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You don’t have to pay for expensive technical assistance to repair your PC – 90 per cent of repairs are simple, and can be completed in a matter of minutes.

In 2004, I got my first IT-related job, working in the UK National Health Service. Up to this stage, my knowledge of computers was completely self-taught, and I could regularly be found deep in cables and PC cases, swapping out parts in order to push performance that little bit further, one component at a time.

Before the home PC revolution of the 1990s, the most techy thing I had ever done was attempt to connect a 9.6 Kbps modem to my Commodore Amiga – and that was when I was 22. I had grown up and gone to university before I truly discovered the world of computing. Indeed, my interests and career lay in a completely different direction.

Fifteen years later, and while I’m certainly no Linux guru or Microsoft .NET wizard, I can certainly deal with the hardware side of computers. I learned how to repair computer hardware, and I’m pretty confident you can too.

Yes, You Can Save Money

I have never paid anyone to fix a PC.

Indeed, I reckon the rest of the MakeUseOf crew will be able to say something similar (except the ones who own Macs). It’s perhaps best to think of a computer like a car – the mechanical components of the latter can be equated to the key parts of the former.

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There are many self-taught mechanics out there who shun the over-inflated prices charged by garages, just as there are many who avoid paying ridiculous prices for repairing clothes or shoes.

The secret is in understanding how the various parts of the PC work together. Not everything is replaceable, and the integrated components and chips on the motherboard should be largely avoided in DIY repairs. However, the hard disk drive, power supply, RAM modules, processor, optical drive and motherboard can all be manually repaired, replaced, or both, should they fail Every Computer Dies In The End: Learn What Parts Can Fail, & What To Do About It Every Computer Dies In The End: Learn What Parts Can Fail, & What To Do About It Most computers develop problems over time. Learning what they are and how you can deal with them is important if you don't want to be paying through the teeth for professional repairs. Don't worry though... Read More .

Furthermore, your peripherals can also be easily maintained A Spring Cleaning Checklist For Your PC Part 1: Hardware Cleaning A Spring Cleaning Checklist For Your PC Part 1: Hardware Cleaning With the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, houses across the globe get a nice cleaning to rid them of dirt and clutter that has accumulated over the past year. Dust and junk also... Read More . Increasing the lifespan of these devices will mean spending less money replacing them.

Hard Disk Recovery & Replacement

Perhaps the most common problem you’re likely to face is a hard disk failure. This might be due to dying hardware or it may be an issue that occurs after being infected with a computer virus or other malware.

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Either way, you will probably have a large amount of data that needs recovering so that you can continue to use it. Our guide explaining How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data Several years ago, I experienced a hard drive failure. I was at work when my laptop suddenly started to act particularly strange. About half an hour later, the hard drive failed audibly and the laptop... Read More is the place to start, and when you have successfully recovered your data and backed it up to disc, you’ll need to buy a new hard disk drive. If you’re having trouble, you might prefer to remove the device and connect it to your computer via USB, either in an external housing or using a low-cost adaptor Low-Cost Tools That Every Techie Needs Low-Cost Tools That Every Techie Needs It’s been ten years since I took my first IT job, and in that time I’ve collected a bunch of tools that have proved invaluable to me in resolving issues with computers, hard disk drives,... Read More of the type that can be found in a techy’s toolbox.

Installing a new drive – like most PC components – is straightforward and can be done in most cases with the minimum of fuss. Naturally, we’ve already prepared a guide for you to deal with this.

For increased speed and reliability, you might prefer to install an SSD The Complete Guide On Installing A Solid State Hard Drive In Your PC The Complete Guide On Installing A Solid State Hard Drive In Your PC A solid state hard drive is one of the best upgrades available for a modern computer. It increases the load times of programs dramatically, which in turn makes a PC feel snappier. Results can be... Read More .

Testing and Replacing Your Power Supply

Another common problem – particularly in older devices – is a defective power supply. While general maintenance and housekeeping can keep your PC free of the clogged up dust, eventually something (probably your dead skin cells and other matter) will cause your power supply unit to go rogue.

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If waiting for a new PSU means a long trek to the nearest store or a morning at home waiting for the delivery man and you desperately need to get up and running, you could always try a PSU from an old computer Can I Reuse My Old PC’s Power Supply In A New Computer? Can I Reuse My Old PC’s Power Supply In A New Computer? One of the best ways to reduce the cost of upgrading your PC is to simply re-use the components which don’t need to be upgraded. Yea, you’ll have to replace the graphics card or processor.... Read More , perhaps one you have stored in the basement, loft or garage.

