How far do you go for a customer when performing a system recovery and at what rate?

This question is primarily aimed towards computer techs, help desk support, etc, but anyone with helpful advice is welcome to reply.

I do in-home and office small computer repairs.  Occasionally circumstances call for a system recovery.  Obviouslly you back up the customers data, blow away and reinstall the OS and restore the data.  But as you know, this can leave the PC needing years worth of OS and software patches and fixes.  Also, anything that didnt come pre-installed on the computer would need to be replaced.

How much time do you guys spend on a job like this?  How much of the updating do you do and how much do you leave for the customer?  Have you found any shortcuts or timesavers I may not be aware of?  And most importantly, how much do you charge for this service?  Do you charge a flat rate or hourly?

This isnt such a big deal if the customer says 'nothing on it is important" and you are basically reinstalling the OS.  BUT when someone wants a dozen applications reinstalled and it takes 4-5 hours to do it, it is hard for me to charge them an hourly rate of say $60-$80, for a total of $320-$450, when new computers can be had for $500!  Any advice would REALLY be appreciated!
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Jeff BrownConnect With a Mentor Global Helpdesk SupervisorCommented:
Ordinarily it depends on the level of support the user needs.
I always fully patch os unless user is on dial up.  But i do cary latest windows service pack on cd  to eliminate download time. Also i try to do large jobs like this at my place where i can multi task.  Alot of the tasks associated with this while time consuming do not consume a great deal of my attention.  If the customer insists it be done at their place they pay full rate for time as i'm unable to do anything else while i am there.  If i do it at my place i charge half rate as i'm not giving my undevided attention to the task.
Remember that the new computer will not come with the software installed, so it is either your time or their time.

the computer is useless without the programs and data so don't compare.

Either they want it setup or they can reinstall all of their SW and data themselves. Most will want a professional to do it.

I hope this helps !
Jeff BrownGlobal Helpdesk SupervisorCommented:
also if they bought a new computer they would still be left with the same task of reinstalling everything and moving the data   they aren't saving anything by doing that. and if they are capable of doing that themselves then they don't need me to do as much so it ends up cheaper all they are paying for is the reinstall time and driver loading.
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TomConnect With a Mentor Microsoft ISV PartnerCommented:
My advice is to always face the customer with a price list before the job is done. The list is on the wall at my front desk. All types of works are listed detailed there.
I charge a flat rate.
And if they want you to install extra software, well then they can easily see the cost before telling you to install "everything"
Additionally I have a check list that the customer fill in, selecting what type of work that will be done on the pc. (Same as price list on the wall)

Now you have an agreement with the customer and no sour faces when paying the bill.
mnswhitConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I have a standard rate I charge for this particular issue, as well as slipstreaming updates into a CD each month or 2. I put Avast (anti-virus) on the machine w/ a demo key for virus protection, don't like sending systems back out without any. I don't install any other programs unless requested. Drivers are normally easy to get. For local businesses that utilize my services, I have Images, as most of their systems are similar hardware, and just update the image each month or so, depending on the last re-install.
cwilliambrownAuthor Commented:
This is great info.  I am still "feeling things out" and have done this on an hourly basis and at a flat rate.  I have also done it at home and charged less.  I guess my major concern was doing in a home or business and having to charge $300+, at an hourly rate.  
My wife tells me I'm just not used to charging/making this kind of money yet.  It comes fairly easy to me and I guess I feel guilty.  But she reminds me that :
1. It doesn't come easy to the client or they wouldn't have called.
2. That I spent years and lots of $$$ on college and training
3. That other people are charging the same and the client will call someone else, if not me.
It makes me feel better to hear it from you guys.  I don't want to feel guilty or like I am "cheating" someone.  Did any of you go through this when you first started?
FatMancConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I offer two services:

1. A basic OS reinstall, which is just that. Format the drive, install the OS and drivers and bring up to latest SP and install free AVG. If this is done at my office then I just charge a fixed fee but explain it can take a few days to turn it around. It's the budget option for home users not in a rush to get their PC back.

2. A premium service. I sit at clients home/office, back up all data, reinstall OS, drivers, etc, restore data. Will also install any software they need putting on as long as they have original media and licenses. I charge an hourly rate for this as they are cutting in to my time. Normal cost is around £200.00

Hope this helps

TomMicrosoft ISV PartnerCommented:
"blush" I took me years to understand this. Giving away freebees is just not a thing to do when you run a business. As you I had to have a wife behind me, putting me in the right direction.
cwilliambrownAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all of the input.
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