When a computer starts acting up, many people resort to calling a repair technician. While it is not always a bad idea to consult an expert, there are some repairs and upgrades that are easy enough to do on your own. With a few tips and a bit of knowledge, you can save money and learn how to correct common issues. Before you decide to open up your computer or wipe your hard drive, there is an important question you’ll need to ask yourself.
Is it Better to Repair or Replace?
When making the decision of whether to repair a computer or replace it, consider the age of the device. If the device is more than three years old, replacement parts may cost more and be harder to find. The decision to repair can also be determined by the cost of the replacement part. Let’s say you determine the computer needs a new motherboard, but the cost of the part is well over $500. If you’re able to purchase a new system for less, it makes more sense to forego the repair.
Assuming the computer only needs a common, minor part replaced, you’re usually better off repairing the device. Common parts include memory (RAM), hard drives, cooling fans, keyboards, and power supplies. While it is more complicated to replace a hard drive, many of these parts can be removed and reinstalled within minutes. If you do decide to go ahead with the repairs, you’ll want to take certain precautions.
If you don’t have a basic tool kit or computer repair toolkits, you can purchase them or assemble your own. Before you start the repair process, make sure the computer is disconnected from its power source. It is best to fully unplug any power cords and remove batteries from laptops. After you unplug or remove the power source, let the computer sit for five minutes so it can cool off. If you’re wearing any jewelry or watches, remove them first.
You’ll also want to make sure you are grounded before you touch any of the computer’s internal components. Many of these components are sensitive to static electricity and touching them without being grounded can cause permanent damage. Preassembled computer tool kits may include grounding wrist and shoe bands you can wear. You can also purchase grounding mats.
Keep in mind that parts that should not be taken apart, such as CRT monitors and power supplies, will have warning labels on them. Do not ignore these labels, as doing so can result in serious injuries or even death from electric shock. Try to avoid touching any of the capacitors on the computer’s motherboard, as these parts can retain an electric charge. Prior to reconnecting the computer’s power supply, double check that all cables are connected and the memory sticks are properly seated in the slots on the motherboard.
Now that you know about the precautions you should take, you may be wondering how to determine what repairs you can do on your own. Here is a list of common, simple repairs that don’t always require a technician:
- Removing malware and viruses
- Reinstalling the operating system, such as Windows
- Upgrading the computer’s memory and hard drive
- Removing unnecessary software
- File recovery
Removing malware and viruses usually involves installing an anti-malware or malware removal program. You can run the full scan feature from within these programs to locate, quarantine, and remove suspicious programs or executables. You can find malware removal programs online for free, but some of them require a subscription or purchase fee. Some internet service providers (ISPs) may provide access to an anti-malware program as part of your subscription fee.
Reinstalling the computer’s operating system is a bit more complicated, as you’ll need to backup important files first. You can back your files on a USB flash drive or use a cloud storage service. When reinstalling the operating system, you can use a CD or the built-in factory restore partition on your hard drive. You’ll want to check your computer’s manual and software keys before you proceed.
Before you upgrade your computer’s memory, you’ll want to verify what type of RAM is compatible with your computer. Check your computer’s manual for size, speed, and type. Your computer may be able to handle up to 16 gigabytes of RAM, but there may be only two slots that can accept 8-gigabyte sticks. Replacing your hard drive involves backing up the files you’ll need and transferring them to the new drive once you install the operating system. However, you’ll also need to verify your computer’s manual for size and compatibility. Consider whether you are able to install a solid state drive (SSD) versus a hard disk drive (HDD). An SSD can increase performance and has a lower average failure rate than an HDD.
Removing unnecessary software and recovering deleted files can often be accomplished with computer repair software. Unnecessary software is applications you don’t need or want that may have been pre-installed on your system. You can also remove unnecessary software through some operating system’s built-in tools.
For additional resources on do-it-yourself computer repairs, check out articles on how to repair a computer, basic PC repair guides, computer repair, computer tutorials, and basic troubleshooting techniques.
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