Hard Drive Problems/Repairs


I wasn't able to find a computer repair expert on this site so I'm hoping you can help me out. I submitted my Dell 2011 Inspiron computer to a local repair shop to see what fixing it might require based on some OS issues I was having and noises it was making. I am now worried they'll charge me more than the value of the computer to get it back into shape. What is standard practice for computer repair shops? They say they charge $55 an hour for work put in but their contract said nothing about partial hours and what activities are considered work from their end. If they reformated the hard drive, reinstalled windows, and did a scan of the hard drive to determine if sectors are damaged these processes can take time and do not warrent the technician being present ever second of the time I would think. Assuming replacing the vent fan and those scans and processes that they merely need to set into motion are all they really need to do which aspects are they ethically likely  to charge me for?

Hi James!

While MOST repair shops will NOT charge you for the time spent waiting for long NON-INTERACTIVE procedures to complete, there are those that might.  Certain operations that are interactive - requiring responses and attention, like certain tests and diagnostics, and installing the OS - will likely be billed per hour.  

For example:

Installing Windows 7:

- Boot to DVD, opening prompts for install, including partitioning, takes 1-3 minutes.
- Once you hit Install, the installation typically takes less than 15 minutes.
- Installing drivers can take 5-30 minutes, depending on the model and the necessary drivers, and is very interactive, requiring several reboots and applications to be run.
- Installing necessary programs (Flash, Adobe, etc.) may take 15-30 minutes.
- Installing Windows updates and can take hours, and while much of that time is waiting for updates to download and/or install, it is a somewhat interactive process, usually requiring 4-8 reboots to get things up to date.  This area might be a billing and/or time "padded" area for some repair shops, allowing them to tweak the time spent working on a system or tweak the billable time (giving it back to you faster or cheaper without all the updates applied, apply all updates for a few extra $$, etc.).

Laptops and all-in-ones are MUCH trickier to get into to swap parts, and often will have a different "billable" time for repair than a desktop.

Here is how it would probably break down:

- Replace fan - depends greatly on the model in question, but typically an hour of disassembly/assembly for the replacement, plus $10-30 for the fan unit part - 1 hour
- Scan disk (should be done before installing the OS) - 1 hour, non-interactive - probably billed for smallest billing unit (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, etc.), as it involves less than 5 minutes of a tech's time
- OS reinstall (OS, drivers, basic updates - flash, reader, critical updates, anti-virus, etc.) - this will likely represent a start-to-finish billing, as there are not significant pauses in the procedure - 2 hours

3.25 hours = $178.75

You could save some by checking the disk on your own - if it fails diagnostics (available from Dell), then you should replace it with a new one or purchase a disk from the shop so the disk scan is no longer necessary and should not be billed.

Installing Windows is also not too difficult for even a "lay" person to do, which could save you additional money.

I would not recommend trying to replace the fan inside of a laptop without training, which means you are looking at $70 minimum, $100 maximum.  I would question an estimate/bill that asked for more than $100 just for the fan repair.

If you are uncomfortable with their pricing and they can't answer your questions or address your concerns, then you should take it someplace else.  Just be sure to explain politely why you are choosing not to do business with them.  

Hard Drive Problems

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I can answer questions about server hardware RAID and general storage for servers and PC's - hard drive issues, troubleshooting, advice, specs, and information. While some apparent drive/RAID array failures can be recovered, I can only provide advice/recommendations in the event of catastrophic data loss. I don't assist in actually recovering from this type of data loss on this forum.


I worked as an analyst in Dell server support for 2 years, and have since worked with many Dell PowerEdge servers. I am currently employed as IT Manager. I am currently ranked in the top 5 All-Time in Server Hardware and Hard Drives in a very popular and large forum similar to AllExperts.

I have a BS in Computer Science and have earned the following certifications: CompTIA Security+, A+, Project+; CIW Web Design, Database Specialist; Microsoft Windows 7; Dell DCSE Server. I am also an expert in Windows 7, Servers, and Hard Drives (I don't normally do XP - not because I don't know it inside and out, but because I have "retired" personal support for XP, and I want to see it die :)).

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