Should I Repair or Replace my broken laptop?

It is never fun when you’re faced with the decision to repair a broken computer. Ultimately you need to make a decision on spending money on repairs versus buying a new computer. This particular issue is focused on hardware failures as any good computer technician (especially Trif :-)) can remedy software and operating issues with a reinstall. A hardware failure in a laptop almost always requires dis-assembly of the laptop. This action is several hours of labor, plus the costs of parts.

It’s important to note that even repaired laptops are not under warranty and its future life is only as good as the care in use by its owners. New laptops may come with a warranty (though manufactures are getting more and more stingy with them) and the latest features for as low as $400 depending on your needs and preferences. MacBook notebook computers from Apple start at about $1000 and increase in price at that point. So how do we decided to repair or replace? Let’s discuss some ideas…

Consider the relative age of the laptop to current computing platforms. While that PC laptop may only be a year old to you was it a left-over from a previous generation? Maybe its time to move on however hard it is to plunk down full price for a replacement. However if you can have a laptop repaired for under 50% the cost to replace and the laptop is under 2 years old it does makes sense to repair the laptop. PC Laptops are simply not made, in general, with longevity in mind. If you are are especially careful, do not spill drinks and food onto it and it spends most of its time on one desk then you could expect 3-5 years of use otherwise under 3 years is the norm. MacBooks are notoriously well built with a rigid and very solid all aluminum body and produced to an exacting specification. There is universal agreement Apple computers are some of the best performing and well build laptops in the industry. As such they command a higher entry price and repair parts are also a bit more expensive.

You should get a diagnosis from a technician (Trif Computer for example) who can advise you on the best approach for repair or replace. Such a diagnosis should describe what the failure is and provide the part and labor costs for repair. You should ask for a cost comparison to a new laptop on the market that is in the same category as the one in for repair.

Laptops take more wear and tear than desktops. Computers and sensitive electronics really don’t like to be banged around much. Remember, if a repair is going to cost 50% or more than the cost of replacing, it’s not worth doing, because you’ll still have an older laptop when you’re done. Also, if your laptop is 4 years old or older, you’re better off replacing since you’ll only get a year or two of use out of it even after the repair since something else is likely to wear out.

Below is a summary of my suggestions on how to proceed for Laptop repairs. These are not hard and fast rules and your decision will be based on the prices quoted from your local repair technician (Trif Computer Services :-)) and personal preferences on where to expend your money.

  • Memory Memory is always easy to replace and upgrade. Access to the laptop memory is usually on a panel on the bottom of the laptop. It is an inexpensive upgrade and the best thing to make an older laptop perform better.
  • DC power jack. Sometimes the jack where the power adapter connects gets broken loose from the internal connections. If the parts are separate from the motherboard it is  usually inexpensive, but this requires that the laptop case be removed and replaced.  Do it? Yes…BUT…If the DC Power connector is soldered on the Motherboard you may need to replace the entire motherboard or attempt delicate re-soldering of a new DC jack. Really consider how old this laptop is before sinking costs down this route.
  • Keyboard If a keyboard is damaged or needs replacing, it’s generally worth doing. Keyboard parts range form $35 to $100. For most laptops, a keyboard replacement only requires that the top bezel be removed, and doesn’t require a complete dis-assembly. It still can take about 1-2 hours of labor though. Do it? YES
  • Hard drive. The hard drive can usually be removed and replaced without the need to take apart the entire laptop case.  It can usually be upgraded as well. Do it? YES! Want to really supercharge your laptop consider replacing your hard disk with a new Solid State Drive (SSD). New SSDs use chip-based memory at are significantly faster than hard drives. The trade-off is they are usually much smaller in total storage space at the same or increased cost than many larger hard disks on the market.
  • LCD. If the LCD panel is not working, it could be either the graphics circuit on the mother board, a faulty inverter board or the LCD panel. If you can, plug the laptop into an external monitor. If you can get a display, the problem is the LCD panel. Prices for LCD parts alone range from $150 to $350 depending on the quality and availability. It takes a complete dis-assembly to replace and repair this item so there is usually at least 2 hours or more or labor involved.  Do it: Maybe. If a new LCD panel and lid assembly are available and total costs under 50% the cost to buy a new laptop they a new display may be the right call.
  • Mother Board. Since mother boards are generally one-piece units for laptops, any failure requires complete replacement of this item. The part can range from $100 to $400 and up. Do it: Maybe! Again you want the total repair cost to be way less than the cost to buy new and only for computers under 2 years old.

Hope this overview helps get though the challenge of deciding when and how to approach laptop repair. While i focused on prices related to PCs the same rules apply to MacBooks. It may be better to repair that 2-3 year old MacBook instead of spending $1000, $1400, or more for a new one.