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Repair News Articles from the Tech Industry

June 16, 2009

How Much Should It Cost To Replace The Motherboard On A Laptop?

John's wife's laptop died, and his local Geek Squad wants $800 total to replace the motherboard. John says he found the motherboard for $150, and he wants to know why Geek Squad thinks it will require $650 in labor. So all you IT and geek readers out there, we ask you: is this a fair price?

Here's John's story. The first paragraph is really more about how Best Buy screwed up yet another easy sale by failing to offer the bare minimum of service. Paragraphs two and three are about the motherboard.

My wife's laptop died about a 2 weeks after the 1 year warranty expired. We paid about $1000 (including tax) for it from Sam's Club. We contacted HP on the off-chance that they'd be cool about it and cover it anyway. No luck. So my wife, desperate to get her laptop working, decided to take it to The Geek Squad. First, they told her that they couldn't diagnose it there that they'd have to send it away to do so. She uses this as her work computer, even though we bought it ourselves, and couldn't wait to get it back. So she said she'd buy a new one then and there and have them transfer the data to her new laptop. I'd already found one that would be good for her while she was at the Geek Squad counter and we went over to it. We couldn't find a store associate anywhere. So my wife went up to the counter to have someone come over to help us. We told them where we'd be standing/waiting and they said they'd send someone right over. We waited, and waited, and waited. No one. My wife was fuming at this point and she went back up the counter and demanded that they give her back her laptop, and told them that they just lost out on a guaranteed $1200+ sale then and there.

But it gets better.

So, desperate to get her laptop working, she had me take it back the them the next day. They sent it in ($89 just to look at it, btw) and 2 weeks later the diagnosis is that it needs a new motherboard. I looked online and a new HP motherboard for this unit costs $150 to a consumer like me. This means, they're charging $650 minimum to install a motherboard. Being a year old, I could buy a brand new laptop that's almost twice as good for that same price!

Q: How much should it cost to replace my motherboard if I have someone do it for me?

A: Building a PC requires a “geek” to follow a 23-step procedure, according to a PC Mechanic article entitled Build Your Own PC. While replacing a motherboard is not quite as intense as building an entire PC, it is close. The first thing that your geek will probably do is ask you about your needs. Are you replacing an old motherboard with a similar model, or do you intend to upgrade to a more powerful model?

You answer is critical because your geek can purchase a decent motherboard for use with an Intel Pentium 4 processor for only 50USD or so. Furthermore, your geek may be able to salvage the processor from the old motherboard, for use with the new one. On the other hand, if your intention is to build a powerful 64-bit computer, you should expect to pay about 200USD for a new motherboard. A more powerful motherboard may also require a more powerful processor. 64-Bit processors currently cost from 100USD to more than 300USD. A new motherboard may also require a new power supply and/or faster RAM.

Another consideration is software. Although some “experts” on the internet say differently, the proper installation of a new motherboard requires that your computer’s operating system be reinstalled. Unfortunately, the versions of Microsoft Windows that come pre-installed on many computers today can only be reinstalled using a system restore utility. Such utilities are oftentimes configured to work only with your computer’s original hardware. If a new motherboard is detected, the installation of Windows may fail. So unless you decide to use a free operating system like Linux, you may have to purchase a new copy of Windows. As of this writing, Amazon.com is charging 179USD for a new copy of Windows XP Home Edition.

Now let us discuss the cost of labor. Although I personally charge less for my computer services, many geeks would consider a rate of 40USD per hour to be more than fair. Many geeks will charge a fee to consult with you and purchase the necessary components on your behalf, but others will do one or both tasks free-of-charge. It should only take an experienced geek about an hour to install a new motherboard, depending on the exact hardware that is involved of course. Provided that your computer runs at a decent speed, your geek should be able to install your operating system, basic software, and backup files on your computer in about three hours. For your geek to apply all operating system and software updates, you should expect to pay for at least an additional hour of service.

Taking all of this into consideration, the minimum amount of money that you should be prepared to pay for the installation of a new motherboard is approximately 250USD in combined parts and labor. This amount can very easily skyrocket to well over 500USD! My advice is plan, plan, plan.


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