Tales from the Tech Trenches: A Coworker and Her Motherboard

Motherboard Caps

A Technibble forum member has shared one of his experiences as a Computer Technician with us and the lessons he learned along the way. Due to the public nature of this article the technician wishes to remain anonymous. This is his tale from the tech trenches.

Anonymous Writes:
A co-worker of mine has an HP a6663 she bought in December 2008 and used until January 2010, when she asked for help. The symptoms she verbally described were merely those of Spyware. I agreed to fix the problem for $60 thinking it was only Spyware, but when I got there it would hang solid, Blue Screen of Death as well as sometimes fail to POST. In addition to it being so loaded with Spyware it would take 35 minutes to boot (when it worked).

I didn’t really want to open the computer or do much for the $60, but I did agree to fix the problem and I also know that she would not be able to tell the difference between symptoms caused by bad hardware from those caused by Spyware. I knew she would not consider the computer repaired even if I had removed all the spyware, because it would still freeze and crash.

When I started work, I presumed it would boot fast enough to backup my co-workers information and then I could run the HP recovery utility (in the worst case scenario – if the standard Spyware cleanup tools don’t work) and copy the information back onto the system. It became apparent this wasn’t the case. When it did boot, little things like the extensions to .zip were broken and 20+ toolbars/desktop-bars were installed. Windows was foobared enough to not be able to copy files!

It would freeze solid, so I knew it was a hardware problem that must be resolved first. I tested it with Memtest 86+ which it passed. It then hung on POST; again, I knew it is a hardware problem. Anyway, I tried Bart PE to copy the information off but it didn’t see the hard drive for more than a few seconds each time I booted it.

I decided to try CHKDSK on Windows PE which took about 5 tries to boot without crashing, so I knew something was terribly wrong. None the less, I pressed on and it fixed 20,000+ NTFS errors which made me question whether the hard drive was good. In my experience usually a drive is bad when CHKDSK has errors scroll for 10 minutes.

I opened the case and pulled the drive to make a backup of the data first in case it died during diagnostics. Then I ran the Western Digital Diagnostics which it passed. The computer was out of warranty anyway and the drive was never covered by Western Digital being a HP provided part. When I opened the case, I saw bulging capacitors and knew that was the culprit.

1. I called the user back and told her I got her data and that the drive itself is fine, so no need to buy a new one.

2. I explained that the computer is out of Warranty from HP, which is BAD because it needs a new motherboard due to bulging capacitors.

3. I contacted HP and they would NOT send me the part. They wanted me to send the computer in with $200 to diagnose the problem, which I already knew was bulging capacitors. They said if it needed a new motherboard then expect the total to run up to $400. I asked/begged them to sell me a replacement motherboard but they refused, insisting that part is ONLY serviceable by an HP repair center.

4. I searched on the Internet and eBay for a replacement board and did not find anything for this model.

5. I then packaged the motherboard up properly in anti-static wrap & packing material in a Priority Mail box and addressed it to be sent to Badcaps.net for recapping. I had my co-worker sign a form saying she would pay for the re-capping and that I am not responsible if the recapping does not work.

The recapping will be an extra $80 paid directly to BadCaps.net of which I will take on $60 (full payment of my labor agreed upon) risk. Basically saying, if it doesn’t work you still pay for the re-capping, but I won’t bill you for any of the labor up to this point.

6. I later get chewed-out by co-worker that the $20 shipping is expensive (I forced her to send it Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation) mainly because it only gets handled for two days and has some tracking in addition to a properly sized, free box. I simply told her to mail it herself with HER return address and call me when the part arrives.

7. I find out from BadCaps.Net she doesn’t have a PayPal account to pay the $80 for the recapping, so I made the payment and printed the PayPal receipt for reimbursement.

At this point, I am at 3 hours of work and $80. I have also made two trips – one to do the initial work presuming it was just spyware and 100% user stupidity and take the drive for backup (as well as write down all the serial numbers for warranty lookups), and the other trip to package the motherboard up for shipping after I figured out what to do.

