Computer Repairs

Published: 02/03/04

A convenient severe headache today convinced me to take time off work so I could deal with my computer that won’t boot. After a nice nap and some, uh, reading and food, I took my computer to a place several people recommended. Someone described it as a hole in the wall and he was right. I drove down the alleyway and past tough looking guys twice before I spotted the lit porthole and the sign, then I circled the block twice more–waving at the gangsters staking out the computer place–before finding a parking spot adquate for my small car and away from a fire hydrant.

I called the shop earlier in the day to confirm that they would work on my old machine. The guy paused after I described my problem. “It’s either a really simple repair, or it isn’t,” he told me, “The repair might cost more than your machine is worth.” He reminded me of automechanics I’ve dealt with in the past. “Are you sure you can spend $1000 on these repairs?” “Yeah: it’s cheaper than a new car I can’t afford.” To some extent, the computer guy is right. But I still feel like I’m the consumer and it’s my money, so it should be my decision whether it’s worth spending the money on the repairs or putting money into a new machine. (Besides, the idea of being able to procrastinate making a decision on a new computer still appeals to me. Otherwise, I would have already done this task I’ve been contemplating for a while, right?)

Luckily, the guys who looked like trouble were smart enough to know not to attack people bringing computers to the repair shop. I stepped through the heavy metal door, not quite sure about what I would find inside. It was like walking into someone’s collection of Macs, but with more order and people. One desk made me insanely jealous: five big monitors hooked to one computer with the guy’s work spread out across the screens. I am always using multiple applications on my computer; being able to have windows arranged so that I can see multiple windows instead of constantly burrying and rediscovering windows would be great. It would make my work on a certain database project much more efficient.

One repairman immediately took my computer away from me and set it on a shelf. “I’ll be with you after I finish working with this woman,” he said. I was able to watch the employees interact with a few customers while I waited. They seem to have good rapport. Many of the customers seemed to be repeat customers–which can be good or bad depending on your perspective. But it made me feel more comfortable. People seem to trust the establishment.

I looked at some of the computers while I waited, but the presence of a guy on his cell phone near the laptops discouraged me from hanging around there to really look at what they have for sale.

A different repair guy finally had a moment to assist me. I explained the problem. He guessed that it was the battery, so he changed it. I joked with him that I was a little concerned because most of the computer geeks I described the problem too had never heard of a machine not booting like this. He cleared a spot on another counter so he could hook it up to a monitor. I carried the box over and he seemed shocked that I would do so. “It’s not that heavy,” I replied to his look. No dice. Even with the new battery, the computer still chimed and then did nothing. Unfortunately, repairs in my life are never as simple as changing a battery.

He tried something else, then passed me off to the first guy because a client he had worked with earlier that day returned for some assistance. The first guy scratched his head over the computer and asked if I could leave the machine. He again gave me the speech about the cost of repairs, then recorded my contact information in his database. I told him the history of the problem, which wasn’t much, and told him about some other problems I’ve been having with the computer in the last few months in case they’re related somehow. His serious frown implied that they might be.

As I stepped through the porthole into the sleet, I began trying to release myself from the emotional baggage of this machine so that I could focus on getting a better laptop. It’s about time I buy myself a computer that isn’t thrust on me by someone else.

Thanks to those of you who listened or will be listening to me or read this blog and recommended repair places or the weight of a sledgehammer. I have a feeling my next questions will be about buying a computer.

Addendum 2/16: Since a few of you have asked for an update, here’s what’s on the invoice for the repairs:

  • New PRAM battery (While I was at the repair place, one guy changed the battery and was not able to boot the machine, so a new battery alone wasn’t the solution.)
  • Reseated the RAM
  • Defragmented the hard drive

The machine is back home and boots now, though it is running a bit rough. Were it a car engine, I’d guess that a spark plug is misfiring.

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