Shop broke laptop; I need a new one.
December 12, 2020 4:39 AM   Subscribe

A couple of weeks ago, I took my two-year-old HP laptop to the shop for a couple of problems: It made an intermittent whirring sound (apparently a fan problem), and it intermittently kicked me off the wi-fi. But now the computer needs to be replaced.

The shop called me yesterday and said the motherboard failed … something about a controller and a blinking light code. The hard drive is still good, so I can retrieve my files.

It seems fishy to me that the computer was mostly working, and now it is unusable. The IT guy from my workplace said he will go with me to the shop, as a personal favor. The shop also sells computers, and I am thinking of trying to get a $200 credit from them to buy a computer from them, to make up for losing my HP.

So, what am I looking for in the next computer? I mostly use it for Internetting, activist work, and Zoom meetings. I might want to learn R, and I looked up the following system requirements:
• An Intel-compatible platform running Windows 10 /8.1/8 /7 /Vista /XP /2000 Windows Server 2019 /2016 /2012 /2008 /2003.
• At least 256 MB of RAM, a mouse, and enough disk space for recovered files, image files, etc.
• The administrative privileges are required to install and run R‑Studio utilities.
• A network connection for data recovering over network.

It is a small local shop. It sells new and refurbished computers (I think custom ones, too, but I don’t think I need that).

Do you have any advice? About either getting the shop to compensate me, or about what my new computer should be?
posted by NotLost to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
We can't know what used machines the shop might offer, but you'd have to go out of your way to find a new Windows-equipped PC that didn't meet those minimum specs, except that laptops don't come with mice; you'll have to buy one separately unless you already have one.

Since the minimum specs aren't going to help you make a choice, I'd give some thought to other features that might be important to you. Battery life? Weight/portability? Screen brightness? I know nothing about R... are there particular system resources that would make it perform noticeably better if the minimum specs are exceeded?

Asking for a $200 credit for your old machine seems like a stretch on the basis of what you wrote above. "It seems fishy" doesn't have a dollar value.
posted by jon1270 at 5:41 AM on December 12, 2020

R is a compact little language. Any computer that can run Zoom and a modern web browser can run R.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:34 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have not used it, but R-Studio does have an online edition so anything that can run a modern web browser would work. You could probably get by with a Chromebook or a refurb thinkpad.
posted by Poldo at 6:38 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: yes you can get away with that little RAM with R, and R might hog less memory than Excel on small to medium size data for simple operations like filtering and pivots, but R has to keep everything in memory and will greatly benefit from whatever RAM you can throw at it. If you expect to work with small-medium-ish data (tables of tens of thousands to low millions of rows) and do anything complex like modeling, you will be happier with RAM in the range of 2-8GB. otherwise R is not going to be demanding of the system and I agree with jon, think about other aspects of the hardware and reliability to make your choice.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:42 AM on December 12, 2020

I'm not sure what you are hoping will be accomplished by bringing the IT guy with you but: if you are having an IT professional accompany you to the shop anyway, why not just ask that person if they can recommend something that is in stock and suits your needs (or is comparable to the previous machine)?
posted by sm1tten at 11:06 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I actually do think this is somewhat suspicious, it is quite possible that this failed because of their attempted fixes and someone in the shop is trying to cover that up. From my experience many computer repair shops are totally above-board and well staffed, and some are pretty sketchy and full of amateurs. The main way to figure this out is to ask EXACTLY what went wrong with the motherboard and physically look at the laptop, your IT friend can help with that.

So I think it is reasonable to inquire and bring up the potential of a discount, there's no harm in trying as long as you are respectful. The respectful way is to calmly ask for details about what went wrong, and suggest that a discount might be reasonable because the shop's work might be partially responsible for the failure. As long as you don't accuse them directly there's a good chance they will want to keep you happy and offer you something (probably less than $200). Also if they are trying to charge you for the failed repair (other than a deposit) you can probably get that cancelled

Or you could be a real hard-ass, directly accuse them of breaking your laptop and threaten to sue them and leave bad reviews online. Some of my friends do this and it apparently works for them, but I don't think it's fair to intimidate small business owners unless it's clear they are trying to scam people.
posted by JZig at 11:33 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have had wretched experience with consumer grade laptops. They use cheaper, less reliable components ans some are downright flimsy. Last consumer-grade HP I worked on was glued shut, no repairable possible, removing the hard drive was a pain, and if it had been repairable, it wouldn't have been after that. The 200 might make it worthwhile.

RAM is now measured in gigabytes, and I think 8 is a good baseline. RAM is usually super easy to add.

I and many other MeFites frequently recommend refurbished Lenovo Thinkpads, business-class laptops that are built well, last well, can be repaired, upgraded. I get the T series, tons of options on ebay, newegg, lenovo sites. Businesses lease them, when the lease ends, the get refurbished and sold at good prices.
posted by theora55 at 1:15 PM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would haggle on the value. First line position: they broke your computer - since it was working when you gave it to them - and you will graciously take store credit against a new laptop, how much will they offer? Middle ground: cash payment, and most certainly no charge for the 'repair' work, and go to a shop that doesn't have a track record of doing this. Red line: get laptop back and walk away, ideally not paying them a cent, and post a review honestly detailing your experience since you are now out one two year old laptop.

The odds of a two year old computer failing in the maybe two hour window of time that it was being worked on in the shop are very small. It could have, but Occam's razor says that there's more to this.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 5:16 PM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your help. I am going to get 8 GB RAM, and probably either a refurbished of HP Pavillion, marked down $200. I will try, politely, to get some compensation from the shop.
posted by NotLost at 9:26 AM on December 13, 2020

Response by poster: After I asked the shop for compensation, they offered to replace the motherboard, at no cost to me.

I need to pay to fix only the original two problems.
posted by NotLost at 11:52 AM on December 18, 2020

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