Which? warns of failing IT repair services


smashed computersGareth Fuller/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A new report from consumer organisation, Which?, investigated a number of high street IT repair services, and discovered a catalogue of failures, and shocking charges.

So what should you be wary of?

The investigation

Which? took 24 laptops with simple faults to a number of repair services, including chains such as PC World/Currys, Carphone Warehouse, and Comet - as well as independents. In total, only 13 of them returned useable.

Not only was the lack of skill among the so-called experts alarming, but the charges varied dramatically too. The most expensive one charged the user £200 to replace the hard drive - which was unnecessary - and they failed to copy over the files at the same time, with potentially disastrous results. The average charge for the repairs came in at £86.

The investigation was carried out after a smaller one in 2011 revealed worrying failings. At that time, most of the services were able to reconnect two lose wires (although one suggested a new hard drive), but only two out of 12 were able perfectly solve a problem that the researchers had introduced with a piece of laptop software.

Which? pointed out: "Trust is a big part of the equation here. You're giving an expensive item, which likely holds many precious documents and photos, over to a complete stranger. I'd like to assume that these companies are treating such items with care and respect, but instead many problems are being left unfixed and data is going missing. These stores need step up to the plate and give their customers a much better repair service."

So what can you do?

It leaves computer users in a difficult position. So many of us rely on them heavily on them for work and for everything from entertainment to storing photographs. So when they go wrong we are all at sea.

There are a few things we can do. The first is to protect our computers against virus attacks - responsible for a good chunk of computer problems. Up-to-date virus software is a must for any user.

Second, it's worth understanding a few of the basics. Which? produces a repair top tips, which would be a good place to start.

Third, consider whether it's worth it. If it's an old model, which is nothing but trouble, then for little more than the cost of these repair services, you could invest in a new model, which will be far less disaster-prone.

Failing all of this, you will need an expert to help. It is worth trying to track one down before you hit a crisis. Ask around among your more tech savvy friends for their recommendations, read around the reviews and recommendations online. Then arm yourself with a phone number you'll have access to without needing your computer. That way, if the worst comes to the worst, you won't be left sticking a pin in a map and taking a chance.

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