Did I get screwed by a local computer repair place?
January 17, 2013 4:12 PM   Subscribe

I dropped off my computer to be repaired because it kept powering off randomly, and often before windows could even start booting. They told me it was a faulty power supply, which they replaced. I received a call about fifteen minutes after I got home from a tech there telling me that they forgot to plug my DVD drive into the power supply, and that I can bring it back and have them fix it. When I ran it at home, I noticed google chrome was missing. Another one of my programs doesn't work now, telling me that "The feature you are trying to use is on a network resource that is unavailable." 3-4 other programs that I've picked at random and tried to run work fine.

The last thing (and honestly I think this is just me being crazy.) is that my motherboard is blue now, and I could SWEAR that I remember it being green. Other than that, it looks like the same motherboard. (Hence my assuming that I'm just misremembering.)

There are also some new shortcuts on my desktop, which probably aren't particularly suspicious. It looks like they ran a defrag (defragger icon on my desktop). There is an icon for "speedfan" which I assume measures my computer's fan speed, and some other icon called "initdebug.info", which google tells me helps speedfan measure temperatures.

I'm only an amateur when it comes to computers, so any insight anyone can give me before I go talk to them tomorrow is appreciated. Hopefully nothing absolutely dastardly is going on here.
posted by Modus Pwnens to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might well be going crazy about the motherboard, it's unlikely that they would replace it and not charge you (and if they were covering a mistake, unlikely that they could find the exact same mobo but in a different colour)

What is the file path that your unavailable program is located on? (Right click > Properties.) Or even better, if you wouldn't mind, what program is it? Is there a drive missing from My Computer?

The fresh diagnostic tools are standard and nothing to worry about. They were testing your fans to see if the PC was overheating. It's quite unlikely that anything dastardly is involved, but easily possible that they fucked up.
posted by forgetful snow at 4:27 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I agree with you about being crazy about the motherboard, although I saw similar things happen in franchises where I worked in vacuum cleaner repair. (Oops! Broke the part! I'll just install this used one I had laying around, they won't notice because it's inside!) I do doubt that is what happened, though.

The DVD drive is showing up even though it should not be getting any power. There is only one hard drive, and that is showing up too.

The program is Front Office Football and I just reinstalled it. The desktop icon was still there but it didn't work. Chrome was completely gone from my hard drive (including the desktop shortcut), and I reinstalled that. I had previously installed it in the default path for Windows 7. I'll see if I can find anything else that isn't functioning.

I'm glad to hear that it is unlikely that anything dastardly is involved!

Thank you for assistance, it is greatly appreciated!
posted by Modus Pwnens at 4:37 PM on January 17, 2013

How did they know they had forgotten to plug your DVD drive in? The tech just suddenly remembered? That's a bit strange. Does the DVD drive work? If so, you shouldn't need to bring it back in.

I'm trying to brainstorm a scam they could be running but it is taking some creativity. Maybe install some nefarious spyware on your PC? Maybe they've hijacked internet explorer but their spyware doesn't work for Chrome? This is pretty far-fetched.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:00 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: When they called me on the phone they said I arrived so quickly to pick it up that the tech hadn't been back to reattach it. He said he unattached it because it was being a pain in the butt by getting in the way when he was connecting the new power source. I assume he really wanted some tacos. He needed the tacos so badly, that he left without reattaching the DVD power and remembered while he was eating them. Alas, I arrived so quickly to pick up my computer that he could not rectify the error.

I did the same things you did trying to think of the scam they could be trying to run, but it seems like if they were trying to run one it wouldn't involve causing these problems. Best I could come up with is they made some sort of mistake while doing this work and they're trying to cover it somehow.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 5:04 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best I could come up with is they made some sort of mistake while doing this work and they're trying to cover it somehow.

Well yeah, they told you as much. They forgot to reconnect the dvd drive and now they're trying to fix it. I guess in the absence of other evidence, I don't understand why you are not assuming good faith on their part.
posted by Think_Long at 5:31 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is an icon for "speedfan" which I assume measures my computer's fan speed, and some other icon called "initdebug.info", which google tells me helps speedfan measure temperatures.

One cause of a computer suddenly powering off is overheating, so the techs probably wanted to check if the fans and temperature were OK and rule out this possibility before replacing the power supply.
posted by kithrater at 6:05 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does the DVD drive open? You can probably just plug it back in yourself. There's a power cable coming from the power supply and a data cable coming from the motherboard.
posted by dobi at 6:31 PM on January 17, 2013

The last few times I replaced a motherboard, Windows made me re-register as though I were installing it on a new computer.

It's unlikely they replaced your motherboard, because those are not one-size-fits-all and are rarely cheap or readily available, even in a repair shop. It's not impossible, but it wouldn't make any sense. As for the color of your motherboard, human memory for that sort of detail is notoriously faulty.

If your Front Office Football program ran off of the DVD player, even to just check if it was present, that would explain the error you got as it was unable to access the drive.

On the other hand, chrome missing is quite bizarre and I really can't explain that.

My only suggestion would to be grill your technician and ask if anything happened to where he needed to transfer everything off the hard drive and then back on, since there are files and programs missing (corrupted?). If there was any funny business, he'll likely crack.

I have to say, it doesn't sound like a great shop, if they don't even bother to clean off their tools and shortcuts, and forget to re-attach DVD drives.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

As far as whether you were screwed or not, you'd have to tell us what you were charged.

Generally outright fraud with computer repair involves swapping out or removing high end processors, memory, hard drives, and graphics cards for cheaper components.

Not motherboards. In years past, changing any of those components usually would result in Windows being very unhappy and asking for you to call them and explain, especially if it's a version that came pre-installed on the computer from the manufacturer.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:12 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dobi: Yeah, the DVD drive opens. Honestly, I wouldn't worry about anything except for the fact that google chrome seems mysterious deleted and another program didn't run. However, maybe it's some sort of damage to the data that happened as a result of the computer powering on and off frequently when the hardware problem initially occurred.