8. She called me that the board came in and to come over. I arrive at the scheduled time and she wasn’t home. $^&*(%!!!

9. I re-schedule the call out. I arrive and inspect the motherboard; it looks fabulously repaired! I install it and cross my fingers that it will POST and be okay after having like 20 caps replaced. Everything works, no hangs, no freezes, etc.

10. I go through the HP recovery process, Windows Updates, install her Microsoft Office, setup her Internet access, install her printer, install her scanner and create her icons. I install Security Essentials and Firefox (because it is more like IE than Chrome and safer for home users than IE).

11. Reload her data from backup.

12. Configure Windows backup and teach her how to backup her data.

The job was done in 3 trips, 4 hours total work and 1 hour research checking warranties and places to get it re-capped in addition to $80 of my own to pay for the capacitor repair.

  • I never changed the original estimate from $60 and the travel cost of $9.
  • I never charged travel on more than one trip, yet there were three.
  • I did not charge for getting the packaging material (I bought), time getting the Priority Mail box and getting an anti-static bag – all of which took probably an hour, some travel and $5.

Then she says, “Can I pay you in installments?”

Me (not really caring; since, I am asking for so little): “Sure, go for it. Do you have the first payment now and how much?”

Her: “We get paid at work next week.”

Me: “Okay.”

Her: “Can I have an invoice?”

Me: “I hand her an Invoice for $60 labor, $9 travel, and $80 for the re-capping.”

Pay Day comes around and I don’t say anything hoping she will pay pro-actively. I wait two days and send another invoice.
She then tells me at work she has an installment of $80 as repayment for the portion of the BadCaps.net recapping. I took it, so I am at least at the break-even point except for my time and fuel running around.
I mailed a receipt showing that I put it toward that and now she owes on the $60 labor and $9 travel. Two weeks later we got paid again, so I asked about it and she paid me the $69.

What I learned

1. Simple jobs aren’t always simple when there are multiple problems.

2. Don’t quote a fixed cost and stick to it even as other problems crop up.

3. Don’t work for co-workers.

4. Never buy (and try not to avoid working on) a computer that doesn’t have a good source of original, spare parts.

What I should have charged

1. $80 for the Recovery (not $60 for Spyware removal)

2. $20 for the Hard Drive Diagnostics & Motherboard Diagnostics (bad caps)

3. For packaging/shipping materials (aside for the free Priority Mail box)

4. $80 up front before sending it for re-capping, not after.

5. $60 to cover the backup/restore

6. $40 to clean the dust & remove/install the motherboard… should have charged something for that trip.

7. Travel for all three trips at $9 each.

8. I should have charged at least $20 installing the AV, Anti Spyware, Office, updates, etc.

9. I should have charged at least $20 for setting up the backup & teaching her to use it.

10. Should have charged maybe $20 per device i.e. Internet, Printer, Scanner

I wasn’t doing this job for the money; I looked at is as doing a favor for a friend that just wasn’t totally free. I was doing it to help out and wanted to make sure she was not over-charged. I merely quoted $60 because I don’t want the word getting around that I will do favors and to discourage her from asking for repeat favors.

The original idea of mine was that I would take care of her Spyware issues, get everything running smoothly in an hour and then train her with some basic knowledge to leave her feeling good with high esteem and some basic knowledge to prevent reoccurrence. I planned to be done fixing the problem in under an hour then stay around just long enough to make her feel she got “added” value beyond fixing a computer.

That said, I never expected this little job to turn into a big project involving research, paper-work, invoicing, receipts, appointments, a missed appointment, shipping, packaging, multiple trips, multiple warranty checks, visual observation/diagnostics of the motherboard, memory diagnostics, data recovery, drive diagnostics, restore backup, updates, training, backup configuration, printer, scanner, Internet, software installation and loan of money via a PayPal payment to re-cap the motherboard.

