As a computer user, you’ve probably owned a fair few devices over the years. When your computer starts to fail, you may see this as a sign or opportunity to buy a new computer. Rather than repairing the part that may be causing you trouble, buying a new computer may be exciting and all, but a simple repair may actually get you a long time on the computer. You might be able to get upgrades to boost your laptop’s performance as well.
All this depends on the repairability of the computer. These days a lot of new models come with flashy features and are more travel-friendly. However, these features come at the cost of the computer’s repairability. This benefits the brand, but not the consumer when they can’t get their computers repaired early into the life of the device. In this guide we will be looking at what makes computers harder to repair and how you should go about choosing a more sustainable device.
What makes computers harder to repair
Using glue over screws
Screws were more commonly used for laptop and desktop computer assembly. This changed with the manufacturing process of gluing parts together instead of screws. Laptop screens are often glued together these days, which makes it impossible to replace only the display screen. With these glued together parts, it’s very easy to break the screen while replacing it.
Other parts that are assembled by glue would also take longer time to repair or replace. The repair technician would have to take the time to melt the glue to take out the faulty parts for repair.
For example, Apple iMac screens are mounted onto its frame using strong double sided tape which make repairs very difficult. This comes with a higher risk of damaging the screen as well. This is also the case for touch screen laptops with screwless designs. Generally “thin” spells out “difficult and expensive to fix”.
Traditionally, computers were bulkier and heavier, and actually well made. These days they adopt more of a thinner design for convenience. Assembly of components has changed from “through-hole soldering” to “surface mount soldering” to accommodate for newer designs. This is so that manufacturers can squeeze more power into smaller computers.
With this type of assembly, the computer’s durability is sacrificed. This reduces its lifespan. Having said that, there are still some very durable computers out there in the market, like those that are built as business-grade laptops.
Thin parts and design
The thin designs of laptops and its components make them delicate and challenging to navigate through, when we’re taking out parts to repair. They require more experienced and careful hands to prevent breaking parts that are working normally while repairing the faulty parts.
Some models of laptops are also designed in a way that is very lightweight and convenient for travel. This kind of design then loses a great deal of repairability. Such models like the Surface Pro and Surface Book are often deemed impossible to fix. These models aren’t really made to be opened up, and require a lot of force that will inflict further damage to do so.
Replacement part accessibility across brands
Branded parts from Apple, Dell, and HP have universal part look-up systems with part numbers that you can refer to when ordering. There we can easily find the right part for the specific computer model that needs repairing. They can also be ordered directly from the brand manufacturer or from other suppliers as well.
Other brands might not be able to offer such convenience, namely Acer and Asus. Both brands don’t have universal part numbers for computer components. This way, you can’t readily search for the part that you need for your computer. It would take a little bit more digging around to find the right component. Without part numbers, you’ll have to inspect visually to make sure that you’ve got the right one.
Users of Acer and Asus laptops usually have less repair options than brands that offer more accessible replacement parts. However, it is common that technicians do not always look up parts by part number because searching by part number could limit your choices for parts in the market.
High cost replacement parts
The high cost of certain replacement parts can make the computer’s repair less accessible as well. The cost of these replacement parts can be from how much the brand marks them to be, or that the part is made more advanced and powerful than other alternatives.
Premium brands or models such as Apple, Dell XPS 13, Dell Latitude, Lenovo X1 are more expensive to purchase and more expensive to fix. Simply because they have more expensive components and higher specs parts. If you are prepared to fork out a few thousand dollars to buy a laptop, don’t expect a $100 bill to fix it.
Apple is known as a tech company that makes premium products that run on Apple’s specialised software and operating systems. With that said, replacement or upgrade parts that they make are also quite expensive.
Apple also makes their own proprietary parts and screws specific to only Apple devices. This makes things harder for a regular consumer who does not own the right screwdrivers or tools to fix their Apple laptops. The use of proprietary parts might also give the consumer less replacement or upgrade options for their Apple Mac laptops or desktop computers.
Laptops that come with higher capacity batteries that last more longer than regular ones will also cost more to replace. These batteries are often found in Apple MacBook Air, MacBook Pro laptops and Ultrabook laptops. If the laptop you’re looking at purchasing has a user-replaceable battery, this is a sign that it will be cheaper to replace the battery. This is because it’s simply a matter of sliding out the old battery in place of a new one, something that you can just do yourself.
How repairs are done and how the computer’s repairability affects this
Computer repairs usually go like this: We test to confirm a possible hardware failure, order replacement parts if needed, then repair and do final tests. This promises a thorough diagnosis and a sure solution to the problem detected. A computer’s repairability does play a large part in the process, as it determines how the repair should be tackled. With a lower repairability, more work might be needed to take out other parts of the computer to get to the part that needs fixing. Let’s see how the computer’s repairability affects each step in the repair process:
1. Initial testing
When a computer is not working properly and disrupts usual performance, this may be a sign of a hardware issue. You can then run diagnostics on the device to find out what’s causing these issues. Sometimes these tests involve taking out the part to test on a different desktop computer. If the laptop is not made to be easily opened by unscrewing bottom screws, the process will be more complicated.
Popular makes from Apple, Dell, HP, or Lenovo are often easier to diagnose for problems by yourself. Manufacturers provide built-in testing utilities, better part look-up systems and after-sales support. Replacement parts are also easily identified and sourced.
