The 5 R's
4. Remote admin
5. Run away
There is no hard and fast rule to computer repairs but given proper experience an engineer can easily determine whether a computer or server is worth repairing or upgrading. If you're setting up SLAs or merely want to give yourself some working timescales, consider this as your benchmark:
Repair - estimated time: <1 hour
Repair is your first stage. Assess hardware, software, obtain information from the client, observe the fault happening. Formulate a solution and implement it taking into consideration availability of parts and spares and incorporate into your repair bill. Process of elimination and like-for-like swap outs, is the quickest turnaround.
Restore - estimated time: <30 minutes
Sometimes software errors and errors brought on by patches, updates, and questionable third party drivers can best be resolved simply with a system restore. It is a Godsend and an amazing time saving tool. Even if you restore a PC to what it was a few hours ago, it is a safe process and has minimal side effects and lots of bonuses. When in doubt, restore back to the oldest restore point and if this resolves the problem then work your way forward from there.
Re-installation - estimated time: 1 - 2 hours
Re-installation is predominantly dictated in time by the speed of the overall PC or in the least by which operating system you are installing. I have not timed it personally but end to end on a new system Windows 7 takes about 20 - 30 minutes.
Re-installation has the added bonus that you do not have to backup the user files first, and is quick way to deal with hard-core viruses and malware. The downside being the need to re-install all applications and possibly restoring user documents and settings.
Remote admin - estimated time 10 minutes - 4 hours
Remote admin should always be an option for engineers who have problem clients/PCs/servers. If you are unable to perform the above scenarios at your leisure or convenience, then consider having remote access to allow you to tweak and repair in your own time. It will save on travel and being able to repair a system remotely and in your own environment takes the stress off you as you are not being scrutinized or pressurized.
Run away - estimated time: <10 minutes
No real engineer or technician likes to admit defeat but we should be able to recognize our limitations even if it's just a limitation in time. Learn to identify time consuming faults, non-paying customers, and when you may be flogging a dead horse. Step back and consider whether this item is uneconomical to repair.
If you charge 30 - 60 units of currency per hour then a 4 (plus) hour job becomes more costly than most NEW items off the shelf. If you work for a company as a technician, then your average hourly rate is roughly 50 - 90 units of currency and this can eaisly equate to the price of a reasonable laptop or computer.
Step away from the job and move on to the next.
In closing, I recommend that you read this great article about why we should not do jobs for free: