference between you (as a normal computer user) doing your research on the Internet vs us (as a computer repairer) doing our research on the Internet is that we know where to look for the right piece of information and we can tell whether the information from a website, or a forum, or a comment on YouTube is the correct one to follow or not.
This has a lot to do with experience. “Practice makes perfect”. When you repair computer on a daily basis, you also get better at finding information on how to fix computers.
We also keep a knowledge base on our local server of previous repair experiences that we had to help ourselves when we face the same problems we fixed before.
This knowledge base is very handy and make a real difference. We have access to our training manuals and repair manuals that we have accumulate from years of being in the industry, written and updated by all technicians who have worked in our store before.
This makes a huge difference comparing to one who has just started looking up on the Internet on fixing his computer issue.
Let me give you an example: your computer “freezes” and you want to find out if anyone else has had this problem and how to fix it.
You have found on some online forums that some other people also had the same “freezing” issue and managed to fix it by, say some fixed it by doing “sfc /scannow” command, some fixed it by “reinstalling Windows”, etc.
However, what you don’t know is that most of these users claim that they are having the same “freezing” computer problem, but they are not aware that they are actually having a completely different computer problem in the first place.
Thus, the fixes that they mentioned may not actually apply to yours.
I will explain this example in more details: after you log into your user account, your computer is very slow and you cannot open programs or files, it takes forever to open your Word document and you often see the spinning wheel, you had to turn off the computer and restart it, then you call it: “it freezes on me”.
While another person (say, his name is Andrew) has an issue that after logging into his user account, his computer often just completely freezes up, he could not move the mouse or use the keyboard, he had no choice but to turn off the computer and restart it. Andrew also calls it “freeze”.
However, in this case, Andrew and you are having 2 different computer problems here. (What? Both computers “freeze”).
Indeed, your computer problem should be called “non-responsive” and Andrew’s one is indeed “computer freezes”.
The difference is small: when your computer became “non-responsive”, you still could move the mouse, the spinning wheel still spins.
While Andrew could not move the mouse, his computer had completely frozen on him, nothing moves, the spinning wheel had stopped spinning and he had to turn the computer off.
Thus, what fixes Andrew’s computer will not fix your computer problem.
If you are reading whatever Andrew is suggesting or whoever is suggesting Andrew, you are wasting your time for looking at the wrong information in the first place.
We – as an experienced computer repair, could tell this small difference so we would know not to try whatever Andrew is trying to fix your computer problem.
I will give you another example: you have an Apple MacBook Pro 13” 2011 laptop, your computer cannot boot Mac OS, it shows a loading bar at start-up, it takes a long time and just turns off about half way through.
While another person (say, her name is Caroline) has an Apple iMac 27” 2011 that appears to have the exact same problem, it turns on, it shows a loading bar at startup, it takes a long time and the computer just turns off about half way through.
Hence, you would naturally presume that Caroline is having the same computer problem as yours.
However, you may not know that you and Caroline probably are having 2 very different problems here.
Your Apple MacBook Pro 13” 2011 laptop possibly could have a hard drive failure. While Caroline’s Apple iMac 27” 2011 possibly has a faulty video card instead.
What, why? It has the same problem, doesn’t it?
The answer is Yes and No.
You and Caroline may have the same problem, but more likely that you and Caroline are having different problems here.
The difference is tiny: when your computer turned off half way through at start-up, it had turned off completely and went silent, while Caroline’s iMac did not turn off completely, its screen just went blank only, her iMac computer was still on but its screen had gone black.
Thus, both you and Caroline assumed that your computers had the exact same problem, but it is indeed not the same problem and caused by different parts of the computer.
Whatever Caroline did to fix her Apple iMac would not fix your Apple MacBook Pro laptop.
Understanding this tiny difference makes a big difference to troubleshooting and replacing the correct part for yours and Caroline’s computer.
Keep in mind that many computer problems appear to be same, but these problems could have small differences that normal computer users could not tell.