This should only be a short-term fix, however. Your best bet is to pick a new PSU, making sure it is perfect for your computer and the way you use it Power Supplies Explained: How To Pick The Perfect PSU For Your Computer Power Supplies Explained: How To Pick The Perfect PSU For Your Computer Most geeks interested in buying new hardware or building a new system think first of the processor, graphics card and perhaps the hard drive. These components have the most impact on performance, so they are... Read More .

Replacing and Upgrading RAM Modules

Not all RAM is created equally. Cheaper RAM modules tend to be slower and less reliable, for instance, while multiple sticks of RAM should be identical for the best results (the slowest of the group reflecting the top available speed).

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Should you need to upgrade your RAM, you’ll need to take care in selecting the right module for your motherboard and processor combination, but other than, this the process of replacing a RAM module is as simple as inserting a disk.

It’s that easy, in fact, that we included it in our guide to 3 DIY Computer Repairs You Can Easily Do Yourself 3 DIY Computer Repairs You Can Easily Do Yourself 3 DIY Computer Repairs You Can Easily Do Yourself Read More .

When Your Computer Needs a New CPU

One of the most crushing disappointments when troubleshooting a PC is the discovery that your CPU needs replacement. On the other hand, if you’re planning to upgrade it and have chosen well – perhaps using our jargon-busting guide to dual core and quad core differences What Does "Dual Core" & "Quad Core" Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Does "Dual Core" & "Quad Core" Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] At one point, our computers had a central processing unit (CPU) with a single core. These days, most CPUs you'll come across are dual core, quad core, or even octo core. We'll explain exactly what... Read More to help you with your choice – it can also be an extremely exciting time.

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The anticipation of a new processor and the speed benefits your PC might gain is always good; the knowledge that you’ve saved upwards of $50 for the pleasure of fitting the CPU yourself Hardcore Hardware Upgrades: How To Install Or Replace Your Own CPU Hardcore Hardware Upgrades: How To Install Or Replace Your Own CPU The processor remains one of the most important components in a modern computer. Upgrading it can provide significant benefits in certain games and applications, particularly if you are switching from a dual-core or quad-core model,... Read More is also pretty amazing.

Problems With Your Optical Drive? Try This

You’ve perhaps noticed that the components with the most moving parts are the ones that can cause the most problems in your PC. Hard disk drives can fail due to mechanical parts; so can CD, DVD and Blu-ray drives – together known as optical drives.

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Now, there is the advantage of being able to use the optical drive from another computer on your network How To Share A Windows CD Or DVD Drive On Your Network How To Share A Windows CD Or DVD Drive On Your Network "How do you share a CD or DVD drive across a network?" This was the question that dropped into my head recently as it became apparent that I would need to access data on some... Read More in moments of desperation and you might even use an old laptop drive as a temporary replacement No DVD Drive on Your Tablet or Notebook? Use an Old Laptop Drive Instead! No DVD Drive on Your Tablet or Notebook? Use an Old Laptop Drive Instead! More and more Windows computers are shipping without optical drives, and this is a phenomenon that exists beyond the tablet PC. The lack of a DVD drive might prevent you from installing your favourite apps... Read More .

There are several reasons why your DVD or Blu-ray disc might fail to play Why Won't Windows Play My DVD Or Blu-ray Disc? Why Won't Windows Play My DVD Or Blu-ray Disc? You insert a DVD into your Windows 8 computer – you want to watch a movie. Nothing happens. You try opening Windows Media Player. It can't play the disk. What's going on with Windows 8... Read More , which you should investigate as well, although if you find that you have to replace the device, rest easy in the knowledge that it is an almost identical procedure to fitting a hard disk drive.

If you decide to phase out optical media altogether (a good option if it allows you to reduce the number of potential points of failure), there are tools you can use to create disc images and mount them as virtual devices.

Repairing and Replacing Your Motherboard

Of all the problems you might experience when troubleshooting your PC, motherboard issues are perhaps the toughest to deal with.

It isn’t just the fact that every component has to be stripped out and disconnected before you safely remove the motherboard; one wrong move with a screwdriver or even when putting the motherboard in the case and you’ll have to buy a replacement.