The entire time, I never budged on my quote because I felt I had a commitment and that she was a friend, but I should have either charged more or known when to walk away from the job.

I also wanted to keep the price very low because I knew she was far more underpaid than I am at work. She probably gets paid $1 for every $3 I get, and I felt for her situation since she just bought the computer 14 months ago. I knew if I didn’t fix it, anywhere she took it they would have quoted astronomical prices higher than those listed that I should charge. I knew if I didn’t fix it, she would have no choice but to buy a new computer.

A retail shop would have run into the same problems I did, have to make the same diagnosis or possibly make a miss misdiagnosis. They would also have a problem not being able to buy a motherboard from HP. Even if they could source one, they would probably charge $150 to $200 for it plus its installation.

Although we don’t forget how important it is to look after people (especially friends and family), we often forget to look after ourselves – that is the lesson I learned.

By the way, it has been over a year and she told me at work that the computer is still running great. She said it actually works better than new because it would sometimes hard-freeze a couple of times a month after the first few months of ownership. It has been rock-solid, stable and reliable since the new capacitors.

Do you have your own tale from the Tech Trenches you would like to share with us? Please send it here.



Bryce Whitty

About the Author

Bryce Whitty
More articles by me...
Bryce is an Australian computer technician and the founder of Technibble. He started his computer repair business when he was 17 years old and is still running it 9 years later. He is an avid traveller and spends at least a month of the year in another country.

Comments (45)

  • Jon Geier says:

    Bryce,

    I’ve been in these situations many time with my friends and family. In all aspects of computer repair it’s easy to over commit based on assumptions of common issues. It can get frustrating and sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re being taken advantage of. But as you state, it was a matter of over promising on our own parts. And it does feel nice to help people who can least afford it especially considering how much the big box stores charge. In the long run though I make good money doing computer repair. Jobs like these get balanced out. And you should feel proud of yourself for being such a giving person.

    Jon

  • NETWizz says:

    It take credit for the story (Bryce is a great editor), and it is something I will remember forever… I was uncomfortable keeping her waiting for parts; since, it kept the project open for a a long time. i.e. I was committed to re-assembly of the computer I tore apart and had to work other plans around that. Thanks for keeping me anonymous… though my Internet UserID is fine to share :-)

    I hope other people learn from this story. My general rule of thumb is to refuse all side-work because often the request is made solely out of wanting to save money avoiding the big-box stores… I fear that refusal to help may drive these people to Craig’s List for a Pizza Tech who creates more problems than he/she solves or possibly even commits crimes such as identity theft (or steals personal photos). For a friend or family member, I would still never say “NO.” The same is the case for a co-worker who is truly at her witt’s end, especially when I think I can easily help with little effort on my part.

    • required says:

      It take credit for the story Thanks for keeping me anonymous… though my Internet UserID is fine to share :-)

      Hey Mr.J you do realize that because you have associated your real name with your UserID on many many sites around the internet, all it takes is one search to find out your name, don’t you?… Just a heads up, for future reference

    • bluenova32 says:

      The first mistake you made was assuming that the board was made by the manufacturer of the computer. Almost 95% of all brand name computers do not manufacture there mainboards. And 90% of the time, you can find the Model # of the actual manufacturer printed on the Mainboard! But the best way to
      identify a mainboard is through the BIOS ID which is seen during boot-up if the logo splash screen is disabled. To find out what this cryptic 1’s and 0’s mean, you can go to http://www.motherboard.org for details. If there is a model # on the mainboard that doesn’t seem to be related to the name on the
      front of the computer. Do a Google search and you should find the actual maker of the Mainboard.
      Spending $80 plus $20 for shipping, is not cost-effective way to fix a mainboard. Since the mainboard more than likely costs around $60 new. In most cases, if you spend over $100 online at a website like http://www.newegg,com, the shipping is free. For the same price You could have bought a new
      mainboard and DVD burner, received it sooner, and for the same price it cost for the repair.

