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No shame in Hobbyists taking their Laptop to a Technician

There are plenty of people who are able to do basic laptop repair and maintenance on their own machines, and they often use some basic guidelines before they attempt jobs that may be either too difficult or that require special tools. This is a brief overview of just what some of these may be.

Laptop to Technician

The laptop troubleshooting procedure will often involve a lot of research in order to narrow down what the exact issue happens to be. If the issue is software related then the culprit is usually spyware or malware of some type.

This can certainly be addressed and rectified with the right tools, yet much of the time the damage done already will require additional work in order to completely rid the laptop of the malware which is causing the issues. This is where the additional time will come in since there can be many symptoms that need to be addressed in order to correct the ill-effects of the spyware, worm or virus.

Laptops are really not inexpensive items, however sometimes the cost of a repair can exceed the actual value of the laptop under its present condition. In our experience most customers will simply look at replacing the computer if the costs exceed its value. As for the hobbyists who enjoy working on computers, they will likely expend a lot of their own time trying to rectify issues before they would ever consider bringing the laptop to a technician.

It is this type of customer who typically has the basics as far as tools go. These items include anti-static tools such as the mat and the wrist strap. Various screw drivers are also a must since all laptops are secured with some type of fastener, typically Phillips head yet occasionally special hex head screws. Needle nose pliers and prying tools are also useful to have. As far as more involved troubleshooting goes, there is a need to have a variety of spare tools and parts on hand which is why eventually many hobbyists will wind up taking the broken laptop to the repair shop in order to have a technician look at it.

There is no shame in this though and we often find that it is actually quite beneficial to hear what the customer has already done as far as troubleshooting goes. This can be a real plus and a time saver in attempting to quickly diagnose an issue with a computer whether what has already been tried is appropriate or not.

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Event ID 51 Disk Laptop Tech

Event ID 51 Disk

There are not always precise solutions to what appears to be a straight forward error message in laptop computers. Take the Event ID 51 disk error in Windows for example.

Over the years we have seen common examples where the actual error message points to a rather straightforward piece of hardware, or at least it would appear that way.

One such error which we have seen countless times over the years on XP laptops is the one which can be found in the Computer Management:

"An error was detected on device \Device\Harddisk1\D during a paging operation."

So an error referencing a specific drive will indeed require that the technician know just what drive is being referenced. Keep in mind that there may be multiple drives (particularly in desktop computer towers).

Event ID 51 Description

Many of the troubleshooting calls which we have dealt with would be for some issue of the laptop freezing, for BSOD issues or other issues having to do with slow performance. A quick look in the Event Viewer during troubleshooting of the issues often will lead to the above mentioned: "An error was detected on device \Device\Harddisk1\D during a paging operation." Commonly this will more specifically be: Event ID: 51 which would lead one to ultimately think that there is an issue with the hard drive.

While the possible issues that cause this may indeed represent a hard drive which is going bad, in our experience this is not an absolute conclusion. As a matter of fact we have an XP laptop which we have used for years as a test machine that will have multiple instances of this exact error message occur multiple times per day. The XP install has gone for at least a couple of years with the same installation. There have been other times where the OS was reinstalled more frequently. The fact of the matter is that even with XP being installed for over two years, and having this error occurring on a daily basis, the hard drive has never had any issues that would indicate that it is going bad.

The error in reality could be associated to any number of different things such as the swap file (with multiple HDDs), hard drives and power supply issues on desktops. We have seen each of these being the root cause of the slow computer or other complainants like BSOD etc. Ultimately the drive should be further tested if it is suspected to be faulty in refurbished laptops under 200 dollars or brand new ones for that matter. We have seen this as an actual indication of a failing hard disk too, so if you ever do see this obviously the first concern would be making sure that the important data is backed up. Yet it does not necessarily mean that the HDD is actually going bad.

Over the years we have worked warranty contracts where the SLA stipulated that if this error was present that the hard drive was to be replaced immediately. However this was a rare combination.

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Basic Fix for Corrupt File Causing Older Laptop Boot Issue

We see plenty of instances in business settings that still use older laptops with older operating systems installed on them. Many of the roles that these computers play are that of a very specific task, such as a file server for a relatively small group of users in a small department. These may have been in this role for many years and there is no real reason to upgrade them, as it tends to be perceived as an unnecessary expense. “If it is not broken, why fix it” happens to be a saying that applies to many businesses out there to this day when it comes to the computer systems they have on their networks. There is really nothing wrong with this arrangement on internal network segments completely segregated from the Internet.

Recently we resolved a situation which may help anytime a laptop is running say Win2k or XP for example. An error message stating that Windows could not start due to a missing or corrupt file, likely a .dll file, was causing some issue with the boot. This may happen to any computer user so we thought we would share what our approach was to this issue.

Ultimately this was the same install which had been on the laptop for many years. The company maintains a good backup system, and there was no critical data on this particular laptop anyway. Basically the hard drive tested fine and the customer had the Windows install disc available. By booting to this we chose to access the repair options, pressing R here, and then pressing R again at the next screen. Pressing F next will begin a full repair of the install thus replacing the corrupt file which was causing the booting issue.

