Laptops: Repair or Replace?
When diagnosing PC laptop problems, looking at the cost to repair versus replacing is always a good idea before spending money on costly repairs. We're talking about parts and hardware here, not software. Software problems can usually be remedied by a competent technician and at the most, would require that the operating system and software be reinstalled. A hardware problem always requires that the laptop be taken apart, and depending on the repair, this can be take from an hour to several hours of labor, plus any parts costs, and some parts are expensive.
Remember though, if you repair a broken laptop, you will still have a laptop that is an older model and probably out of warranty. New laptops that have a lot of features, and the latest software, are available from $400 for a Windows based system. Mac laptops are start at about $1,000 and go up in price from there so the decisions are a little different for repair versus replace for Macs.
If your PC laptop can be repaired for less than 50% of the cost of replacing it, it's probably OK to repair if it's 1-2 years old. If your laptop is 3 years old or older, a replacement is probably better since there is a higher likelihood that you'll need to replace it within a few years. Laptops just take more wear and tear than desktops but I have seen some that have lasted 5-6 years.
Mac laptops are a different issue. If you're no longer under warranty, your labor is going to be the same for almost any repair, but the parts costs for Macs are usually higher than those for a PC, with the exception of the hard disk drive, which uses industry standard disk drives for Intel based Mac models.
If you can, get a diagnostic from a technician who can advise you on the best course of action. It's worth investing in a diagnostic call to see if your laptop can be repaired and to get an idea of the parts cost. Then you can make a smarter decision about repair versus replacement. (For netbooks, a replacement is always the best course, since they are almost non-repairable items).
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.
Here's a quick reference guide to some common laptop items and my recommendations for going ahead with the repair. It's not cast in stone however, and your decision will be based on the prices quoted from your local repair technician, which can vary quite a bit.
- 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. Do it? YES
- DC power jack. Sometimes the jack where the power adapter connects gets broken loose from the internal connections. The parts are usually inexpensive, but this requires that the laptop case be removed and replaced. Do it? YES
- 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 disassembly. 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
- LCD. If the LCD panel is not working, it could be either the graphics circuit on the mother board or the LCD. 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 disassembly to replace and repair this item so there is usually at least 2 hours or more or labor involved. Do it: NO, unless the laptop is less than 2 years old and a replacement would cost more than $1,000.
- 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 $200 an up and it's usually a better idea to replace the unit. Do it: NO, unless the laptop is less than 2 years old and a replacement would cost more than $1,000.
Prices for electronics usually come down in price and chances are you can get a better laptop for the same money you paid for yours, or even for less. Then you'll have a new one with the latest software (saving you upgrade costs) and a new warranty, along with better performance.