Also, many computer problems are indeed the same, but they could be caused by different part failure in the computer.
For example: a faulty screen, or a faulty RAM, or a faulty video card, or a faulty CPU, or a faulty PSU, or a faulty motherboard can all cause a blank screen issue on your computer.
Finding the right fault and working out which part is faulty
If your computer or laptop cannot start Windows or Mac OS, it is most likely a hardware problem. If you look into software fixes, it will most likely just be a temporary patch fix only.
The faulty part is still inside your computer, soon or later the same or similar problems will return due to the facts that the faulty component is still being used in the computer.
This is extremely important when it is a hard drive, RAM or video card fault.
Your computer may appear to work normally after you try software patches, or reinstalling OS, but this fix will never fix the problem permanently.
Many people waste money on “quick fix” that only lasts for a few weeks or months, then have to pay again to fix the same problem later on.
Experienced computer technicians are well aware of these “quick fix” techniques (running chkdsk utility, reflowing or reballing graphics chipset, reinstalling OS without replacing faulty hard drive etc) but choose not to do so to avoid wasting time fixing the same problem again under warranty.
We at Safemode Computer Service, are aware of these repair techniques, and avoid doing so at all cost. If we find that there is a smallest chance that a hard drive is faulty, then we will put through a recommendation to replace it.
You should also take into accounts that it is not possible to test “everything” in a computer. Such tool (to test “everything”) does not exist although we wish they exist as much as you do.
For example, if some of the keys in your laptop does not work, no diagnostic tools will be able to tell you.
The only way to know if the keyboard works properly is to boot the computer to a working OS, open up a Word document and start typing to check every single key.
Manufacturers release tools to test their products for end users and qualified technicians to do so.
However, these tools cannot guarantee that their diagnostics results are always accurate either.
It is often time consuming to do all tests provided by manufacturers, and even if you do all the tests and the suspected part passes all the tests, it does not mean that the part is 100% working either.
For example, hard drive tests include Read, Write tests, which then include short and extended tests. It will take you a good few hours to do all of these tests.
If a hard drive passes all of these tests, there is a chance that the drive is still faulty (we have seen this a number of times).
You should also note that a Write test may wipe out data on your current computer hard drive, thus we cannot do this test on customer’s computers.
This is where experience play an important part in working out where the fault is in your computer, or laptop.
Experienced computer technicians understand how computer works, which part does what in your computer to make conclusion on where the fault is.
Training manual that has been updated from different technicians, based on years of experience become a great help for us.
Having spare parts handy
This is where computer laptop workshop has a huge advantage over regular computer users.
Our workshop is filled with tools, spare parts, machines that we have purchased over the years. If a part cannot be tested, we can always just temporarily install a spare part in to test it out.
Of course, we cannot just install a spare part to test everything.
For example, replacing motherboard in a laptop could be difficult and time consuming, we cannot just install a spare motherboard into a laptop just for the sake of testing it out to give a quote.
In contrary to common assumption, I actually do not always disassemble computers, install spare parts to test computers out to quote.
I use external testing tools, training manual to do our testing and quoting instead.
This is quite important for testing laptops and Apple Mac computers because disassembling these computers can be difficult, higher risk of damaging internal components just for testing purposes.
However spare parts are often used during the actual repair process itself (after quote has been approved by customer).
Getting the right spare part
Once you have done your research, you will most likely need to buy a spare part to fix your computer.
Majority of repairs that we do is hardware repairs. It is very important to get the correct part to replace the faulty one in your computer.
This is especially more important when it comes to fixing laptops, Apple Mac (including Apple iMac, Apple MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, MacBook Pro Retina display laptops, MacBook Pro Retina display with function key or touch bar models).
Windows desktop PC have more range of spare parts for you to select from.
While with laptops and Apple Mac, it has to be a compatible part. For example, you cannot install a M.2 NVMe solid state drive into a M.2 SATA slot in a laptop, even though the connection plug may look the same and it fits in.
