Is the computer repair business dead?



  • The answer seems obvious at first. Which is, yes it is, but then, no it's not.

    The simple paradox is that your average Walmart or Costco basic computer for $400-$500 bucks tends to last about 4 years or so before it's bogged down or could use a reload.

    But to do this business full time, or to even run a shop with a physical location, means you have to charge at a minimum $60/hr. People in my area charge more for doing in-home work, and more still for businesses. My friend charges $120/hr for computer repair/break fix/networking for any business. If you have a location and employees, you can hardly dip below $75/hr.

    The problem is obvious. Who wants to spend $60/hr on a $399 computer for in-home repair that could easily take a couple hours? These cheap computers are NOT fast! They come with hunky spinning rust 2TB drives that take 4.5 hours just to run a single malware or virus scan or check for bad sectors. It's almost impossible to do in home repair exceptionally well due to compromises like not being able to stay around for long running scans. I've had plenty of days where chkdsk took all day to scan, the.entire.day. Just to fix 2 sectors.

    Typically by the time I get a call by a frustrated person with computer troubles, they give me a sob story about they've paid $xx to this repair person and had to pay $yy for some other issues and THEN they had to get a new printer bla bla. I know people with $500 laptops who've spent over $1000 keeping the darn thing running over the years!

    It's almost not worth doing computer repair because it simply feels like a ripoff. It's like "here is what I will do for you...buy a new computer, I'll do a data transfer." We bypass troubleshooting, scanning, updating, fixing, reloading, whatever. It would take a couple hours and you end up with a new system instead of dropping cash down the toilet on the old one!

    My sister in law has one of these old Gateway laptops, around $600 new perhaps. They've replaced the keyboard twice, the entire LCD once, new battery, and another technician dropped the entire system and had to replace the mobo (their cost).
    To top it all off, the system has always been buggy and was bought at the time of Windows 8, not even 8.1. They've spent 2x or 3x the cost of the laptop in maintenance and it's their only computer.

    I'm not sure where this puts the industry, or how to solve the simple equation that as systems get cheaper and cheaper, but the cost of a repairman goes up and up, something has got to change.

    Should computer "people" refuse to work on or buy or recommend cheap computers and insist on custom or high end builds? This might give them a longer lasting system, or change the ratio of how much it's worth to fix.
    If I buy a $1000 car, I don't want to pay $100/hr to work on it! But if I buy a $50,000 car, it feels cheap to fix something for a few hundred bucks!

    One of the reasons I'm thinking about this is I'm trying to figure out if I want to promote computer repair as something my business will do, or if it's not worth it at the end of the day.
    Should I specialize and just build and support custom systems? <----- I've seen this style of business and it never seems to work out. The custom builds are still cheap cause people don't want to pay, and if they ever buy one batch of bad memory or mobos or something, they get a dozen clients with intermittent failures and it becomes a nightmare! For the life of the computer, everything is the builder's fault!

    Should I do in home repair or is it just not worth it in order to do full scans and really do a good job?
    Should I only promote break/fix for businesses only and make the rest pay out the ear? It's their choice after all.

    On one hand, not doing this would seem to leave money on the table. They will hire somebody! But I always feel like a ripoff working on the proverbial 8 year old $300 e-machines junker.

    I just wonder, is computer repair a dying business? And if so, how can aspiring entrepreneurs pivot this industry into something more useful for our business, and the end user.

    P.S. Geek Squad is who rips everybody off around my town! But I do see a lot of repair businesses come and go. Every other day somebody has a sign on their car "hire a geek" and "buy a nerd" and "rent a tweeb PC repair". They don't last.


  • Service Provider

    No, it is not worth it.

    The answer is to get people to stop saving stuff local and then it all just goes away.

    Tell people to buy a chromebook and a Dropbox subscription.


  • Service Provider

    I have a buddy that runs his own shop in a small town.

    Pretty much all he ever does is recover files or virus removal.

    He charges a flat rate of $85.

    He honestly doesn't care about making money as long as he pays his bills.

    He gets a machine in and tells the person he will have it done in 2-3 days.


  • Service Provider

    That business died long ago. In this era, we have solved this with backups, online storage, Chromebooks and such. Sure lots of people don't do things efficiently and will screw themselves and some have special needs. But there is no money here. Chromebooks are the top selling PC category and even buying PCs is rapidly diminishing. It's more than the cost of PCs changing.... its that's PCs are going away too.



  • Chromebooks are still niche. Most people have Windows PCs at home, and many will lose data or otherwise screw up their systems because someone in the family has been browsing dodgy websites. They often come to me for advice, which is if the computer is old and they have backups of their data then buy a new PC, if they don't go to one of a few repair shops in the town.

