House calls are billed on an hourly basis (call for current rate), plus the cost of any parts required to make needed repairs or upgrades to the computer. The most common house call (a computer tuneup) typically requires between 1 and 3 hours. Some services can take longer if problems are encountered, or if you want a lot of extra services or tutoring. No extra work is done without a thorough discussion and your prior approval.
Before calling for help with your computer, it is a very good idea to backup your data. There is always a risk of loss of data when making changes to a computer, and having a current backup of all of your personal data can save you a lot of problems as well as a lot of time. Some computer problems can be solved in more than one way, and not having to worry about destroying irreplaceable data may allow a simpler, more reliable solution than trying to nurse an ailing computer along long enough to create a backup.
Here are some examples of services which can take longer than the usual 1 – 3 hours:
- Removing a serious virus infection can require reformatting of the hard drive and reinstallation of the operating system. Some viruses can be cleaned safely and completely, many cannot. There are numerous websites containing descriptions of the characteristics of known viruses and the best method of removing them.
- Reinstallation of the operating system. This typically takes 2 hours by the time the hardware drivers are all loaded to make video cards, mice, printers and other accessories fully functional. If CDs containing these drivers are not available, more time is needed to download them from the internet and transfer them to CD or flash drive. It is also a good idea to make sure that up-to-date antivirus and firewall programs are installed before connecting the computer to the internet to protect the computer from malicious virus, worm, and spyware infestations which can quickly affect an unprotected computer. Note – some operating systems are subject to more attacks than others. It usually takes much less time to install a Linux operating system on a computer and get it fully functional than reaching the same stage with a version of Windows.
- Reformatting the hard drive. This can take 1/2 hour or longer depending on the size of the hard drive and the speed of the computer. There are a number of problems which can be corrected by this procedure, which must be followed by reinstallation of the operating system and all of the additional software you need on your computer.
- Website design. A simple website with frames, a menu, a main page, a links page, a contact information page, and a couple of other pages can be completed in a couple of days for under $500. If you want some graphic design work done for the website, or marketing surveys, or custom programming, that varies too much to give general guidelines here. Tell me about your website needs, and I’ll do my best to give you a rough estimate of how long it might take to complete. CompuDoc can also tell you what you need to know to find a host for your website, and how to register a domain name.
- If your computer is older than three years, it can take much longer to solve problems due to a lack of available compatible replacement parts. Some older parts (like CD-ROM drives, floppy drives, and Hard Drives) can be replaced with new parts, but if critical parts are broken (like the CPU, motherboard, memory chips, or power supply), it may require upgrading most of the computer to end up with a working system. You can’t mix some brand new components with obsolete computers. If this is the case, your most economical and effective solution is to buy a ‘barebones’ upgrade kit and transfer the usable components from your old system to the new system. A barebones upgrade kit consists of a new case and power supply, motherboard, CPU and cooling fan, and memory chips. Many new motherboards come with a lot of extras built-in – such as network ports, modems, sound cards, video cards – removing the need for transferring incompatable add-on cards found in some older computers. If something critical is broken in a computer which is more than 5 years old, it is almost certain to require either a barebones upgrade or a whole new computer. A brand new entry level computer can be purchased these days for around $400, so this can be cheaper than some more time-consuming repairs.