  • Jason says:

    This strikes me as someone who isn’t confident in their abilities to talk to the customer. It was $60 to remove malware once you saw it was way more then that you should of contacted the customer explain what you found and give her a quote. Let her decide whether or not it’s worth the cost. If she said ‘No’ being a co-worker I probably wouldn’t of charged a diagnosis fee (assuming I only worked on it for 10mins) and just brought it back to work and been done with it. I always like using a mechanic analogy, if you’re cars running rough and you bring it in for a tune-up and afterwards the car is still have issues…do you expect the mechanic to try to fix it for the same price as a tune-up or give you some sort of discount because a tune-up didn’t fix the problem? Hell no!

    • NETWizz says:

      She wasn’t a customer… She was a co-worker. Had it been someone else, I probably would have charged more. That said… you are right – I should have charged more.

  • Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy says:

    What a nightmare! Sometimes you have to learn your lessons the hard way. As long as you take those lessons and really stick to them, issues like these can be great learning opportunities.

    First time I’ve ever heard of “bulging capacitors”. Never ran into that before, but good thing to know!

    Matt
    http://www.yfncg.com

    • Bryce Whitty says:

      For your reading pleasure. My experience years ago with bulging caps: http://www.technibble.com/the-issue-is-not-always-what-it-seems-my-humbling-experience/

      • NETWizz says:

        I would have suspected the same thing… Video Drivers.

        I would have been tapping F8, selected “VGA Mode” then right-clicked the Video Card in the device manager selecting “Rollback.”

        Obviously, when this made no difference, or there was no roll-up because the driver was never updated to begin with, I would then start looking into the hardware like you did.

        I think you did a good job. 90% of the time when I see this problem it was because Windows Update installed a newer driver that it thought was compatible with the card… when it wasn’t.

        In those cases, I just rolled-back… then I looked for a correct updated driver. If there wasn’t one, I would go into Windows Update and HIDE the driver that doesn’t work, so it doesn’t get installed again.

        … Great find on that one, Bryce… Totally unexpected.

      • Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy says:

        Intereseting. You know I’ve probably repaired computers where a bulging cap was the problem, but I never knew it. I just replaced the component that wasn’t working and went on my merry way.

        • LiamTek says:

          Step 1 upon taking in a computer is to look for bad caps. Normally I will do it while the customer is there still. Step 2 is blowing out all the dust.. for that I wait till the customer is gone..

          LiamTek

    • bobbing says:

      Bulging caps are a very common problem. You must be new to computer repairs. Damn near every electronic device I have repaired had bulging or leaky caps.

      • Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy says:

        I’ve been at it for about ten years. I may have replaced motherboards in which that was the culprit, but never heard of it before today. There’s always something new to learn in this field!

      • Bryce Whitty says:

        I have been at it for about 10 years and I have seen it about 5-10 times. I guess it depends on the type of work you are doing. I expect that if you were doing computer consulting for businesses you wouldn’t see it as much as residential trench tech.

        • NETWizz says:

          I have been at it for 8 years. I first ran across this in about 2005, when hundreds of Dell Optiplex GX270, SX270, GX280, and GX280 systems started dropping like flies.

          Literally, like 40% of our computers died over 2 years.

    • chuq says:

      I check every desktop that comes in for capacitor problems. I do them myself, and after learning what kind of weird heywire problems they cause, it is the first thing I do. It makes customers happier to know that they can have their pc repaired often times same day for $99 than $200-300 to replace the motherboard, ram, reinstall os, etc, etc. I used to dismiss those jobs then I said there is money in these repairs and started doing them!

  • bobbing says:

    I always have a look before I quote a price.
    In the case of that board I would have replaced the caps myself.

