A slow-running computer is annoying, and a virus can be damaging. But finding an inexpensive solution is becoming more difficult, as there are fewer technicians who work on home computers.
Some local computer repair shops have closed, and others have switched to more lucrative business computer repair. Other options are computer stores and retails stores such as Best Buy and Office Depot.
Best Buy's Geek Squad is undergoing changes as well. Best Buy is hiring more highly skilled technicians to expand its services to small- and medium-size businesses, a spokesman said. But that won't take away from its core computer-repair business at stores, he said.
Here are some considerations if your home computer is not behaving as it should:
Buy a new computer. With technology improving so quickly, the computer you bring home from the store or order online is out of date within a few months.
"If you have a computer that's older than four years old and it's going to cost you more than $75 to repair, I would buy a new one," said David Hilaire, who operates Kiskeya Computer Services, a solo technician shop in Margate.
Data can be transferred to a new computer by a technician, or you can do it yourself using Windows 7 software, he said.
Look for a "no fix, no charge" policy. PC Professor, a 23-year old local company with locations in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, offers that policy.
"There's not too much we'll turn down. If we can't fix it, there is no charge. We're not going to sit there and fiddle with it on a per-hour basis," said Rob Fellman, director of PC Professor's affiliated computer technician school.
Office Depot, which offers tech services in its stores, said its technicians' computer repair is guaranteed. On most repairs, computers brought in by noon are fixed by 6 p.m. the next day, according to Steve Ellison, director of emerging services for Office Depot.
Look for a flat, rather than hourly, rate. To save money, bring your computer to the shop instead of requesting a home visit. PC Professor offers a $100 flat rate for non-priority repairs, compared with its regular rate of $130.
Office Depot charges $150 to repair a PC that has malware, virus or operating system issues. A "premium PC tune-up" on a computer that's running slow because of basic issues costs $50.
Arthur Moreno, co-owner of USA Computer in Fort Lauderdale, said his shop charges $85 to $125 for data recovery, a primary concern for many people when their computer crashes. For a virus on a PC, his small firm charges $55 to $85.
Avoid computer repair offers in online ads and emails. Hilaire said these downloads can come with a virus that can do more harm to your computer.
Consider buying a new hard drive. Most people are concerned about the loss of data, whether it's documents for work or pictures of friends and family. Hilaire said installing a new or external hard drive can be a solution. A portable storage unit costs about $200.
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