How to apprentice as a computer repair technician
November 11, 2007 10:40 AM   Subscribe

How can I apprentice as a computer repair technician?

I really want to become a computer repair technician. Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted to be an electrician. Once I became a teenager, my love for computers took over. I love taking them apart, building them, fixing them for people (usually software issues, although I really love working with the parts). But I have absolutely no training and no real sense of direction other than "What if...I'll try this!". It's a whole lot of fun and I can do it for hours.

But I really can't afford to go to school right now. Being paid is not an issue, I'm really just looking to learn the ropes. I don't have any intention of owning my own business. I am not currently working and there would be no demands on my time. But how would I go about finding an apprenticeship position? I live in Philadelphia by the way.
posted by Danila to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you already know your way around the internals of a computer, you can probably get hired on at a local repair shop right now (or the Geek Squad or similar chain store service). In my experience, turning a fun hobby into a career often ruins a lot of the fun, so you might want to try the industry out before investing in school.
posted by bizwank at 10:46 AM on November 11, 2007

These people are looking for volunteers:
They're a nonprofit that distributes donated computers to needy people and organizations.
(via google)

I'd guess that most computer technician are self-taught, like yourself. I agree with bizwank that you may want to hire on at a local computer shop right now. (And I'd suggest a non-chain store, just from the stories I've heard from people working in chain stores.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:07 AM on November 11, 2007

how about studying for the A+ Certification; it helps get interviews.
posted by mand0 at 11:32 AM on November 11, 2007

Computer repair is unlikely to be a growth industry (unless the economy crashes, a real possibility), because it's often cheaper and faster to replace a PC than repair it. Consider instead something like help desk or networking (both of which have a "get your hands dirty" hardware side).
posted by orthogonality at 11:42 AM on November 11, 2007

I'd recommend getting some Linux experience. You can teach yourself, and combined with something like studying for the A+ certification, it can be a quick way to get a basic understanding of things that you may have missed in your self-education.

The other reason to get Linux experience is that there is certainly a market in repurposing computers. For many people who only want to run basic word-processing and internet programs, they don't need to upgrade their hardware for something like Vista. You can, with a bit of experience, set up their old machines with one of the many Linux flavors and it'll be more than what they need - and you can charge them for this service.

Having just looked at the link as well, that might be a good way to go. In the same way, volunteering at any sort of community computer center might be a good start... in any sort of small non-profit, there's usually a lot of space for you to learn and many different sorts of tasks to handle.
posted by andrewmarc at 12:28 PM on November 11, 2007

I guess to put this in perspective, I like working on computers as an amateur. I don't have much interest in pursuing this as a career. I want to be able to fix my computer and the ones of those I love. I really just want to work with them. But I need to know what I'm doing beyond what I know now, which is rather simple as far as I'm concerned. I want to be like all of those amateur car mechanics, who know everything about the ins and outs of cars, but don't have any certifications and may not work anywhere above a neighborhood shop.

Or all the girls in my neighborhood who can "do hair" but they have no license and don't make much money at it. Mostly they do their own hair and that of friends/family. They don't own their own shops, and went to no school. They may work in someone else's shop, but nothing fancy. I want to find someone who can teach me how to "do computers" the way those girls "do hair".

I will look into the volunteer opportunity, that looks good.
posted by Danila at 1:58 PM on November 11, 2007

Most "computer repair" has nothing to do with hardware. I think you should focus on:

1. Getting the A+ certification. It'll look good on your resume and maybe teach you some things you didnt know before.

2. Get the microsoft 70-270 certification. Passing this also lets you claim MCP on your resume.

3. Learn the ins and outs of removing spyware and viruses. Learn how to reliabily backup a pc before doing a reinstall of windows on it (including the user profile).

4. Learn how various manufacturers package their reinstall disks. Most of computer repair is reinstalling everything after the user has trashed the machine. Some have restore partitions, others have disks, etc.

5. Get acquainted with the event viewer. You really should be able to understand everything in there and what it means before you go touching other people's machines for money.

6. Learn the basics of networking especially things like the difference between a dynamic and static IP, how DHCP works, how NAT works (and how to forward ports).

7. Learn to be able to communicate technical things to non-technical people. You'll find that a lot of support positions are not staffed by very technical people. Just people who know enough and are able to provide good customer service to non-technical people.

I'd say if you have all of the above and are able to explain your experience and knowledge to an employer in a professional manner than you should be a shoo-in for an entry-level support position. Your first job (or two) may be in a call center, so communication skills in this scenario are even more important.

If this is a career decision Id highly recommend the electrician approach. Unionized gigs are much more cush and better paid than IT monkey jobs, unless youre aiming for systems administration/engineering or networking and are just using support as a stepping stone.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:00 PM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]

Put up signs offering to do computer repair. If you're really brave, put them up at senior centers, retirement communities, etc. You will make friends.

It's true that most hardware repair is really replacement. Most pc repair is getting rid of malware (spyware, viruses, adware) updating windows, installing antivirus & anti-spyware software, etc. You will get more respect if you charge for your services.
posted by theora55 at 3:10 PM on November 11, 2007

The best advice I can give you is just keep doing what you are doing. Experience is the best teacher. Build your own systems, dont be shy about helping friends and family fix theirs. Keep up with reading hardware sites like Toms Hardware,, etc

When i was in my early twenties, people described me like you.. the first computer training job I had. I took 3 laptops home, took them all apart and put them back together again. They hadnt ever seen someone do that. and it just took off from there. I am innately curious and my brain is a sponge.

Perhaps see if any local colleges have surplus auctions where you could buy old retired systems and dork around on them ?

Good luck :)
posted by jmnugent at 6:16 PM on November 11, 2007

Computer repair is unlikely to be a growth industry (unless the economy crashes, a real possibility), because it's often cheaper and faster to replace a PC than repair it.

Yeah, but people want their software and everything, so unless it all moves to the web people are going still to want their computers fixed, but fixing something like a laptop might be difficult.

But something like geek squad would be a good bet. Computer repair isn't really a trade like blacksmithing.
posted by delmoi at 8:29 PM on November 13, 2007

I guess to put this in perspective, I like working on computers as an amateur. I don't have much interest in pursuing this as a career. I want to be able to fix my computer and the ones of those I love. I really just want to work with them.

I did this as a hobby in high school I would go to the surplus sale and buy old PCs a few years out of date (these were 386s and some 486s and my first computer was a Pentium 75). I had some friends who were into the same thing and it was a blast.

But... there isn't really much 'there' there when it comes to fixing computers, at least from a mechanical/physical point of view. You've got your hard drive, ram, CPU, power supply, video card, sound card (these days, you'll probably use a built in sound card) and that's it. You just plug them in the right spots and off you go, everything else is software. (I can build a whole PC from those components in a half an hour)

If you want to really learn more about how computers "work" once you've put them together, learn how to install Linux and play around with it. You'll learn a lot about how computers are setup, and a lot that applies to windows too. Give yourself some projects like setting up a web server, and so on.

Most computer work in the real world involves configuring and setting up software, hardware is just a small aspect of that.
posted by delmoi at 8:38 PM on November 13, 2007

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