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Byte Size Computer Repair
Before you drop your computer off at ANY computer repair business, there are some questions you should be asking. In today's economy, money is tight and so it's always nice to have a good idea about the cost of services and what type of services you can expect. With that, here are a few questions that are good to know the anwers to.
"How Much do you Charge per Hour?"
Asking the cost of a service seems like a question you'd be unlikely to forget but I am always amazed by stories of customers in absolute shock at the hourly rate for a particular computer repair service - after the fact. I've had customers not only tell me stories of exorbitant fees they've paid but of then getting their computers back in WORSE shape then when they brought it in. Personally, I think that is nothing short of CRIMINAL.
Don't wait until it's time to pay the bill to find out how much per hour you you'll be paying.
My labor rate is typically $55 per hour with discounts for veterans, anyone 55 or over, law enforcement officers, and firefighters.
Rates vary, and so do charging schemes (some computer repair services are billed per service), but $50 to $70USD per hour is average. I charge less because I don't have the added cost of a storefront and the overhead associated therewith.
"Can You Tell Me How Many Billable Hours This Might Take to Fix?"
No one wants to find out that it took 9 hours at $60/hour to fix a particular computer problem when a brand new budget PC might be had for half the final bill. Having at least some idea about how much the grand total will be is important.
My answer is that I can't be totally sure, of course, but I can certainly tell you the time normally involved in any given repair. Most jobs have an average of two to three hours. Very, very seldom has any repair gone over three hours. Laptop computers requiring disassembly, repair, and re-assembly can run into four to five hours but most laptop problems I've seen thus far have been software-related and have not required any disassembly.
Having yet to take a look under the hood, no computer repair service can tell you with absolute certainty how many billable hours something might take. If all you need is a simple hardware replacement or software installation, you might be quoted a specific amount, but otherwise you should expect a little flexibility on the answer here.
Use your best judgment on the exact answer to this question. Not being an expert, it might be hard for you to determine if the estimation you're given is exaggerated. If in doubt, call around and get some estimates from several computer repair services.
Are you denied even a best-guess estimate on billable hours from a PC repair service? Don't do business with them. You can't be expected to enter into an agreement to have your computer fixed with no idea whatsoever of the likely total cost.
"Do You Have a Minimum Charge?"
Not all computer problems take several hours to repair. A computer repair service might only spend 10 to 15 minutes solving a particular problem. If your problem happens to be one of these "quick fixes" you should be aware of how you'll be charged for it.
I don't really have a minimum charge, per se. I'm flexible based upon the problem. If it takes me ten minutes to fix your issue(s), I'm certainly not going to charge for a full hour.
Most computer repair services will charge you one hour of labor for any time up to one hour spent working on your PC. This is sometimes called a minimum bench charge and is completely customary.
"Should I Expect Any Charges Other Than the Hourly Rate?"
Many services we pay for in life are rife with hidden fees. That $19 oil change seems to cost about $35 when it's all said and done.
I do not charge anything other than the normal hourly rate, plus parts, if any are needed.
It is not common practice for a computer repair service to charge extra fees for their standard services. Obviously, if you require replacement hardware or a new piece of software, you should expect to pay for it but you should not expect any sort of hidden fees or surcharges.
If you're told that there are extra fees, be sure to see a list of them in writing before leaving your PC or requesting service in your home or business.
Do You Charge Extra For In-Home/Business Service?"
Many times, especially with national chain computer repair services, in-store and in-home/in-business repair services are considered completely separate services. You should always be aware of any billing differences between these services before getting your computer repaired.
My hourly fee is always the same whether it's in my shop or in your home. That being said, it is MUCH more cost effective for you to allow me to work on your computer at my shop for the simple reason that if I'm sitting in your home running a program that takes an hour to run, you're basically paying me to sit there and do nothing. At my office, I'm able to start that same program and walk away and do other tasks and I don't charge for the time that the programs are running on their own and I'm off working on other computer problems. I only charge for the actual time I'm WORKING on your computer; not for time a program is doing it's thing and not needing any kind of intervention. But if I have to sit at someone's house, my time is valuable and so I have to charge accordingly.
If you're quoted a rate twice as high for in-home/business computer repair service, don't get it. Take your computer to their shop or find another computer repair service. You should, however, expect to see some kind of small charge to visit you - perhaps a $10 to $20 single "trip" charge or a 10-20% hourly rate increase.
Some computer repair services do not charge anything extra at all for this extra service. Don't take that as a sign of a low quality service, just consider yourself lucky!
"Do You Guarantee Your Service?"
It's important to know whether or not you can expect a guarantee on the services provided. No one wants to get their computer serviced again two weeks later for the same problem.
For example, if you received an error message like "Cannot find \Windows\System32\hal.dll" and the computer repair service corrected the problem for you, it's reasonable to expect that, at least in the near future, the problem will not return.
I guarantee my service for 30 days. That being said, I WILL NOT guarantee that your computer will remain virus-free if you continue to use Peer-to-Peer services such as Napster, Bit Torrent, uTorrent, Morpheus, Ares, Bearshare, Kazaa, Limewire, eDonkey, Overnet, eMule, WinMX and other P2P programs because they are notorious for massively infecting computers. You may think you're getting something for nothing on those sites but you are really just getting infected with all kinds of viruses, spyware, malware, rootkits, etc. I will not offer free virus removal if I find that you've been to those sites during the 30-day period after I removed a virus or viruses and/or malware. The 30-day counter also does not reset to zero if I work on your computer again within that first 30 days.
Anything less than 30 days isn't a good deal. If a computer repair service offers more than a 90 day guarantee, be sure to read the fine print to see what sorts of problems it covers before you choose that particular service based on their stellar guarantee.
Important: No reputable computer repair service will guarantee a satisfactory solution to your PC problem before they've had a chance to look at the computer. You should always be prepared to pay at least the minimum bench charge even if your computer couldn't be repaired in the way you expected.
"When Might I Be Able to Pick Up My Computer?"
Aside from all the questions about how much this is all going to cost, it's important to ask when you might be able to pick up your computer. If you're getting in-home or in-business service, a related question would be "When might you be able to come out to my home/business?".
The answer to this question can vary greatly depending on what you are having done. If you just need a hardware installation such as a memory upgrade, I can normally do that at your house or place of business in a short amount of time. If you are having problems with your computer, such as virus problems, constant pop-ups, extremely slow performance, and such, these are normally virus-related and quite often can take a couple of days to fully clean a machine out because of the nature of the exhaustive testing that I do to ensure that your computer is clean. It can be something very simple or it can be something very complex and there is no way to know until I actually start the virus identification process. Normally 48 hours is a good average for the amount of time I will have your system.
The "right" answer to this question is really up to your personal schedule and expectations. I say 24 to 48 hours because that's the average answer. If you're quoted "an hour from now" that doesn't mean that the computer repair service isn't a good one. That sounds like a great answer to me! Alternatively, if you're quoted "a week from now" and that's a satisfactory answer to you, then great. If not, I recommend looking elsewhere. The other consideration is that your computer is not the ONLY computer I'm working on. I have a constant influx of computer systems that I'm working on and so yours will be placed in a queue. If your computer is working, even with it's problems, and I can't get to your computer for a few days, I'll be more than happy to pick it up in a couple of days and begin repairs immediately.