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Here’s what bugs me about our industry – there’s no real certification process. Anybody who wants to can hang out a sign (or website) that says “Computer Repair” and – presto! You’re officially a computer repair person. Unlike doctors, lawyers, accountants, HVAC companies, and pretty much any other reputable industry, computer repair is not regulated by anyone so there is a wide range of quality between one computer repair guy and the next.

I thought about this yesterday when I was talking with someone about setting up Computer Troubleshooters in the Philippines. Like entrepreneurs in most new countries he was telling me how most of the computer repair industry there today is dominated by independent guys who charge very little and whose quality of computer service is very unpredictable. I told him that here in the US our situation is very similar, and that in fact there are three types of computer repair companies here. Let’s talk about those three types.

First there are what I would call the “quickie” techs. These are usually (but not always) the computer repair services you find inside large stores. In many cases these are salespeople who have been trained to perform a handful of rudimentary technical tasks, including “wiping” a machine (removing all software, including the operating system) and reloading it from scratch. Hopefully if they are doing things correctly they remember to back up your data before they do this, but we do hear horror stories way too often from when they skip this step and critical files, photos, and data is lost forever.

The truth is that there is some merit in the “quickie” approach to computer repair. It’s easy – you don’t need an expensive, highly experienced technician to do it, so in theory your costs should be lower (though judging by what most big stores charge for computer repair you would not think this was the case). It’s also predictable – the outcome is the same every time. This is the one method that is pretty much guaranteed to solve all virus, spyware, data corruption, and other software-based issues. The downside is that someone (often the customer) must reinstall all their applications again, hope their data was backed up properly, and generally spend way too much time trying to get things back to the way they were before the repair. But being easy and predictable you can understand why many large department stores choose to go this way.
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