Answers to 7 common questions about getting computer service

Deciding to have your computer professionally repaired may seem like the easiest option to solving the problem yourself, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something you shouldn’t worry about.

Data privacy, time and cost of services, and the severity of the problem are the most common topics of questions I receive from my readers when they decide to fix their computers.

Most of the more specific questions I’ve gotten over the years are below, along with my answers:

“I need access to my files RIGHT NOW! How do I take them off? Are they still there?

This is easily the most common, and completely understandable, question I get. No matter what your plans are regarding how or where to fix your computer, your important data is priority one.

I’m working on a whole set of tutorials for this exact task, but they’re not quite ready. In the meantime, the following brief explanation and links to useful information on other sites should help.

The most important thing to understand is that most computer problems do not impact saved files, like that resume you just finished updating, or that school paper you need for class tomorrow morning. So, apart from the relatively rare situation of a physical hard drive problem, your files are probably fine – just out of reach for the time being.

As for the “how to remove” part, most computer problems that restrict access to your files fall into two camps, each with its own solution:

If your computer is not completely disabled , try starting it in Safe Mode. Once there, you may even be able to use the computer temporarily, but if not, you can at least copy the files you need to a flash drive or disk so you can use them from another computer.

See How to Start Windows in Safe Mode for a tutorial if you’re new to this topic. It’s really easy.

If your computer won’t even boot into Safe Mode , or even turn on, you can disable your files, but you’ll need the help of another computer and a relatively inexpensive tool.

See How to Get Data Off an Old Hard Drive [How-To Geek] for help doing this. This isn’t particularly easy to do for a beginner, but it’s very possible if you follow the instructions I’ve linked to. A computer repair service will do this for you if you wish, for a price, of course.

“Is this problem fixable, or is it so bad that I will need a new computer?”

Obviously the answer to this question has almost 100% to do with the nature of the problem with the computer, something you probably don’t know yet as it hasn’t been looked at.

In general, though, most computer problems are solvable, meaning a new part and some repair time is more likely to result than the need for a new computer. Also, as I mentioned in my answer to the last question, it’s relatively rare for a computer problem to affect your files.

All of this said, and even if you don’t know the cause of the problem with your computer, there are usually some clues as to how serious the problem is and what the solution might be when all is said and done.

If you have some sort of computer but it’s turning on and Windows is at least trying to boot, there’s a decent chance it’s a software problem, not a hardware one. Software problems are easier to resolve and usually only involve some time with a computer repair technician.

If you have a laptop or desktop computer that won’t turn on or won’t turn on at all, you might be in luck and just need a new battery or power adapter. If that doesn’t work, you may be dealing with another kind of hardware issue, which means you may need a new computer. Unfortunately, these types of computers don’t have many replaceable parts.

If you have a desktop computer that won’t turn on , part of the hardware may be to blame, but most likely the individual piece of hardware can be replaced, fixing the problem.

If you’re up for it, we’ve got an extensive troubleshooting guide that can help you resolve, or even fix, an issue that’s preventing your PC from starting. See How to fix a computer that won’t turn on for more information.

Another thing to consider is the cost of repair versus the cost of a new computer. If your computer has a major problem, or you’ve been considering a new computer anyway, or maybe both, sometimes choosing not to get your computer fixed is a smart choice.

“How long will it take to fix this problem and how much might it cost?”

The answer to these questions depends almost entirely on the problem and is one of the first questions to ask any repair service you are considering doing business with.

See my Top Questions for Asking a Computer Repair Service for more information on those, and other related questions, that you need to make sure you get answered.

Also helpful here is my How to describe your problem to a PC Repair Professional guide. Knowing how to communicate the problem is the best way to get an accurate time and cost quote for services.

“What if they have to reinstall everything on my computer to fix it? Won’t I lose all my files?!”

Absolutely not. Backing up files is, or should be, the repair technician’s first priority when the computer shows up. Considering how important your files are, this should be one of the things you ask about, just to be sure.

Don’t get me wrong – if the problem caused you to lose some or all of your files, which is what happens with serious hard drive problems, then your files would not be available for saving. However, if your files can be backed up safely, they can and should be.

After your computer is fixed, even if a complete reinstall of Windows and software is required, you should be given a disk or flash drive with the files, or be told where the old files are saved on your computer.

“If I end up needing a new computer, do I lose my files or can they be transferred to my new computer?”

Yes, your files can be transferred from your old computer to your new computer. If you buy your new computer from the same place you fixed your old one, they may even do it for you for free.

If you want or need to do it, do it yourself, recent versions of Windows include something called Windows Easy Transfer which makes the process really easy. You can read more about this feature on Microsoft’s site here.

“Do computer repair technicians pry into files they find on a computer? I can’t imagine paying someone to violate my privacy!”

Has this ever happened? I guarantee you the answer is yes .

Is it a general problem? No I dont think so. I have owned and worked in computer repair shops for many years and have never seen a deliberate violation of privacy.

Short of choosing the best possible repair shop you can (see next question), and hoping that a great repair shop means honest business practices and a great staff, there is little you can do about this potential problem.

If you’re lucky enough to have full access to your files before you leave your computer, you can always copy your files to a flash drive or disk and then remove them from your computer. Honestly, though, you’re probably at greater risk of accidentally deleting something important than you are of being a victim of identity theft or a privacy breach.

“How do I choose which computer repair service to go with?”

This one is always difficult. You do a quick search and 25 places come up, all with different, sometimes conflicting, reviews.

This discussion got so big that it got its own piece! See my How to Decide Where to Take Your Computer for Repair for lots of help on what to do.

“I have a question you didn’t answer!”

I’d love to expand this FAQ section to include even more questions and answers about getting IT services.

See my Get More Help page for more information on how to contact me regarding your specific question, which I’ll be happy to include here for everyone else as well.