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You’ve just been told that your computer’s hard drive has failed and that you need a new one.

In addition, some more RAM may not be a bad idea, as your system was starting to run pretty sluggish.

So, should you repair that computer or replace it with a new one?

With computers being so cheap these days, it may seem like a no brainer to replace your aging system with a new one.  And that may be the right answer.  You get a faster system, newer operating system, and a system that is fully covered under warranty.

However, there are often hidden costs with replacing your system and “upgrading”.

It’s really important that you completely understand the pros and cons of both repairing and replacing your computer before you make a decision.

A Typical Repair Bill

Let’s first look at the costs of a typical repair involving a failed hard drive (HD) which is not covered under an existing warranty:

Item Cost
Assessment / Diagnostic $ 60 – 100
Replacement HD, 5 year warranty $ 100 – 150
Data Recovery* $ 0 – $$$
Windows Re-installation w/ all drivers, Antivirus, Email configuration, and recovered files re-integrated** $ 150
Additional on-site support including configuration of printers & networking etc. $ 60 – 100
RAM upgrade + ? $ ?
Total, assuming a reasonable average $ 350


*let’s pretend you’ve read our article on backing up your computer and all your critical files are safe and sound on a backup drive / cloud service.  If you have not, this could range anywhere from a 1 hr charge to several thousand dollars (depending on the nature of the drive failure).

**don’t forget, you must create your own recovery disks or have your factory restore disks or your original Windows / Mac media which matches your Product Key.  Otherwise, a $20+ charge and several days delay may apply.

A New Computer

If you’ve followed our 2013 Computer Buying Guide then I am HOPING that you’ve avoided buying that $300 bargain basement computer.

If this is for personal consumption then a Dell Vostro @ $500 may work nicely.

If this is for a business application, I would not consider anything less that a Dell OptiPlex or a Precision workstation.

Let’s consider the following scenario:

Item  Cost
Assessment / Diagnostic $ 60 – 100
Dell Vostro 470 $ 650
Data Recovery* $ 0 – $$$
Additional on-site support including configuration of printers & networking etc. $ 60 – 100
Office 2013 or Office 365 (because your old copy of Office is no longer compatible)*** $ 249
New peripherals (because your old ones are no longer compatible with Windows 8) $ ?
Employee Retraining (Microsoft claims users will take 6 weeks to adapt or see here.)**** $ ??
The pure joy of using Windows 8 priceless
Total, assuming a reasonable average $ 1000+


***Don’t forget, that new copy of Office 2013 is ONLY VALID FOR THE ONE COMPUTER YOU’VE ACTIVATED IT ON.  No more transfers to the new system for you!

****I truly don’t know how much Windows 8 is going to cost the average business in lost productivity.  With the massive integration with Twitter, FaceBook, live mail feeds, live news feeds, blinking lights, flashing banners, hidden charms panels, and the plethora of generally distracting and annoying elements I expect to see significant losses in employee productivity and a general increase in time theft.

You should also consider that there is an adjustment period while you re-configure your various preferences and the small nuances that make your computer a personal computer.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, it comes down to the economics of the situation and your own personal objectives.

Don’t forget that there are some common line items in your repair vs. replace bill: The Assessment / Diagnostic fee, the data recovery costs, and the setup / reconfiguration of your system usually apply, regardless of whether you are repairing or replacing your computer.

For those on a budget or for those who really like their current system (because, when it was working, it worked nicely and did everything they needed it to do) then repairing might be the way to go.

I like new systems because they have a full warranty and ALL parts are new.

An old computer with a new hard drive has a fresh lease on life and may last for years to come. And a GOOD replacement hard drive usually last longer than the stock one that comes with new [entry level] computers.

But then again, a few months down the road, the power supply could fail. And that new copy of your antivirus needs more RAM to operate nicely. And that website you visit requires Internet Explorer 10, which you can’t install because your Operating System is still Vista (or XP).

And so it goes.

What you must evaluate is if the actual cost (and the associated pain) to replace your computer is preferable to the cost of repairing it. This greatly depends upon your desire to do the work necessary to get your new computer to look and behave like your old computer or to be open to adapting to the new Operating Systems on the market.

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding your computer or computing solutions.

Do you have any repair horror stories?  Did you replace your system instead of repairing?  Let us know!


Question via Contact Form:

What do you recommend I should do with my printer? It is an Epson Workforce 600 that no longer picks up the paper and the print outs no longer look right.

Answer: If you have a regular inkjet printer (i.e., not a high end production printer) then I would perform the absolute basics when it comes to “fixing” the printer. Run your printer’s maintenance routines and maybe check out Under no circumstances would I call in a repair technician. They will only laugh at you for buying a cheap inkjet printer.

Inkjet printers are a complete scam. The printers are almost given to customers (only $20 with the purchase of a new computer!). Yeah, that’s because they bend you over the barrel when it comes to replacement cartridges or, God forbid, ink refills (see: Doing The Math on Refilling Ink Cartridges or Inkjet Refill Racket for some great insight into refilling ink cartridges).

Save yourself grief and buy a decent laser printer. Brother makes some nice, affordable printers, that I am sure will fit into any home or small business. Toner cartridges are ~$90 but last for years.

And for those that desperately want color prints: send your photos to a print lab like London Drugs or Walmart or your local photo shop. The quality will always be better than whatever you can get on your own. They use proper paper and proper inks, and can run off a thousand prints in less time than it takes you to get halfway through your first print (only to discover that you are out of Cyan – argh!).

And cost-wise, it’s a no-brainer… $0.20 a print? Peanuts.

(Actually, we found a neat hack when using Walmart. We upload our prints and then select “pickup at local store”… and then select the local store closest to whichever relative we are going to send the pictures – free shipping =) ).

And for those that want the odd print for that report cover… send the job to your local copy shop. They have easy upload / email options and charge a nominal fee for a great, laser color print.

Seriously, ditch the ink jet printer and enjoy superior print outs at a fraction of the cost.

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