    • NETWizz says:

      I should have looked before quoting a price. To be fair I quoted a price for only Spyware cleanup then went the extra-mile. Technically, the price quoted was just an estimate for fixing what I estimated the problem would be based on what I was told.

      The problem is I way under-estimated what was wrong with this computer because I didn’t see it first.

      I would not personally re-solder 20 or so capacitors because I am not confident enough in my soldering ability. I probably COULD do it, but I don’t want to take the risk… especially when i can’t source an inexpensive replacement motherboard.

  • JW The Computer Guy says:

    My HTPC is an HP Pavillion a6202n, I hope it doesnt use the same mobo as the one in this story.

    • NETWizz says:

      Have you visually inspected the capacitors of your motherboard? The diagnosis is usually made based on visual observation.

      I can see a capacitor and tell you it is bad. That doesn’t necessarily mean I can see one and tell you it is good though. ;-)

      I.e. If it is leaking any goo out of the top or bottom, it is bad. If the can is deformed even the slightest (typically the top isn’t flat)it is bad. (looks like it is under pressure from the inside).

  • Zebra IO says:

    Wow, I remember working doing phone support for a large laptop manufacturer. When it comes to motherboard types of errors beyond Memory, it’s just a better idea to throw the whole thing away and buy a new laptop. lol.

  • Gary says:

    Yes, I would like to have a dollar for every customer who say there system is slow and they must be infected with spyware and it turns out to be a failing hard drive. I always tell the customer I will do a diagnostic first for a fee and then contact them with a quote for repair, I don’t waive the diagnostic fee either, it is a paid service.

    • NETWizz says:

      You should probably apply the diagnostics fee to the repair though… Only don’t waive the diagnostics if the customer does’t go ahead with the repair.

  • Sean says:

    When trying to order the mobo, did they refuse to send it under warranty? Or just refuse to send it?

    I only ask cause I was able to order a mobo for my laptop directly from HP 2 years ago. But if remember right I wouldn’t be able to return it if I additional problems. If they would have refused to send the part at all I would have been furious.

    And I too have had my share of incredibly simple repairs turning into a major overhaul for a simple repair price… fortunately most (not all) of these cases are family and I only charge for parts.

    • NETWizz says:

      The desktop computer was out of warranty, and HP refused to SELL a replacement motherboard for that model. They said the whole computer had to be shipped directly to one of their repair centers for repair.

  • Nintendo1889 says:

    offtopic:

    I’ve learned to never say I can do something I can’t do. That why I refuse to solder motherboard power jacks.

  • bob lou says:

    our shop also did tv repair and it’s a hassle with parts sometimes…if you’re not an authorized service center they don’t want to help you. and sometimes my tv tech has to go out searching for parts in what we call the graveyard. One place has a warehouse full of old stuff.

    I think i would have taken the computer into my shop…for one thing that would eliminate the hassle of running back and forth to the customer’s prem.
    I would have charged a fair amount of labor here as well since I had to replace a motherboard. You are hoping after the rebuilt board is installed that you won’t find more problems as well.

  • Bobbing says:

    I first started seeing the faulty capacitor problem with the first gen Celeron, P2 & P3 boards up to the last gen P4 boards. Many power supplies fail because of the same issue, as well as TVs, and some of our barcode scanners we use at work.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague

  • Kevin akroncomputerguy.com says:

    Okay, I see a few problems and this is not meant as a slam to the repairman, but some suggestions that I always follow. First of all when I get a desktop system, I always bring it back to the shop. While it is still outside, I open the case, blow out any dust with a shop vac. At the same time, I give a careful look at the condition of the MB. Are the caps okay, any wires out of place, etc. I then look at the PSU. If it is Allied, I right away and take the case apart and look at the PSU’s caps. 90% of the time there are some that are bulging. Before doing any further work after I then take out the hard drive and run Crystal Disc on my bench computer to see if the hard drive is okay. Anyways, I hope this procedure is helpful.

