No one likes it when their PCs break, which they inevitably do. Here at mtstudios we occasionally do repairs for customers and friends but often feel guilty at the time involved and consequent expense.
However, the article below caught my eye in PC Pro magazine, October 2009 – it’s a horrfying read. How these “engineers” can snoop and hack without any consideration,
invent faults and charge for un-replaced parts is beyond my
comprehension. This article should be compulsory reading for anyone who gets friends and relatives to fix their PC’s – often for free – they are owed a debt of gratitude!
If you know of any trustworthy PC repair companies why not give them a mention in our comments section?
PC REPAIR SHOPS EXPOSED
(this Article originally appeared in PCPro magazine, October 2009, and was based
on a report carried out by Sky News.)
An undercover reporter from Sky News reveals the shocking
conduct of Britain’s PC repair shops.
How many technicians does it take to fix a laptop? Just one,
but if you know where to find him, please let us know. We’d heard there were
serious problems with computer repair shops, so we put things to the test, to
find out why customers were getting such a raw deal.
The exercise was simple.
Create a simple fault on a laptop, load it with spy software, take it
into several repair shops, then sit back and see what happens.
First, Sky News engineers installed professional spy software
on a new laptop. Spector Pro was
programmed to load on startup and silently record every “event” that took place.
If the mouse was moved, a folder opened or a file looked at, we’d know about
it. We also installed DigiWatcher. This devious little tool auto-runs on
startup and tells any connected webcam to secretly film whoever is at the
machine. We then filled the hard drive with the sort of data anyone might have
on their PC: holiday photos, CVs, MP3s, Word documents and login details.
Our laptop now looked just like any other. To create the
fault, we simply loosened one of the memory modules so Windows wouldn’t load.
To get things working again, one needs only to push the chip back into the slot
and reboot. Any half-way competent
engineer should fix it in minutes. We teamed up with PC Pro readers to track
down shops with the worst reputation and took our laptop in to be repaired. We
expected poor service, but nothing prepared us for the first shop we visited.
SNOOPING ON HOLIDAY
Laptop Revival in Hammersmith offered us a free diagnosis when
we dropped off our laptop. Yet the spy software later revealed something extraordinary.
The boot log shows that the technician discovers our loose memory and clicks it
back into position. The machine is rebooted and the problem solved. He then
begins browsing through our hard drive. A folder marked ‘Private” is opened and
he flicks through our researcher’s holiday photographs, including intimate
snaps of her in her bikini. He stares at picture after picture, stopping only
to show them to colleagues. He then picks up the phone and calls our
He tells her our motherboard is faulty and will need to be replaced.
Usually it costs £130, but he’ll do it for her for £100. We tell him we’ll think
about it and give him a call tomorrow. After more snooping, he logs off. But a
few hours later, another technician boots our machine. He also begins searching
our hard drive until he finds login details for our Facebook and Hotmail accounts.
With an audible cackle he removes a USB flash drive from around his neck, plugs
it in and then copies them across. He also discovers our holiday photos and
copies those of our researcher in her bikini.
The spy software takes a snapshot of the files on his memory
stick. One is called MAMMA JAMMAS (urban slang for females with large breasts). It contains more holiday snaps of girls in
their bikinis. Most worryingly, he discovers login details for our bank
account, logs onto the banks site and attempts to break into the account.
He only fails because the details were false. Laptop Revival
declined to comment.
There were similar problems with Digitech in Putney. Although
its staff fixed our fault, they also spent a while snooping. The webcam reveals
the technician takes a quick look over his shoulder, before flicking through
our holiday pictures. He then attempts to clean up what he’s done by deleting
the Recent Documents folder. Digitech later told Sky that it was looking at the
photos to test the memory.
There were also problems with PC World in Brentford. The
technician triumphantly diagnosed a faulty motherboard and insisted we needed a
new one. We were told unless we paid £230 in advance, we couldn’t have it repaired.
We agreed. But when we collected the laptop and got it home, we discovered only
the memory had been replaced and not the motherboard. PC World apologised and
offered to refund £200 of the repair fee.
Meanwhile, at Evnova Computers in Barbican the loose memory
was also spotted, but the company told us we needed a new motherboard. We
declined the offer and collected our laptop. When we examined it, we discovered
technicians had soldered the memory bus pins together to recreate the original
fault. Evnova later claimed it believed we were from a rival repair company.
There were also problems with Micro Anvika on Tottenham
Court Road. It fixed our laptop then
called us to claim it needed to examine the machine to find the fault. We were
charged £145. All this for a loose memory module. Micro Anvika later told us we
should only have been charged £95.
Only one shop performed flawlessly. Pix 4 in Shepherds Bush
promptly discovered the loose memory, popped it back into place and told us
with a smile there would be no charge.