There are, of course, some simple motherboard-related issues. BIOS problems are often related to jumpers or the motherboard battery Why Does My Motherboard Have A Battery? Why Does My Motherboard Have A Battery? Whether you’re using a desktop computer or a laptop, your computer’s motherboard contains an integrated battery. Unlike a standard laptop battery, the motherboard’s battery doesn’t power your computer while you're using it. Quite the opposite,... Read More , and these can generally be resolved with careful perusal of the motherboard manual.

Your Guide to Free PC Repairs – Right Here!

Over the years at MakeUseOf, we’ve provided readers with a great selection of tutorials to help you through pretty much any tech-related problem you might face. Among these have been various guides to help you repair your PC without spending a single penny.

The tips above cover the most common points of failure on a Windows PC, and should help you find your way through the fog to a successful repair. Remember, no one is born with these skills – they have to be learned, which means anyone can do it. If you feel you need assistance from a specialist, find a friend or relative who can be ready to help out, rather than shelling out on expensive tech support. To help you out, our list of common maintenance errors 10 Common PC Maintenance Errors That You Can Avoid 10 Common PC Maintenance Errors That You Can Avoid PCs still require maintenance, as much as we wish they were magic boxes that did all the work for us. Unfortunately, many people make mistakes when it comes to maintaining their PC. These mistakes could... Read More will highlight what not to do.

Perhaps we’re making it harder for the tech support industry to earn a living but we’d rather help develop a new generation of self-sufficient individuals who can repair their kit without the fear of 1s and 0s clouding their judgment.

Do you have any tips that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit: Gani01, KB Alpha, TJRP, Porsche 911GT2

  1. ricky
    January 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    HI FOLKS,,JUST GETTING MY HEAD AROUND THIS VAST SITE,,MY ACER ASPIRE AX3400
    AS RECENTLY STARTED RUNNING MEGA SLOW & WINDOWS SEEMS TO WANT TOO CONSTANTLY UPDATE,I AM RUNNING THE BRILL BITDEFENDER
    & ALSO DO A MIND BENDING AMOUNT OF DOWNLOADING SC SOCIAL SITE ANY ADVICE WOULD BE GREAT

    • Tina S
      January 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      1. Turn off the CAPS LOCK.
      2. Ask tech questions over at MakeUseOf Answers.

  2. Wilfredo Jr. D
    October 8, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    I dont have any formal training regarding to PC repairs but I have learned to fix my PC .Thanks to the post like these.

  3. dragonmouth
    September 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Mike,
    When was the last time you took YOUR computer to the shop to have it fixed PROPERLY? You're just like most of us and fixed it yourself because you didn't want to pay the "over-inflated" prices charged by computer shops.

  4. Mike
    September 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    "....self-taught mechanics out there who shun the over-inflated prices charged by garages..." That's because they got lucky & swapped a part or two that fixed a car or because they can change their own oil they are " mechanics" to make a statement that car repair prices are over inflated. If they think they are that good then get a job in the industry & make a living at it. Not likely they can because they don't want to make any investment the thousand's of dollars in diagnostic tools or training it takes to PROPERLY diagnose & repair today's vehicles.

    Same goes for those who think swapping a few parts on a computer makes them a computer repair tech or someone writing a few paragraphs linking to stories others wrote makes them a writer.

  5. bill
    September 12, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    What a great read were these comments. I have been a computer consultant for twenty years. My how they fly... All of your comments refresh and refocus and validate experiences from the past. I went from a fix it at any cost mentality to an if in doubt throw it out mentality fifteen years ago because of the coast of consultant time to customers. And while I am mo re generous than most repairs always carry with them your time which has a value. Hence, any time I do a repair, reconditioning or rebuild I factor in every minute of time and at the end of the job divide hours into profits and gauge if I want to continue that avenue of support. When I put an SSD drive into any T series Thinkpad with at least two gigs of memory they get a new lease on life. The owners or the people who buy them from me love them like a new computer. They sell like hot cakes especially when a customer tells his whole family about the speed of his new $300 Thinkpad "with the illuminated keyboard!" I ordered twenty 120 gig SSD drives for twenty T series units I bought dirt cheap from a corporate sale. 90% of them worked and sold for over three hundred dollars. I think I made about $90 per hour for my trouble. I used an image of Mint and offered Windows as a paid option. Next I a going to get into old IMacs and MacBooks the same way. There really is gold in them thar Macs!