    There's no money in it, for sure. The biggest computer retail store in the UK offers a fixed rate repair, plus parts, for about $80. I normally tell people to go there.


  • Service Provider

    @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    Chromebooks are still niche.

    Top selling computer category in the US. Anything but niche.


  • Service Provider

    IT people tend to see PC as a much larger market player than it is because only those people keep going to IT people for support. The majority of the market has moved away from the PCs to tablets, phones, Chromebooks, Smart TVs and so forth... but they don't come to their IT people for support. So we don't see it.



  • Same reason why no one repairs inkjet printers. It's much cheaper and easier to buy a new instead.



  • Our local shop is still going after 10+ years but that's because he sells gaming too, console pc trading cards d&d etc.

    But yeah he has seen a drop in "repair" and custom build work as people just use Amazon ebuyer etc. But where he has seen a rise in business is mobile repair i.e screens.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    Chromebooks are still niche.

    Top selling computer category in the US. Anything but niche.

    Where do you read that? Everything I've read is that outside of schools Chromebooks still have a tiny market share in the US.

    I don't know a single person who owns one. I'd guess that 99% of my friends don't even know what one is.



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    Chromebooks are still niche.

    Top selling computer category in the US. Anything but niche.

    Where do you read that? Everything I've read is that outside of schools Chromebooks still have a tiny market share in the US.

    I don't know a single person who owns one. I'd guess that 99% of my friends don't even know what one is.

    My ideal system (if I could choose anything in the world for free and have it working 100% without issue) would be a decent Chromebook-type-system running Korora, with a decent external video card and ability to plug in to an external monitor when at home for gaming.

    For me that would be perfect and I wouldn't want anything else.



  • Home PC repair has been dead for a long time. I don't think many users use PCs for much anymore. Everything is done on a tablet or smartphone these days. I'd really like to see Android as a mainstream desktop OS in the future. I know remix is out there and I run Remix almost daily on as a VM, but it isn't efficient compared to Chrome OS. I have to give my android VM 3GB of RAM to get decent performance.



  • I think it's less computer repair and more advice now. It's really hard to beat a Chromebook for an average user provided they use the apps for their documentation. You would typically pay more for the repair than you would a new device.


  • Service Provider

    @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    Chromebooks are still niche.

    Top selling computer category in the US. Anything but niche.

    Where do you read that? Everything I've read is that outside of schools Chromebooks still have a tiny market share in the US.

    Where are YOU reading that? In US market reports and Amazon made a big deal that Chromebooks were the top sellers last year and maybe the year before. It was a big deal at the time. Now people have just accepted that Chromebooks are a massive market segment.

    IT people normally don't own them, it's mostly "normal" people. But now we are seeing IT people getting them, too. I used to only know a few people with them. Now practically everyone I know uses one or is planning to order one. I've had probably ten people this month tell me in person, not online, that they are switching to one.


  • Service Provider

    @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    I don't know a single person who owns one. I'd guess that 99% of my friends don't even know what one is.

    This is certainly not how it is here. I can't remember the last time you had to explain what a Chromebook was and basically everyone has used one.



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    I don't know a single person who owns one. I'd guess that 99% of my friends don't even know what one is.

    There are a lot of use cases for them. I used to work for a non-profit that helped people with developmental disabilities. Some just enjoy clicking on blinking colorful ads, so viruses became a big problem in the client computer lab. Chromeboxes were a great fit there.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @Carnival-Boy said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    I don't know a single person who owns one. I'd guess that 99% of my friends don't even know what one is.

    This is certainly not how it is here. I can't remember the last time you had to explain what a Chromebook was and basically everyone has used one.

    I only know one person who uses one regularly, but a few people who own them.

    If you're just a web surfing, facebooking normie, then a chromebook is for you. I don't have many close associates that fit that mold. Even the more normal/non techie types here in my office typically have a need for something a bit more - like connecting their computer to their sewing machine, etc.



  • The local repair guy in my town doesn't even try to fix computers. I've been told by others that his services are terrible for computers, but is excellent at fixing cracked phones as most people are normally clumsy or careless. He also does game console repairs and trades. Calls himself "TxNerd". I don't put much stock into the business as has been said, that industry died long ago. You will starve going into repair business.

    I've considered going into business-side services, such as an MSP, but also understand that the problem with this industry is that nobody wants to pay after services have been rendered. Therefore, either I'll consult and give advice or I'll be hired full time as an IT pro. Or, do a startup in something that nobody else has ever thought of, but that is becoming ever increasingly difficult.