I assume their tools and shortcuts were there because I came to pick it up within an hour of them calling me and telling me it was ready. Despite that, I agree with you, hobo, it is sloppy. The program in question ran off the hard drive with no need for any input from the DVD drive, which I hardly ever use on my computer.

I figure, all other things being equal, I'll just go in tomorrow, have them reattach whatever thing from the DVD drive they said was unconnected, and call it even... since I reinstalled chrome and the other program. The DVD drive seems to be functioning fine anyway, since I have a disc in it and can interact with it. I don't know how that would happen if they think it wasn't connected, but I can access files on any DVD I put it in it.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 7:20 PM on January 17, 2013

Here's a negative scenario that could be a possibility: In the course of replacing your power supply, they accidentally fried your motherboard. Since it was their fault, they replaced your motherboard. Then they either messed with Windows until it played nice with the new motherboard, or transplanted your files onto a new Windows installation.

Google Chrome being missing is a bit of a clue -- Chrome installs into C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome, instead of in Program Files which is the more usual place. Maybe have a look around your AppData folder and see if it seems intact (typically you'll have a bunch of directories in AppData\Roaming and AppData\Local).

So, maybe they were in a rush, or the tech was clueless, and they forgot to copy AppData over (or they copied Roaming but not Local, or something like that). That's where lots of apps keep their settings and such, so try a couple apps you use a lot and see if they still work like they used to.

It's the only scenario I can think of where they would want to replace your motherboard and not tell you about it, aside from the blatant fraud that hobo gitano de queretaro mentioned. Replacing a motherboard is a huge pain in the ass -- typically when a motherboard goes into a case, it stays there.
posted by neckro23 at 7:36 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That's very interesting, Nekro! I checked out the appdata/local, and there's a lot of directories for programs I used to use in there, including spotify (And scrivener which probably isn't insanely common), which worked when I ran them. I don't know if that means it's all OK or not, but at least that runs. If anything, at the very least a lot of folders from programs I run are there. I don't know if google.exe is usually there and executables for the other programs aren't, but that could account for Chrome being gone and not other programs. There's plenty of programs which I have previously uninstalled which are still in appdata/local too.

All of this really is bizarre since technically all they had to do is replace a piece of malfunctioning hardware, the power supply. I know the graphics card is the same one since it is really distinctive looking for a graphics card, but the rest I couldn't say the same for.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 8:03 PM on January 17, 2013

Well yeah, they told you as much. They forgot to reconnect the dvd drive and now they're trying to fix it. I guess in the absence of other evidence, I don't understand why you are not assuming good faith on their part.

Because a power supply repacement doesn't require removing software (Chrome) - and because the DVD drive is connected. Put together that makes it sound like they want the machine in for some other purpose.

I'd tell them directly, by phone, that the DVD is connected and working and see what they have to say then - if it wasn't connected to the power, it wouldn't do anything at all and you wouldn't see it in Windows. See if they can explain - or if there's suddently a new reason why they need to see the machine.

Then I'd ask why they removed Chrome.
posted by Hobo at 9:07 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd be really shocked if they fried and then replaced the MB. If they had fried the MB, they would have just blamed it on the bad power supply, because that actually does happen all the time.
posted by tyllwin at 9:15 PM on January 17, 2013

Response by poster: I work tomorrow from 8:30-5, but I'm going to take hobo's advice and see if I can get the tech that worked on it on the phone. I had him on the phone tonight and he tried to tell me where the DVD drive had to be plugged in, but I didn't see anything there so I told him I'd bring it in tomorrow. (I didn't look particularly hard for it.) Since the DVD drive seems to be running anyway, I assume that is not a problem.

I feel like something funny is going on here and hopefully I can figure it out. It seems like Manti Te'O - it just doesn't quite add up!
posted by Modus Pwnens at 9:34 PM on January 17, 2013

Don't be afraid to simply ask them why Chrome was deleted, also. They probably just messed up (why were they messing around with software anyway?) but they should hopefully have some sort of reasonable answer. Or, if they are evasive, it will help confirm that they are at the very least poor computer repair guys if not some kind of low-level rip-off artists. I probably wouldn't be giving them any more business either way simply because they seem to give sloppy service and/or are hard to communicate with.
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:44 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I actually did ask them why chrome was deleted when I spoke to the person who worked on the computer on the phone. He said that he didn't understand why that would've happened and they didn't do it. At this point, I'm definitely not giving them any more business, and I might take the computer to someone else, just to check it out.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 9:49 PM on January 17, 2013

It's possible that the tech who "forgot" to connect your drive was halfway through their cleanup process when he took a break and you picked up your computer while he was on break. He might have deleted Chrome thinking that they installed it, and not yet deleted some of their other software. (Clearly this guy wouldn't be great at his job, but also not malicious in this case... Pretty par for the course at these places.)
posted by anaelith at 3:07 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

This might seem like a ridiculous question, but are you sure it's your computer? Maybe they had nearly two identical models at the same time and got them switched up?
posted by gjc at 5:35 AM on January 18, 2013

Response by poster: Yeah, I'm sure it's mine. Same case. Same dents. Same odd looking graphics card. Same fans. Same duct tape on the back of the case.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 5:44 AM on January 18, 2013

Response by poster: Talked to the technician who worked on the computer today and told him the DVD drive was connected and working, and he didn't make up any other excuse to bring the computer back in. He has no idea why the two programs were missing because he says they didn't do any virus scans or anything on the computer.

Hopefully there's no funny business going on, but I guess there really isn't anything else I can do.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2013

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