Computer Technicians Put To Test

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It's a simple process we do every day.  But when you turn your computer on and something's not right, you know right away.

There are plenty of options to get computers fixed for a price, Consumer 10's Chuck Strickler reported.

Consumer 10 asked 10TV's IT guy, Josh Waibel, to create a simple problem on a laptop computer.  He changed one setting in what's called the BIOS - a key program that ties together all hardware on the computer.  It is an easy fix in about 30 seconds for someone who knows what he or she is doing, Strickler reported.

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"This is definitely something you can find out while you're doing your diagnostics or troubleshooting," Waibel said.

So we thought.  Consumer 10 sent a producer to take the disabled laptop to a Circuit City and its Firedog service.

Only a few questions were asked as the producer handed over the computer for a diagnostic analysis, a full computer check to pinpoint the problem.

Our producer left the business in less than 15 minutes and with a $64.04 bill.  Firedog promised an answer in a week but the call never came.  Consumer 10 finally had to call to find out that the problem was supposedly fixed.

When our producer turned the laptop on at the store, the same error message was seen, Strickler reported.

"The hard drive is working correctly.  Your operating system is fried on it, though," said the technician.  "The operating system is essentially dead."

The technician said it would cost an additional $130 to reinstall the operating system.

The same computer with the same problem was taken to Best Buy's Geek Squad.

"Looking at this, (the problem is) probably the hard drive or motherboard - one of the two," the technician said.

The diagnostic test cost $62.98.  Our producer was out the door in less than 10 minutes with a few questions asked.  The Geek Squad requested our producer to return with the computer's Windows disc.  Once there, the technician began looking at the hard drive.

The tech said he heard a clicking sound.

"It just clicked and that's usually an indicator that the hard drive's bad," the technician said.  He said that he would perform the diagnostic test again at no charge.

Two days later, the Geek Squad called and said the laptop had a bad hard drive.

 "It's clicking - making some weird sounds - which is not a good thing," the technician said.

Waibel said hat he did not hear any clicking on the laptop he doctored for our test.

To fix, the tech suggested installing an $80 hard drive, $39 for the hard drive installation, $129 for the operating system installation.

Waibel said that the technician suggested other services for a lot more money that were not really needed  -  and the proposed fix may not even have fixed the problem.

Consumer 10 then went to Micro Center.

Of the three businesses Consumer 10 checked, the Micro Center worker spent the most time with our producer - about 20 minutes - and asked many specific questions about the problem, and had our producer take notes.

Although the diagnostic charge was higher, at $74.67, the computer was picked up a few days later with everything back to normal.

"(The repair) hinges on all the right questions," Waibel said.  "When you're troubleshooting to figure out what's going on, you should hit on this really quick."

Micro Center said that the company was excited that their technician correctly found and fixed the problem.

Circuit City said that its technician did not follow the proper procedures and was therefore not able to diagnose the problem.  The company would not elaborate on what procedures the tech did not follow.  It said that it "will take appropriate action based on the results of our continuing investigation."

Best Buy told Consumer 10 that "we should have detected this problem.  This is our error, and our service guarantee would ensure resolution of the problem to the customer's satisfaction."

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