    20 years ago, Amazon didn't exist. Now they are a giant in a number of different industries. Google didn't exist 25 years ago, and now we're using their products, such as search engines, storage, phones, TVs, computers (chromebooks), etc. Just depends on what you can think up and how soon you can get it to market before the next person.


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    20 years ago, Amazon didn't exist.

    Actually they did :)


  • Service Provider

    What's important about both Amazon and Google is that they essentially entered the market the first day that the market existed. Not quite, but almost. They were in the first few days of the Internet when people were scrambling to make businesses fast enough to leverage the new media. What's REALLY interesting is how no one has arisen to compete with them in the decades since. All of the major players were formed before the Internet was even commonly available at home. Most people hadn't gotten access to see the Internet yet when these companies formed. Anyone who got in later, didn't make it.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @NerdyDad said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    20 years ago, Amazon didn't exist.

    Actually they did :)

    Okay, for like 2 years. July 5, 1994. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon.com


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @NerdyDad said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    20 years ago, Amazon didn't exist.

    Actually they did :)

    Okay, for like 2 years. July 5, 1994. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon.com

    That's three years in two weeks. And 23 is mathematically significantly older than <20. 15% or more.



  • I dont even know what a Chromebook is.



  • http://www.cio.com/article/3194883/computers/chromebook-shipments-surge-by-38-percent-cutting-into-windows-10-pcs.html
    I don't know how reliable that report is, but you're talking about 10M vs 270M units. Chromebooks are growing fast, but they are far from top selling. Niche still applies.


  • Service Provider

    @marcinozga said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    http://www.cio.com/article/3194883/computers/chromebook-shipments-surge-by-38-percent-cutting-into-windows-10-pcs.html
    I don't know how reliable that report is, but you're talking about 10M vs 270M units. Chromebooks are growing fast, but they are far from top selling. Niche still applies.

    Sorry, should have said, top selling category for consumers. Business is still the majority of PC purchases, by a massively growing margin, it's only for consumers that Chromebooks are doing so well. And it was Amazon that was making the biggest deal about it.




  • Service Provider

    @marcinozga said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    I don't know how reliable that report is, but you're talking about 10M vs 270M units. Chromebooks are growing fast, but they are far from top selling. Niche still applies.

    It's not 10M vs. 270M. There are two issues. One is that they are calling the 270M the PC shipment market, but are including non-PCs like Chromebooks in that number. So we dont' know what all it includes but we definitely know that all Windows, Mac and Linux desktops and laptops are in that number.

    So it is 10M out of 270M, not 10M vs. 270M. And it includes categories of gear, like desktops, for which Chromebooks essentially do not exist. They have the Chromebox but no one is actively making one, just old stock. They are currently only really shipping in the netbook category.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    @marcinozga said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    I don't know how reliable that report is, but you're talking about 10M vs 270M units. Chromebooks are growing fast, but they are far from top selling. Niche still applies.

    It's not 10M vs. 270M. There are two issues. One is that they are calling the 270M the PC shipment market, but are including non-PCs like Chromebooks in that number. So we dont' know what all it includes but we definitely know that all Windows, Mac and Linux desktops and laptops are in that number.

    So it is 10M out of 270M, not 10M vs. 270M. And it includes categories of gear, like desktops, for which Chromebooks essentially do not exist. They have the Chromebox but no one is actively making one, just old stock. They are currently only really shipping in the netbook category.

    Does the category really matter?

    and why don't you think that a new wave of Chromeboxes have hit and taken off? Are non mobile computers a dead thing for consumers? (I do think they are pretty much dead for the average consumer - they'd rather have a laptop that they can use anywhere in the house.)


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    and why don't you think that a new wave of Chromeboxes have hit and taken off? Are non mobile computers a dead thing for consumers?

    Outside of gaming, yes. When is the last time you knew of home users buying desktops? It still happens, but it is rare. Gamers are the last big hold out. Chomebooks entered the market just as the desktop market was dying. Everyone that I know that moved to Chromebooks ALSO moved away from desktops around the same time. Coincidence, I'm sure, but that is where the market is. Outside of gaming, it is rare that anyone needs much power. The idea of power users at home is quickly waning.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said in Is the computer repair business dead?:

    (I do think they are pretty much dead for the average consumer - they'd rather have a laptop that they can use anywhere in the house.)

    My take is a little different - that they don't want a dedicated space to work on a computer. Similar, but slightly different driver as to why it happens. It's less, I feel, a desire towards mobility and more a desire towards not having anything in the house that reminds them of a work environment. I'm different, I have a desktop that I'm on now, and a Chromebook for moving around the house. But that's not why most people do it. I think, anyway.


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