  • Paul B. says:

    A simple call: This is not a spyware problem, it is a hardware problem. This is where the cost can go….

  • I feel dummer for having read this escapade! says:

    This project has more holes than swiss cheese.

    First big mistake by tech….

    Every tech should know that most hardware issues can be mimicked by viruses and thus suspected virus infection might also not be a virus but hardware. Intro to computing 101.

    Second big mistake by tech….

    Thus the ‘Diagnostic.’

    It would be smarter to do a free diag than give a lowball offer to fix without knowing what you are getting into.

    Third big mistake

    Not re-framing the repair estimate when you got new information that the original estimate is not adequate.

    Finally, customers lie.

    Turns out your friend screwed you as she knew from day one that POS HP was faulting within 30 days of purchase.

    My suggestion is not to quit your day job unless you can manage interpersonal situations better and manage customer expectations without taking it in the shorts.

    I don’t know about others but this situation is exactly what I think of when others use the term Pizza Tech from craigslist. I would expect them to do a better job than this.

    I’m a little sorry for being so direct and undiplomatic but someone has to tell you that you just are not prepared to do this job.

    • Bryce Whitty says:

      Keep in mind this article is about lessons learned. The writer was well aware he did things wrong. Its easy to spot issues when you are looking back on this sort of thing. Its hard to see the shape of the forest when you are in amongst the trees.

    • NETWizz says:

      1) I disagree that most hardware issues can be mimicked by viruses and spyware. For instance, hard lockups where even the mouse doesn’t move are generally not software – they are usually hardware. Any hangs on the Power On Self Test (POST)such as being totally frozen at the splash screen that says “HP” have nothing to do with the OS or software the computer runs. They are not mimicked by viruses or spyware.

      A virus cannot cause a system not to complete the POST or freeze in the BIOS setup. A boot sector virus could prevent the OS from booting though, cause a blinking cursor after POST, or something like that though.

      *** I DON’T DISAGREE THAT USERS CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE***

      ***************************************************

      2) Yes, I should have done a diagnostic before quoting her any prices, but as I knew her from work and her ineptitude when it comes to computers, so I figured statistically it was 100% user-stupidity that got her into this problem.

      This was confirmed by her discussing toolbar, things that pop up trying to sell her stuff, Windows telling her she has a Virus (when Windows doesn’t even have AntiVirus software), etc.

      She wanted a general ball-park figure. She never demanded an exact/written quote. I was pretty sure it was going to be heavily infested/bad, so I brought BartPE, Windows PE, a USB external drive, as well as a Hard Drive to USB adapter. The plan was that in the worst case scenario, I could boot BartPE and copy her stuff to the external drive, run the HP recovery, and put everything back… Something that is probably about an hour of work.

      I did not expect a 14 month old HP to have hardware problems.

      *****************************************************

      3) Yes, I should have charged more, but I felt for her situation. I hope you understand and when you see someone in need you help out. She is sort of broke and helps her grown-up kids watching her grand-children etc. She is a great person who helps others; it was her time to get some help.

      She didn’t know she had POS HP after 30 days. She just figured that she had created the problem. She took 100% of the blame herself and figured that she would just keep using it and hope it doesn’t get worse or need repair. i.e. She decided to run it into the ground getting every Dollar out of it before figuring out how to repair/replace it. She is not the type of person who has excess money to pro-actively fix problems before they get worse.

      ***************************************************
      I have no intention of quitting my day job. I also refuse work for way more people than I help. I literally turn down 10 jobs a week every week because I don’t want the work. That said, this lady kept asking me repeatedly and eventually got me to feel sorry for her, so I gave in. Quite simply, I am not interested in going into people’s houses or having people bring me their broken computers to fix. It takes too much time and the pay isn’t good enough.