Typically we recommend keeping an eye on the hard drive for any signs of it going bad after something like this where the customer confirmed that nobody had installed, or attempted to install any other updates or software just prior to the issue. However this was an older laptop which served a minimal, and ultimately easily replaceable, role in the grander scheme of things. While the operating system in this case was Windows 2000 this methodology can be helpful with other similar situations as well. While the vast majority of the cheaper laptops under 200 dollars displayed on Priceit.biz will not be using Win2k, there are going to be very similar steps to attempting to resolve this kind of issue on other Windows operating systems. The key points to always consider however are the data on the drives, which should always be backed up regularly, and the technical abilities of the user. While this is not a complicated process, there are decisions which will need to be made that might be better left to a competent laptop technician.

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Solutions which are Cheap Enough for Refurbished Laptops

Would it be worth the cost to have a broken laptop refurbished? This is a question that is presented to many people once their laptops develop an issue, typically with hardware. It is definitely possible to make refurbished laptops just as good as new in the sense that all components as well as installed software are running fresh like they were when they originally left the factory.

If a customer is faced with this question it would be pretty obvious that the actual cost of the parts and labor to deal with the broken laptop would be the first order of business. Would the laptop be worth $200 or less when compared to one that is already working? Some of the hardware components within a laptop are especially expensive and will often be the main cause of the customer choosing to not go the way of fixing or replacing them. The cost of labor will always be a significant factor as well.

The reality is that to properly refurbish laptops which require complete disassembly is going to be significantly more time consuming than other minor projects. This in itself will greatly affect the labor charges. When used laptops under 200 dollars are capable of fully replacing the broken laptops in a much cheaper manner, the solution is usually pretty predictable. Nobody is looking to spend more money than what is necessary.

While every situation is different, we will often recommend to customers that they should look at having their important data transferred to the replacement laptop from the old one. There are some instances where the actual hard drive from the old laptop can be used in one of the cheap laptops under $200 that is a replacement however this is not really a good method in all cases. Basically the issues with tracking down all the drivers and the pesky issues with the operating system in doing this kind of a procedure simply ads more time the labor costs anyway. Luckily there are much quicker and long term better approaches.

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Ease of Disassembly of Laptops under 300 Relative to other Models

There are instances where it is necessary to dismantle a laptop computer to some degree, and sometimes it is necessary to completely disassemble the laptop. The need to do this will be based on what needs to be done, usually to troubleshoot or replace a component. For instance, if you are going to replace a MacBook logic board then you will likely have to go very deep into the disassembly process on any of the model variations. There are however some laptops which are what we refer to as "tech friendly" because they are a breeze to work on compared to some others out there.

Logic Board

Typically this kind of work will be done in a shop, or repair depot, on a workbench with all of the necessary tools and components at hand which are needed to perform the troubleshooting as well as the repairs. However when working in the field as a laptop technician, there really are no limits to where you might find yourself having to disassemble a laptop computer.

Basically if you have the parts, and you are under contract to fix computers onsite, then you will not always have the luxury of a workbench and endless tools and parts. These can be the instances to hope that you do not have to work on too many of the more unfriendly designs that are out there. These can include older laptops as well as newer ones. Price does not come into play here. Most of the laptops under 300 dollars are pretty easy to work on just like some of the more expensive models are as well. If you back to the mid to late 1990's, then a lot of the designs were tough to work on. This does not mean that they were bad designs actually many were really well constructed. Yet over the years more streamlined laptop designs have become much more common in all price ranges.

In all reality it is probably not a good idea to perform any major laptop dismantling on your own. A lot of people have some knowledge of working on different electronics and such, but there are typically a ton of various screw sizes as well as little pieces which must be placed just right in the whole scheme of things when it comes time to putting all the components back together again. Taking everything apart is not necessarily easy, but putting them all back the way they need to be, and then having the refurbished laptops actually power up with everything working after the fact leaves basically no room for error whatsoever in most cases.

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Troubleshoot Refurbished Laptops Web Content Issues

Occasionally computer users discover that Flash content on the web does not display as expected in their web browser of choice and at this point they may simply need to make sure that they have actually installed the correct version of the Adobe Flash Player. One example is that you are unable to view YouTube movies on your laptop computer. This can occur on new or refurbished laptops as this will be a third party application issue not relevant to the computer hardware.

We often use a specific process which will typically resolve this particular laptop performance issue. You may even find that you can view Flash content through Firefox but not Internet Explorer. This also helps narrow down the cause as well.

Keep in mind that there are various versions of the Flash player which are available for free download from Adobe. The thing you want to make sure of at this point is that you happen to be getting the correct version for your browser. For example if you are using Internet Explorer on new or refurbished laptops under 200 then you would want to be sure to download and install the version of Flash which is specifically designed for Internet Explorer. If you are using Firefox then you would need to get the version designed for Firefox and so on.

Sometimes users will have an issue where despite the fact that Adobe Flash appears to have been installed on the laptop they are unable to view flash web content on sites such as YouTube for example. In reality the application may not have properly installed itself and a common cause for this situation is that the security software installed on the laptop may have interfered with the proper installation of Flash. The Flash program will appear to be installed, which it is to a point with no error messages, yet it will not function correctly due to an overall incomplete installation.

If it is verified that the correct version of Flash for the particular web browser being used on the refurbished laptop is indeed acquired, here are the steps which we will often use in order to resolve this issue.

This is a common way that laptop technicians will attempt to resolve the issue when YouTube movies won’t play and of not being able to view Flash web content on a computer. Also, the security programs will need to be re-enabled after this process.

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