Cheap Laptop Repair in Austin?
December 8, 2011 2:40 PM   Subscribe

What's the least expensive way to competently repair a laptop in Austin, TX?

I have a Toshiba Satellite A665-S5170. It was the victim of water damage. It needs to have the motherboard, keyboard, and logic upper replaced.

Because I received this machine through a state program, I've had to follow a circuitous route to discovering this and in trying to get it repaired. It first went to Best Buy, where it was determined it was a Business Account issue, so couldn't be fixed on site. It then went to the Toshiba repair facility in CA, where they diagnosed it and determined that warranty didn't apply. They costed the parts at: MB, $159.15; KB, $18.98; LU, $37.77. Labour would have been $60. My rep at the state agency felt this was too much, as it's almost half what the machine cost, so she asked me to get it sent back so we could call around to other places to find a lower price.

DIY could be an option, although it would be worse than terrible if somehow mucked it up. I have done hardware builds/replacements on desktop machines before, but never a laptop. I don't have an ESD strap, which seems to be even more important for a laptop. Would it be really dumb to pursue the DIY approach, considering that?
I've already contacted PC Gurus, where they're very busy and would charge $30 just to re-do the diagnostic, and they can't quote me part prices or labour. They were suggested as a trusted provider by the state rep, but I think we're able to look at most any shop that would do the work well and for a good price.
The other contact she gave was Logic Approach, but they aren't in, so I don't have an idea of how they'd want to handle this.
Sending it back to Toshiba isn't an option - I wish we'd had them fix it, but it wasn't my call to make.

In Summary:
Is there a laptop repair person/outfit in Austin, TX who can beat Toshiba's price of $275.90 for the repairs without adding additional diagnostic fees?
If not, is DIY a really dumb idea?
posted by batmonkey to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
I've done an optical drive replacement on a 12" Powerbook G4. Working on laptops can be a pain in the ass, and it's slow work. The Toshiba model you've listed isn't nearly as cramped, but with replacing as much as you are, it's going to take a while. $60 for labor is in no way unreasonable, so unless you've got a friend or family member with experience in doing laptop repair who's willing to do a freebie for you, I'd just pay Toshiba's cost.
posted by Oktober at 3:01 PM on December 8, 2011

Toshiba's cost: $275.90 total is actually a cheap price for water damage. I know that as of a couple of years ago an equivalent HP laptop would instantly run a bill of $700 to repair from water damage down to the motherboard, and in many cases were "beyond economic repair." I know Apple easily charges $400+ for water damage.

DIY: I went Googling and didn't find the motherboard alone for under $200. The keyboard is running around $34. I didn't find the Logic Upper. Laptop repair is notoriously slow and tricky. I personally repair desktops on a regular basis, but I hate trying to do any work on laptops beyond what is accessible. Motherboards are not easily accessible. The work involves complete disassembly and reassembly. There are dozens of small parts and screws that you will need to get back into the right location, or else risk damaging multiple components. The repair center can do the work in one hour that would take you four.

Reality: If this were your personal laptop I'd tell you to pull the hard drive and go buy a new one entirely. Being that the laptop is not yours, I'd highly suggest the Toshiba repair route.

I used to work for HP's service centers and saw liquid laptop damage daily.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:14 PM on December 8, 2011

I'm actually surprised Toshiba quoted you under $500 for it. Yes, $275.90 is a lot for a long-in-the-tooth notebook but that is the way the world works. It often times costs more to repair things, especially notebook computers. You could try places like Mr. Notebook to get a quote there (I can't vouch for them as I've been a happy Mac customer now since 2002).

For $60 to replace the components which pretty much require taking the whole thing apart (as opposed to easy fixes like just the keyboard, or just memory or hard drive). I'm comfortable taking my computers apart but what you're considering doing on your own will be pretty time consuming and may not work when you get it all together again. The Toshiba experts will test it and make sure it is working before they shit it off. If they pulled a bad motherboard to replace it you'll never know because what you get back will work. If you order a bad motherboard, you won't really have the ways to troubleshoot it. And while you're taking it apart, you might screw something else up. To me, it isn't worth save a few bucks.

So get quotes from Mr. Notebook and a few other local shops and compare them to what you got from Toshiba. I would not volunteer to fix it myself under any circumstances unless it was my personal property. And only then I'd do it knowing I'd have to go buy a new one if I screwed things up worse.
posted by birdherder at 3:26 PM on December 8, 2011

Low-end Toshiba laptops are just miserable things to work on.

Spend your $295 on a second-hand Acer replacement.
posted by flabdablet at 3:06 AM on December 9, 2011

You've got MeMail.
posted by MuChao at 10:37 AM on December 9, 2011

Response by poster: I wanted to update after all this time, because this turned into quite the drama.

Because of the constraint of going through an approved vendor for the state, I had to use PC Guru. Never again. They are probably very nice people and I'm sure they do good and timely work for others, but my experience there was disappointing and sometimes even alarming. I'm happy to provide more detail via memail.

I encourage anyone checking this out in the future to go with one of the suggestions above and re-think any plan that involved PC Guru.
posted by batmonkey at 6:37 AM on April 17, 2012

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