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Tales of Remote Laptop Repair

Written in 2014 when I had 3 daughters at University, and laptop repair long distance was not an easy thing to do. I muddled through it, and in the end, I had quite the Laptop Boneyard of spare parts.

Last week my youngest daughter called to say that her laptop computer was in distress, and was not working, due to the batter being dead, and the charging unit unable to charge it. This continues the family tradition of:

By the end of the 2nd University year, all laptops will crash or become  unusable at a time when an important assignment must  be completed, which results in the purchase of a replacement computer either immediately, or shortly after that time.

Big Cajun Man – Rules of Technology – 2014

I kid you not. That is precisely what has happened to all 3 of my daughters. The first two laptops were HP (I wrote about my oldest daughter’s problems in Student Computer Safety), and this last one is a Dell. All three have had issues with the charging unit, the system overheating and/or hard disk crashes (i.e. the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). The problem is that portable computing is now “table stakes” for most University Students (unfortunately), so (for now) a laptop computer is a necessary (expensive) evil.

Old Laptop
A Rehabilitated formerly dead Laptop from the “Big Cajun Man Laptop Graveyard”

I ended up having to buy another Dell Laptop to send my daughter back to school with, and after some judicious “Dad’s I.T.” wizardry, I was able to extract all the essential data from the laptop’s hard drive.

I am now left with a “dead” laptop however, Costco is now “fixing” the broken computer (thanks to their Concierge warranty which doubles the typical 1-year warranty for most computers), but the methodology to make the “fix” happen is quite puzzling (to me). I had to call someone who took down all the details of what transpired (and verified I had bought this PC at Costco). Once it was determined that the computer needed fixing (which seemed obvious to me, but I had to convince the person on the other end of the phone), the young lady said the PC would be serviced and I would receive a Box very soon.

The Box arrived and shipped via Purolator to the house (naturally left at the front door, without ringing the doorbell). This magical Box was padded with styrofoam, but it had tear away so that the computer fit in it properly. The box also included a whole bunch of documentation for me to fill in, and finally, it included a pre-paid packing label (for Purolator) to put on the box.

I filled in all forms, my wife made sure the computer fit in the box, and we included all the requested documentation(that we could find). We taped the Box shut, put the shipping label on it, and took it to the Purolator drop-off site, and away it went. It is now whisking off to a repair place in Toronto that will hopefully fix the computer and then ship it back to me (presumably by Purolator).

My only question is, how can this be cost-effective?!? I suppose it must be, or Costco wouldn’t do it this way (they seem to be a brilliant retailing firm), but it leaves me scratching my head (and hoping to see a Purolator truck showing up at the house soon). Other retailers follow this model, so it must be that they have very cheap rates with the courier companies and a well-negotiated support contract with whoever is fixing the computers.

Assuming the machine can be fixed, I now have a 3rd laptop to add to the “Big Cajun Laptop Graveyard”.  I  point out that this piece was written on one of those formerly derelict computers (picture above).

Other Back to School Thoughts?

Feel Free to Comment

  1. University hardware solution: They get a used lenovo 440 with an SSD drive. Those machines are the volvo’s of the laptop world, dirt cheap, and last forever.
    Software solution: Call too many times for software support and you get put on ubuntu linux. I put my mom on linux many years ago and have not had a single tech support call since :).

  2. Just for balance, my toshiba laptop bought in 2008 is still running strong. Only thing I ever needed to do was buy a new battery/charger set for it, as the old charger died and the battery would only hold a charge for about 40 minutes by 2013. Completely normal behavior for batteries, by the way.

  3. I have had a similar experience to Greg with my Mac Air. No problems in 4 years. I wanted to get an Apple PC but with the big screen – everything in its about $2,500 – hard to justify.

  4. I think this just goes to show that Windows PCs aren’t good value. They are inexpensive to start with but are problematic, not durable, and cost more in the long run. My university daughter is still using the $1200 Mac laptop (twice what the cheapest laptop cost at the time) she bought in high school 6 years ago, it runs just as fast with subsequent OS upgrades. She runs it all the time on battery and it still holds a 6 hour charge. We’ve got even older iMacs at home and they are still running great and can handle upgrades to OSs many years newer than the hardware. My experience is a Windows upgrade almost certainly requires a RAM upgrade and often effectively a whole new computer.

    I think twice about being suckered by the Apple hype, but Consumer Reports surveys back up my impression that they make durable quality PCs and laptops.

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