If it’s easier for you, it’ll be easier for a computer technician to do the testing too. Though we technicians have access to better tools, we still partially rely on support from manufacturers to test and order spare parts. While we at Safemode Computer Service provide free quick testing and free quotes, it is common that some repair shops don’t do the same. The more complicated the tests are, the more you’ll need to pay.
Learn how to test for common hardware failure such as your hard drive or motherboard in our guides.
2. Ordering parts
When parts are not easily found or identified, it makes finding a replacement a little more harder. Replacement parts that cannot be identified via a part number will need to be found by looking with our own eyes. It can be a real inconvenience if you miss something and receive the wrong part after ordering. In some situations, even the manufacturing brand cannot offer any part replacement solutions.
For brands that make their own proprietary parts or screws, it can also take time to source the right tools and parts needed. This is especially for some Apple Macbook laptops that use proprietary pentalobe screws and Apple-only components. You can’t use widely-owned screwdrivers or any other component for replacement repairs. Usually you’ll have to find the exact same component or other compatible alternatives.
3. Repairing or replacing computer parts
Earlier we’ve learnt that a computer’s design can affect how the repairs are done. When a computer is hard to open up, or its parts are less accessible for repair, its repairability is brought down.
Parts of a computer usually aren’t assembled in the same way or position in different models. Some parts are fit in different places compared to other laptops. Parts like the screen, keyboard, and motherboard are unique to every laptop model, and its assembly would also require specific methods. Some easier repairs like RAM and hard drive replacements are pretty straightforward, but can also differ depending on how the part is fixed on the device.
Parts that are glued or soldered on to the laptop are more tricky to deal with. They take more effort to take out, compared to parts that are fixed with screws. Specific tools are needed for these processes, which regular consumers may not even own.
Thin and delicate parts in particular, are also quite challenging to repair. For less experienced hands, one slip could break other parts of the computer. Things like glass screens or thin keyboards could complicate the repair process.
What to buy if you want higher computer repairability
If you’re thinking about keeping your computer for longer, look out for ones that give you better repairability. That way, even when a small component fails, you can repair it easily and might not even need to break the bank. You can look out for this with a computer’s model and design. Popular tech repair site ifixit also offers reviews for popular computer models, which includes repairability ratings.
Components that are fixed with simple screws are great for repairability. You won’t need proprietary screwdrivers or tools to take things out. This makes things easier for the regular consumer to fix things. Without soldering or glue, these parts can be taken out quite easily.
Pick something that opens up
Before we get to the components, we also should make sure that the laptop can be opened up fairly easily. Screws will also benefit you in this case. A straightforward opening process will definitely make things easier. If the laptop requires stronger force to open up, there’s a chance that you might also break something inside.
Certain models have clear designs that allow better accessibility and ease when repairing things. Relatively modular and flat designs let you get to a single part effortlessly. You won’t need to take out other components to get to it.
For keyboard repairs, certain laptop models that have a tiny gap surrounding the keyboard also have better repairability. This small gap usually indicates that the keyboard can be taken out from the top. Usual keyboard repairs involve opening up the laptop’s back cover, then taking out everything else to get to the keyboard. By being able to take out the keyboard from the top, we don’t have to go through such a hassle.
What not to buy if you want higher computer repairability
Sleek computer designs that complicate things
As we’ve covered, newer sleeker models often contain flimsy parts that are glued or soldered on. These travel-friendly laptops may seem flashy and all, but having a low repairability may make things very frustrating when something does start to fail. It might not be worth it if you can’t fix things on such an advanced machine.
This also includes specific parts like Apple’s butterfly keyboard, an advanced and thinner keyboard design. Its design makes for a thinner keyboard, where less space is needed as the keys move less when pressed. While it does seem like an improvement, it also comes with a lot of issues like key jamming and failure. Its thin design makes it more delicate, and assembly could also hurt other components like the motherboard.
Many laptops now come with touchscreen. If the touch function is not a must-have for you, we suggest that you opt for a non-touchscreen laptop instead. A laptop touchscreen is made of two parts, the LED screen that displays images and a touch panel that is sensitive to your fingers’ touch. It is common nowadays that the LED screen and the touch panel are glued together and cannot be separated. This contributes to higher costs to replace either part because you will have to pay for both parts, not just one.
Laptops that aren’t made to be opened up
Models like Microsoft’s Surface Laptops aren’t made to be opened with simple tools. You can only open it up with a great deal of force that might inflict more damage to the laptop. There are usually no repair options for Surface Laptops. Macbooks that use proprietary pentalobe screws may also prevent you from getting inside without the right tools needed.
A final word
Green computing is something we certainly support, and repairing our electronics is a sustainable practice. Computers that are easier to repair or upgrade can give you a longer life on the device. You can keep up or improve your computer’s performance along the line. This means you can keep it for a long time.
When you don’t want the computer anymore, its high repairability can also be good for the environment. As long as it is simple enough to disassemble, recycling the computer will be easier.
Got a question for us?
Our technicians at Safemode Computer Service are always happy to help! We can assist with any repair problems and advise you with your repairs. With highly rated services across Sydney, we can offer check ups and quotes for free instore (Ts & Cs apply). Come on down to our Enmore store today for a chat!