      I would much rather deploy System Center Configuration Manager at work, virtualize the rest of our Data Center, upgrade our Citrix farm, Extend the Active Directory Schema for Mac OS systems, write VB Scripts or PowerShell Scripts, etc. I have fixed many thousands of computer problems including hundreds of motherboards, dozens of power supplys, hundreds of drives, ect.

      This job was not about the money as much as helping someone else, but it still turned into too much work and more than I expected. The idea of posting it was to help you and others avoid similar situations.

      You are right that in many ways the pay of this job was that of what a Pizza Tech might make. I know how to handle customers and get more money out of them, but the people I work with, friends, and family I should not work for… That was my problem. Sometimes full-knowing I am digging myself in a hole, I do it anyway for certain people. If this were my mother, I would never have charged her $1 even if it took me 6 hours. I also would NOT have invoiced for the $80 for the bad caps repair, if this were my mother.

      This lady knows I did her a favor, and she knows the $60 was not what I would charge an ordinary person. It was enough for her to not need any more help in over a year. :-)

      As for actually being a Pizza Tech, I am not one. I don’t seek out jobs for $60 or post any ads on Craigslist at all. It’s not worth my time.

      I hold a B.S. in Information Technology Management with a Minor in Computer Networking (2006). In 2010, I finished a M.S. in Business Information Systems.

      I hold the following certifications:
      A+ (2006)
      2003 MCSE (2008)
      DCSE (2005 – renewed a couple times.)
      CCNA (2009)

      In addition to working a full-time job for a State Government as the Coordinator of Information Resources for a large State Agency, and I also teach part-time as an adjunct professor for a Private University (~6 hours a week 8 months a year).

      When ALL the bills are paid in full, and the month is over, having bought what I want, eaten, paid insurance etc… I spend about 48% of what I take home after taxes & fees. For this reason, I am not quitting my day job to open shop. :-)

      It wasn’t always this way though. Before having my Master’s degree, I had only one job. Before 2008, I worked a different job that paid about 66% what my current day job does.

      In other words, I remember what it was like spending 100% of what I made just to get by making payments on things I couldn’t afford to pay off. It was hell, and even then 1.5 X more than this lady does now, and that was 3 years ago, and I don’t have any kids!!! I really wanted to help her and to tell you the truth, I honestly thought about quoting her $20 or $40 instead of $60. I wanted the amount just high enough to where she wouldn’t bother me again… After she was done and paid, I thought about sending her back $20… but then I thought about how much of a PITA this job was.

      –NETWizz

  • Doug Warkentin says:

    I read the article trying not to comment about the obvious lessons learned – course I’ve learned them the hard way too ;) – but by the end when you listed the lessons learned I had a good laugh, not at you but probably with you.

    But of course reading this was good for me also to be reminded not to promise too much without full info, etc. I was not aware of the badcaps.net site/company and will look into possible use of them, though I believe the end result of a new MB is worth it since you reinstalled anyway and the cost of the new MB is the same as the cost of recapping.

  • Sorry :) says:

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to challenge your knowledge, this article just hit a nerve with me. I have a very generous brother who gets into these kinds of deals all the time. People really take advantage of him and I try to protect him from them. Many people from his church would line up for free computer repair knowing he did this for a living, and offer him a free lunch for 3 hrs of his time.

    He had to close his IT business. He just didn’t have the self preservation to be self employed. Years later, he is now doing very well as head of IT for a school district at 4-5x the money he was making owning his own company.

    :) :) :)

    • NETWizz says:

      I used to work for a school district… They are great employers.

      Just yesterday, I turned down another job. A friend/neighbor of mine were talking while drinking beer on her patio. She then says, “Remember Kreb?” totally catching me off guard. I said, “No, who’s Kreb?” She says, “You don’t remember Kreb?” Me: “No, who is he. Should I know him???” She: “How can you not know Kreb?”

      Her: Well, do you remember going to the fireworks July 4th, 2009 with me and a group of friends?

      Me: Yeah… we went…

      Her: Kreb was there.

