DIY

7 Tips to Save Money on PC Repairs

Christian Cawley Updated 11-12-2019

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

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Here are nine tips for making simple PC repairs and save money on computer shop repair prices.

But I Don’t Know How to Repair a PC!

Before the home PC revolution of the 1990s, the techiest thing I had ever done was plug in a joystick. I didn’t even own a PC until 2001, when I was 25.

Years later, while I’m no Linux guru or Microsoft Visual Studio wizard, I can handle computer hardware side of computers. I learned how to repair computer hardware, and I’m confident you can too.

Repairing your own PC means you can save money. PC repair shops charge for parts and labor. If you can get the parts cheaply, why not learn how to fit them yourself?

Don’t think you can? Think again: the secret is in understanding how the various parts of the PC work together. While not everything is replaceable, the disk drive, power supply, RAM, processor, and motherboard can all be repaired or replaced.

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Use these seven PC repair tips to save money, time waiting, and to expand your skillset.

1. Hard Disk Recovery & Replacement

The hard disk drive is arguably the most common PC part to require repair. Failure might be due to dying hardware or 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 to recovering data from a dead hard disk drive How to Repair a Dead Hard Disk Drive to Recover Data If your hard disk drive has failed, this guide will help you with the hard disk drive's repair and data recovery. Read More  (HDD) is the place to start.

When you have successfully recovered your data and backed it up to disc, you’ll need a new hard disk drive. Amazon is a great place to find affordable HDDs.

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Installing a new drive—like most PC components—is straightforward and can usually be done with the minimum of fuss. Before replacing a drive, check these tips for installing a new HDD 5 Things to Consider When You Install a SATA Hard Drive Before you install a SATA hard drive, here are a few things to consider so you don't mess anything up. Read More .

2. Testing and Replacing Your Power Supply

A common problem in older computers is a defective power supply unit (PSU).

General maintenance and housekeeping can keep your PC free of clogged up dust. However, something will eventually cause your power supply unit to go rogue.

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But what can you do, besides trekking to the nearest store or spending hours at home waiting for a delivery? Well, if you need to get up and running ASAP, you could always try a PSU from an old computer Can I Reuse My Old PC's Power Supply in a New Computer? Upgrading your PC but don't know if it's okay to use an old PSU? Here's what you need to know about using old power supply units. Read More . This might be one you have stored in the basement, loft, or garage.

Note that this should only be a short-term fix, however. Your best bet is a new PSU, making sure it is perfect for your PC and how you use it.

3. Replacing and Upgrading RAM Modules

Not all RAM is created equally. Cheaper RAM modules tend to be slower and less reliable. Meanwhile multiple sticks of RAM should be identical. Mixing and matching is a bad idea, as the slowest of the group determines the maximum performance.

Should you need to upgrade your RAM, you’ll need to take care selecting the right module for your system. The combination of motherboard and processor (CPU) make this a balancing act—fortunately it’s simple to find the right combination.

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A good way to check the best RAM modules for your system is to use an online checking tool. RAM manufacturers Crucial offer two RAM checking tools on their website. One of these lets you browse for your PC model, while the other is downloadable and scans your system.

Within a few minutes you should know exactly which RAM modules to buy and how much to spend. With the RAM ordered replacing a module is as simple as inserting a disk.

4. Simple PC Display Issues Repaired

Display issues on your desktop PC could have many causes. Perhaps the monitor is suspect; there could be a display driver issue; the HDMI cable might be dud.

All of these can be easily checked and resolved. But what if the problem is hardware based and the display is working perfectly?

For PCs equipped with a discrete graphics card (that is, a GPU installed in an expansion slot), replacement is likely. However, it is worth checking first that the device is correctly powered and isn’t overheating.

Overheating issues can often be resolved by improving airflow or adding a new fan to your PC case. Don’t worry if the problems eventually result in you replacing the GPU. It’s much like replacing or adding RAM modules, with the same antistatic precautions.

5. When Your Computer Needs a New CPU

Install a CPU in your PC

One of the most crushing disappointments when troubleshooting a PC is the discovery that your CPU needs replacing. Buying a new CPU can be difficult, so check our guide to dual core and quad core differences What Do "Dual Core" and "Quad Core" Mean? These days, most CPUs are dual-core, quad-core, or octo-core. But what does that even mean? Here's everything explained. Read More for help.

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.

6. 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. Hard disk drives can suffer mechanical failure, as can CD, DVD, and Blu-ray drives—together known as optical drives.

One way you can overcome a failing optical drive is to use an old laptop drive as a temporary replacement No DVD Drive on Your Tablet or Notebook? Use an Old Laptop Drive Instead! Windows computers increasingly ship without optical drives. Here's how to use an old laptop DVD drive as an external drive. Read More . If you find that you must replace the device, don’t worry. It’s an almost identical procedure to fitting a hard disk drive.

7. Repairing and Replacing Your Motherboard

Mini ITX 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 must 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 be buying a replacement.

There are, of course, some simple motherboard-related issues. BIOS problems are often related to jumpers or the motherboard battery and typically resolved by referring to the motherboard manual.

Easily Make Simple PC Repairs and Save Money

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.

Remember, no one is born with these skills. They must 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. Only pay for expensive tech support if there is no other option.

Looking for more affordable computing tips? Here’s how to save money buying used games online How to Buy Used Games Online to Save Money Gaming is expensive and nobody can afford picking up all the latest releases at full price. Here are the best ways to pick up used games for a fraction of the price. Read More .

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Save Money, Troubleshooting.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  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. 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.