Archives for November 2011

Online PC Tuneup Sites – Most are Useless or Even Scams

What’s the deal with these sites that promise to double your PC’s speed with just the click of a button?  Yes, we all hear the commercials where someone is ecstatically happy because his or her PC is running “faster than ever”.  Oh really?

You may think I’m posting this because I’m a repair technician and get angry when I hear these.  Well you’re right, but not because I’m afraid of the competition.  I’m angry because these claims are mostly scams that take advantage of people.  You can speed up your PC by downloading any of a wide selection of free utilities, versus paying these bozos.

Now I’m only talking about very basic cleanup processes on PC’s that are basically in good shape, because that’s all that these sites or the free utilities can handle.  A badly under-performing PC that locks up and freezes, or gets Windows errors cannot be fixed like this.  These sites dupe people into thinking they will, and that angers me even more.  Then, they start charging extra fees for more extensive procedures.

Why not Clean Your PC Yourself, for Free?

I recommend a great little free program called “C-Cleaner“.  It’s very popular among PC Technicians and is part of our arsenal of standard tools.  You can download it from the “Resources” tab on our Saguaro PC Tech website, or at Download.com.  There’s a paid version too, but you don’t need it.

To clean and tune a really slow PC suffering from lockups and errors, several procedures are required, including checking for viruses and spyware, checking the health of the hard drive, removing outdated programs, installing Windows and driver updates, etc.  The list goes on.

Again, these sites will charge for more work, but many of these procedures can’t be done very well, or even at all via on line support.  Don’t waste your time or money.  You may find that taking your PC to a reputable local repair shop will be both cheaper and more effective.

Laptop Repair: Liquid Spills on Keyboard

What should you do if you spill liquid on your laptop’s keyboard?  How can the damage be repaired?  What’s the possible extent of the damage?  These are common occurrences unfortunately.  We can repair laptop liquid spill damage, but the seriousness of the damage and the needed repairs depend largely on what you do when it happens.

Possible Extent of Liquid Damage:

I’ll just describe the worst-case scenario.  This would be if the liquid goes through the keyboard and into the the deeper parts of the laptop.  It can short out any of the internal components, including the motherboard (or logic board).

Even if it dries and works for a while, if the liquid was anything other than water, it can corrode the electronics and the machine could die later on.  This is why I always recommend letting a technician look at it.  The damage can get worse over time, thus costing more to repair if you wait.

Emergency Procedure:  If you spill liquid on your laptop, do this immediately:

  1. Close the lid and turn the laptop upside down. This prevents the liquid from seeping too far into the laptop.
  2. Unplug the power and remove the battery. Cutting off all power prevents short circuit electrical damage.

Don’t worry that this will cause an improper shutdown.  It’s better than ruining the machine and occasional improper shutdowns are not a big deal.

Leave the laptop this way and let the liquid seep out of the keyboard.  If the spill was just water, let it dry out for several hours or overnight.  When you get home, you can open up the lid, but leave the laptop upside down, perhaps propped up against something so you don’t damage the screen.  When it dries, turn it on.  If it works… cool!  If not, bring it to a repair shop.

If the spill was not water, bring the laptop to local PC Repair Shop.  I mean a real repair shop, not a big box store, as they’re clueless.  If you’re adept and adventurous, you can try to do more, but I strongly advise against it.  I’ve seen people mess things up pretty bad when they tried.  Still, if you insist, try the following.

Get an Electronic Cleaning Solvent…. Do Not Use a Household Cleaner!  You can pick up these special solvents at an electronics store.  I don’t mean an Ace Hardware either.  I mean a real electronics store.

If you’re not up to removing the keyboard, get the solvent in a spray can so you can get it into the keyboard while keeping it upside down.  If you do remove the keyboard, you can soak it in a tray of solvent.  Inspect the area under the keyboard and see if the liquid got in deeper.  If so, stop and bring it to a repair shop.

In closing, don’t try this yourself, but if you do, be careful!  Some of these repairs are difficult.  It’s not always apparent which component was damaged, so we often have to test everything.  Give us a call and we’ll do everything we can to save your laptop.

Laptop Repair Issue: Deciding on New or Used Parts

If you need parts for a broken laptop repair, an important choice to make is, should you get new or used/refurbished parts?  Here’s my thoughts and policy that I use in my repair business.

I’m talking about major components here, like motherboards and LCD screens.  Other minor parts are no big deal, as they’re not expensive.  For these major parts, the difference in cost between new and used/refurbished can be as high as $100 for LCD’s and $150 for motherboards.