      Me: Okay.

      Her: Do you remember him now?

      Me: Not particularly.

      Her: Well, he wants you to fix his computer!

      Me: Sorry! Tell him I am really busy and won’t be able to work on his computer.

      Geesh! Two years & Two months later and somebody who watched fireworks in a group with me wants me to fix his computer… Not going to happen / not going to do that.

  • mm201 says:

    A couple of points.

    I think you can circumvent the techs and purchase parts through the HP website. At least that was the case when I did tech support for HP a couple of years back.

    Thanks for the link to Badcaps. The information provided by the techs on this site have proved to be an invaluable resource as I’m building my business.

  • Ian says:

    Could you not have bought a similar motherboard with the same chipset? Alhough at $80 for a recap it is a good option as it saves messing about with reinstalls.

    • NETWizz says:

      Doubtfully. First of all, I would not be certain it would fit the chassis. I am pretty sure the Power Supply is actually a standard ATX 2.x, so it would be possible to power up another board that takes DDR2 & that particular Athlon X2 if it fit, but it would cease being the HP product she paid for only 14 months ago as would driver support etc.

      The next thing is she had no recovery media only a recovery partition! Undoubtedly, this would have failed with a non-OEM HP brand motherboard, so she would have had to buy a new copy of Windows too.

  • Ian says:

    Argh it was one of them mini HP things :).

    I’ve changed boards on branded stuff before though, but only if the case is a true standard ATX, and always get the same chipset. Microsoft will allow you activate it again providing it the board is a replacement and not actually an upgrade.

    Never really thought about having a motherboard recapped before, but it is certainly something to consider in the future.

    • NETWizz says:

      If you got a replacement with the same Northbridge & Southbridge & NIC & same Integrated Graphics & Same Integrated audio… the drivers would be the same.

      However, Windows will still know it is not OEM HP. I highly doubt the recovery partition would work or that the recovery media (if she had any) would work.

      That said, it might be possible to get a white-box System-Builder version of the same OS and install it with that product key… That said, it is doubtful it would take the product key.

      You are pretty much stuck getting any and all support from the OEMs like HP and Dell when it comes to things like spare parts and operating systems. Once you swap the motherboard out for a non HP branded one, you no longer have an HP even if it says you do on the computer chassis.

  • Laura W says:

    Wow, I feel so ashamed now; sometimes I advertise on Craigslist.

  • Mark/ @MyTechLife says:

    Stories like this are another reason I charge by the hour – not by the job. If I was doing this job I would have quoted “I charge $75 per hour for my time, and if it’s just a spyware problem those typically take 1-2 hours to fix if I come to your house.” If the co-worker had obvious financial problems I would then quote “If you want to bring your tower to work, we can meet afterwards and I can save you a bit of time by taking your tower to my work bench and charge you an hour – assuming it’s just a spyware issue”.

    So go ahead and accept the job from the fireworks buddy – just charge him by the hour & hope it’s a MoBo issue. :)

  • Cliff says:

    You did this lady NO favours whatsoever. She has not learned her lesson about buying a Laptop as a el-cheapo replacement for a real PC and she knew that the device was a POS from day one as she told you afterwards that it has always given her grief and now runs better than new.
    Moral of the story: She used you and you got suckered in to fixing her HP POS for next to nothing.
    I can see that you never learned a valuable lesson by doing this job. You see, if you had kids, which you don’t, you would know that you don’t give them what they want but you give them what they need. If you always do everything for kids they never learn any lessons about having to sacrifice a few things to to get ahead or to own things.
    This lady has never been taught the valuable lesson that if you can’t afford to pay for getting your computer fixed then you shouldn’t own one.
    I blame our education system that tells everyone to study hard, get good grades, go to Uni and get a degree and you don’t have to work for the local council digging ditches on minimum wage.
    Well wake up!! some has to dig those ditches. Everyone is not equal. That failed experiment was called communism.