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.
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.
Furthermore, your peripherals can also be easily maintained. 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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, 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.
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).
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.
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 to help you with your choice – it can also be an extremely exciting time.
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 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.
Now, there is the advantage of being able to use the optical drive from another computer on your network in moments of desperation and you might even use an old laptop drive as a temporary replacement.
There are several reasons why your DVD or Blu-ray disc might fail to play, 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, 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 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.