  6. scapeborglist
    September 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    The related "shoe" that can drop here is the subject of repairing/upgrading laptop computers. Over the past decade, I've bought "out to pasture" corporate Latitudes (usually three years old) going back to the D400, D430, E6500 and E4300. (I still have some of these, although a few have gone to relatives going to college who have found them, retrofitted either with Ubuntu or Mint, to be good for school). Corporate-level machines are built for quick swapping of standard parts. In particular, Latitudes are very easy. Keyboards, RAM, Hard Drives, mini-PCI Wifi Cards are easily and inexpensively replaced, via parts available on Ebay. (For example, a new e6500 keyboard -- good quality -- is $10 for a non-backlit version, $15 for a backlit KB). And, by the time that they are three years old, whatever problems the models have had (for example, the e6500 had a throttling problem, due to an underpowered power supply and BIOS settings that were too aggressive), well, these have been diagnosed and solved. Likewise, a quality SSD drive 80-160 MB can be had for $50 or so, on Ebay, as an upgrade. The bottom line is that a high-quality laptop can be had, even with upgrades, for $150 or so, if you choose a durable corporate line, like the Latitudes, and upgrade the OS from Windows to a modern Linux distribution.

    • Like Fun B
      September 11, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      Personally I think you're better off with T-series Thinkpads than with Latitudes, Elitebooks, Tecras or MBPs, but yes, the difference between business grade notebooks and crappy consumer models is night and day.

  7. Abhishek R
    September 11, 2013 at 3:45 am

    just wanted to ask can i put an i5 into my motherboard which is in fact 4 years old, will there be any compatibility issues . currently i am on core 2 duo.

    • Bruce E
      September 11, 2013 at 8:40 am

      A Core 2 Duo uses a Socket 775. An i5 will need either a Socket 1150, 1155 or 1156 depending on the specific model, so you would also require a full motherboard replacement. This info can be verified in your motherboard manual which should list every processor it supports.

  8. Syarmine
    September 11, 2013 at 1:55 am

    the most dangerous moment when repairing your own pc, if there's any electrical volt still present on the motherboard circuit by the cmos battery. there are so many people attempting to repair their own pc, end up by failing their electrical circuit on the motherboard, or maybe screwing the screw too tight or whatsoever the reason.

  9. Zhong J
    September 10, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Repairing your own computer reduces down the maintenance to screwing back parts and replacing new ones. However it's more difficult for beginners who have no knowledge of any of these terms even mean and can cause them laptop more harm than good if any serious impairment ensue from opening the case. If you know what's the problem, solution and is feasible in regards of replacement then the process to complete it: you can repair your laptop. If the problem is more severe such as several components of the laptop refuses to work or crack in the circuit board then it's more expensive to resolve the issue.

    When I first attempt to open the laptop, it was very tentative and worrisome because there are little parts inside that needs consideration for removal such as cables, power lines, tiny attached bolts.

  10. likefunbutnot
    September 10, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    CPU failures are vanishingly rare and at this point even RAM failure is downright hard to come by. Power supplies fail on a fairly regular basis and because so much stuff is built in to motherboards, pretty much every hard-to-diagnose bit of random weirdness can be fixed with a motherboard swap.

    Also, other than the Clear CMOS jumper, I haven't interacted with motherboard DIP switches or jumpers since late 90s-vintage hardware, which makes me question the author's expertise in this subject matter.

    There's really no repair that's hard to do on a standard desktop machine (I have literally and I mean LITERALLY, no joke, taught a room full of mildly retarded adolescents to do this kind of work), but for small form factor or all in one systems all I can say is good luck.

    But motherboard repairs are a special place in hell for anyone who isn't a techie and wants to run Windows. Windows ties its license to the system board, such that replacing it will almost always require a license reactivation, something that may or may not be allowed given the product key you should have been given with your copy of Windows. Depending on the brand or vendor of the motherboard part in question, you might or might not be able to easily identify and reinstall the hardware that's integrated on the motherboard and even more than that, you might have unforeseen compatibility issues because you elected to buy a replacement part for what amounts to a generic desktop product line; some Compaq and Dell systems are sold with either AMD or Intel CPUs and long-lived models might very well carry over from one generation of RAM to another. The magical, critical thing to know about any motherboard you need to replace is its CHIPSET, the combination of integrated circuits that define that particular board's CPU, RAM, expansion slot, USB and disk controller capabilities. As a rule, Windows super-hates switching motherboard chipsets. If you happen to swap a motherboard with one that has an identical chipset, you might have to do nothing more than re-activate your license. If you switch to a different one, you're probably going to wind up reinstalling your OS.

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