This is because the technology behind it is different and the SATA slot will not recognise the NVMe drive.
Usually newer models of parts are manufactured every year or so. Manufacturers do not always release a document to the public stating which computer models will be compatible with their new line of products.
Even experienced computer technicians may purchase an incompatible part from time to time. You, as a normal computer user, have a much higher chance of paying for a spare part that you cannot use.
Often, the part cannot be returned if you simply purchased a wrong one and opened the package, while computer technicians can always keep the wrong part for other repairs in the future.
Thus, you are risking wasting more time and money rather than fixing your computer.
Having the right tools in place
What is more frustrating than having done all of your research, getting the right spare part in, opening up your laptop, and then you realise that you do not have the correct screwdriver to fully disassemble your computer.
You are half way there, there is a big mess on your desk and you just cannot continue your DIY repairs because you cannot unscrew a few special screws from your laptop.
This is quite important for Apple Mac computers and ultrabook laptops because they often have small torx or pentalope screws that normal phillips screwdriver cannot remove.
In our workshop, we have boxes of different tools that we purchased throughout our years in the business, so the repairs become easier for us.
A perfect repair requires the perfect tools to start with.
It is common that, to fix your computer, you need another computer to start with.
This is especially true for data backup and recovery process, testing process.
Most people have only one working computer at a time. Some may have a second spare computer, which is often not adequate to be used as a tool to test the broken one. Purchasing another computer just to fix your current computer is never worth it.
Risks during a computer repair process
Now you have got the testing done, you have (hopefully) confirmed what the fault is, you have the right tools in place, it is now time to repair your computer.
You still face a risk during the repairs itself.
You may accidentally damage a component or forget something inside the laptop. You have spent hours preparing for this moment, and now you may just well make it worse.
And since you do not have a wide range of spare parts and tools handy, a small error you made may cause you a much bigger headache.
Some common DIY errors are: using wrong tools such as wrong screwdrivers, damaging internal laptop components due to inexperience in disassembling laptops, forgetting which screws go into where, finding out that you have some components left out after you have assembled the laptop.
Risks in post-repairs
Let’s just say that you have done a perfect repair. Now you turn on the computer and hope that it will work. What if it does not? Hours of your effort and money spent so far is wasted!
The truth is, computer problem can be quite complicated at times, and let’s face it, some computer problem just cannot be fixed!
We – computer repairers with 15+ years of experience, still make wrong diagnostics sometimes. We are just human being. Some problem just gets the better of us, this will always happen every now and then.
Being a computer shop, we can always keep the parts for next repair jobs that we do, while you can’t.
I will give you an example: a Lenovo laptop that failed to boot Windows, it shows “no bootable device” error at start-up, or “no operating system found” error, or just a black screen with a blinking cursor.
This could be a hard drive failure that the laptop could not detect the internal hard drive.
Now, if you replace the drive with a new one, chances are, the exact same problem may remain.
This is because, the drive is connected to the motherboard via an adaptor cable, or sometimes it is connected directly to the motherboard itself. If the adaptor cable, or the socket on the motherboard is damaged, the motherboard will fail to detect the hard drive, and it will end up with the exact same problem as a hard drive failure.
Thus, there is no guarantee that replacing the drive is going to fix the problem.
And as mentioned above, there is no tool to test the hard drive 100% accurately, you will never know for sure that the hard drive is the real problem, or the adaptor cable or the motherboard is the problem.
Should you DIY at home or have a professional to repair your computer?
The answer is always to have a professional to repair it of course, for all the above reasons.
A good repair always needs the right tools, a good range of spare parts available, extensive experience to minimize the risks in every step, and an exit plan if things do not work out as planned.
Having said that, DIY is always a thrill and a hobby for some. We understand this very well as we love DIY ourselves.
We, you and everyone else love to DIY many things in our life, and DIY your own computer, laptop, Apple Mac repairs might just be one of it, if you are willing to take the risk. Good luck.