If your laptop is over 3 years old, you’re better off with used or refurbished parts, unless it’s a high-end model (e.g. if it was over $1000 new).  If your laptop was a basic model with only a year or two of life left in it, you want to keep your repair cost low.

If your baby is a high-end beauty that still runs fast and is pretty up to date, you want to stick with new parts, as they are more reliable and will give your laptop longer life.  You want a good machine to last a while, since you spent a lot to buy it in the first place.

For newer laptops (less than 2 years old), you want to stick with new parts.  You want your machine to last 4 or 5 years, so you want the longer life and reliability of a new part.  Of course, if your laptop was a budget unit you bought for $299, it’s probably not worth doing a major repair.

What other considerations are there in choosing new versus used, or even in doing the repair it at all?  This is a cost/benefit decision.  If the cost of the repair (including labor) is half the cost or less of buying a new unit, you should definitely repair it.  If you can do this with new parts, go for it!

Most of these major repairs cost $300-$500 using new parts, or $200-$350 with used parts.  A good, solid mid-range laptop these days goes for $600-$800.  So you can see it’s a close decision.  If you bring your laptop to us, we’ll advise you on what’s best to do.

If you need help with this type of issue, or any other computer repair issue, our contact information is on our website at Saguaro PC Tech – Tucson Computer & Laptop Repair.

Laptop LCD Sreens: Ordering Them Yourself is Not a Good Idea

Ordering an LCD screen for your laptop is a lot trickier than you might think.  Manufacturers use more than one type of screen for the same model.  This makes no sense and is annoying, but that’s the world of laptops for you.

We get lots of customers who order a screen, thinking they’re saving time and money, then bring it in for us to install.  In over 75% of cases, we find they got the wrong screen and have to order one for them after all.  The customer then has the hassle of shipping it back to the vendor, often having to pay postage and possibly even restocking fees.

In the end, they spent more money and delayed the repair process.  Prices are not that different when you try this.  The hassle is not worth the $20-$30 you might save.  Think you’re smarter than the average bear, and that you know how to order the right screen?  Think again!

Even we don’t order screens that way.  We never search for the part by using the model number of the laptop.  We remove the existing screen, then we find the exact part number of the LCD panel itself, which is on the back of the panel.  Even then, we’re not fully satisfied.  We do multiple searches on different vendor sites and look for a picture of the back of the panel to insure the connectors are in the right place.

So the words of advice are… don’t try this at home folks!  We don’t mark parts up that much, so our prices are still comparable to what you would pay.  Remember, laptop repair shops know where to look for the best deals better than the average person.  Just bring your laptop to us and we’ll handle the hassle that comes with laptop parts ordering…. and believe me, laptops are a hassle to fix.  Much more so than desktops.

Spyware & Virus Infections are Back, and Nastier than Ever

Yes folks, they’re back.  Just in time for the holidays!  Virus and spyware/malware activity has been very low over the past three months, but it’s picked back up again.

This new crop of virus and spyware infections looks a lot like their predecessors.  They disguise themselves as a security program or pc utility program, just like the other scareware programs we’ve seen.

Again, these are fake programs where the culprits try to get you to buy their “program”.  Don’t fall for the trick.  However, once these infections get in, they disable many of your computer’s functions, including internet access.

What makes these new infections so nasty is that they often plant files in your hard drive’s boot sector or partition.  This is a part of the hard drive you can’t see, but it controls the most basic startup processes.  In some cases, when you clean these out, it renders the whole boot sector useless and you can no longer boot into Windows.

Your data is not affected, but if this happens, you need to wipe the drive clean and reinstall Windows.  We had one such case this week.  Of course, we were able to save the data before wiping the drive, so the customer was okay in the end.

If you get one of these spyware or virus infections, we can help.  Visit our Saguaro PC Tech Website and Blog to learn more about the subject.

Preventive Maintenance – The key to Trouble-Free Computing and long life for your PC.

Proper PC Usage and Habits – General Guidelines to Keep Your PC Healthy

  • Install and run anti-virus and anti-spyware scans regularly (weekly is best).
  • Go to our “Resources” page where you can download some great free programs for this.
  • Make sure your virus and spyware programs are up to date! Update these programs weekly!
  • Run a windows cleanup utility to remove temporary files and other junk that can sap performance.
    We’ve got two great, free programs for this on our “Resources” page.
  • Defragment your hard drive monthly. This reorganizes your hard drive to keep in running efficiently, and prolong its life. Yes, we have a link to download a great free program for this too.
  • Run Windows Update when your system prompts you. Most of these are security updates, so these are very important.
  • Dust the inside of your computer. Get some canned air, open the side panel and blast away! This will avoid component damage from static electricity caused by dust.

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