Computer Repair - Side Business

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I come to you FW Community with a few questions. I would like to start a computer repair business. I have a full-time job but would love to do this on the side to generate a second income. What programs(Malware Bytes, Hijack this, spybot, rkill) would be needed to refresh and clean windows/mac to get the customers computerup and running properly in the least amount of time? Prices? Cost to Start?

I would really like to use the Serial Code(windows sticker comes on tower) to refresh windows, is there a master windows disk that would cover all versions?

Services:
Install SSD hard drives, Spyware removal, windows re-install, transfer files, tutorial and training, etc.?

Please share your experience/advice. Thank you in advance.

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Most Recent Posts
A lot of cynics jumped on this. If OP enjoys fixing computers and has some skills, there is a market. I do NOT want to... (more)

wizwor (Nov. 20, 2012 @ 7:42p) |

Op, its a tough market, really tough market. I was heavily involved in the industry many many moons a go, we used to con... (more)

Scottiedug (Nov. 20, 2012 @ 11:39p) |

I have been a self-employed and self-taught PC tech for 12 years.

IF there is money to be made in this business, it proba... (more)

maddiebeagle (Nov. 22, 2012 @ 4:23p) |

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listen to this guy's podcast, he already does what you do and talks about all the tools he uses. http://mikenation.net/

There are 3 edition formats of Windows. Retail, OEM, and Volume License. You can get a subscription to Microsoft Technet to get the installation media (you would want the OEM edition to use the sticker on the side of PCs), or you can torrent a copy of it. A master dvd containing all Retail, OEM, and Volume License installs can be made into one dvd using Windows Automated Installation Kit and imagex.exe, but that is an advanced topic.

yeah right

...you and every other person graduating with a 2 year degree in "computer sciences" or from "career training schools"...the competition will bury you

have you ever checked craigslist for the tons of spammers offering the exact same basic things?
have you made a business plan?
do you know what it takes to run a small business?
are you CompTIA A+ certified? are you microsoft certified?

unless you are tight with a large community of internet-wielding old people, you won't survive...

lordoffire said:   yeah right

...you and every other person graduating with a 2 year degree in "computer sciences" or from "career training schools"...the competition will bury you

have you ever checked craigslist for the tons of spammers offering the exact same basic things?
have you made a business plan?
do you know what it takes to run a small business?
are you CompTIA A+ certified? are you microsoft certified?

unless you are tight with a large community of internet-wielding old people, you won't survive...


While the field is saturated, this would be side income for him and he wouldn't be relying on it to live. If he fails or doesn't make as much as he thought then so what? At least he tried.

OP,

Being in IT myself I see a lot of variation to the different malware people get. Combofix,malwarebytes, system restore take care of most of it. Sometimes I have to go with the Kaspersky LiveCD etc. Start out by advertising with friends and relatives etc. Also undercut prices on craigslist and post daily there to hopefully get some hits. Doesn't cost anything. Good luck!

lordoffire said:   yeah right

...you and every other person graduating with a 2 year degree in "computer sciences" or from "career training schools"...the competition will bury you

have you ever checked craigslist for the tons of spammers offering the exact same basic things?
have you made a business plan?
do you know what it takes to run a small business?
are you CompTIA A+ certified? are you microsoft certified?

unless you are tight with a large community of internet-wielding old people, you won't survive...


Yes, I see those guys on Craigslist.
Not yet.
I will learn.
No and No.

This would not be for survival, if you would have read my post...I have a full-time job. This is something I enjoy doing and the second stream of income would be helpful.

Thank you for your input.
------------------------------------

I work for an engineering company doing Fiber to the Home conversions. 90% of the customers ask, "do you know someone who works on computers?" The local shop charges 85+ for a re-install. further investigation needed to get more pricing info.

jacobhorne said:   Yes, I see those guys on Craigslist.
Not yet.
I will learn.
No and No.

This would not be for survival, if you would have read my post...I have a full-time job. This is something I enjoy doing and the second stream of income would be helpful.

Thank you for your input.
------------------------------------

I work for an engineering company doing Fiber to the Home conversions. 90% of the customers ask, "do you know someone who works on computers?" The local shop charges 85+ for a re-install. further investigation needed to get more pricing info.


unless you have something the other people don't (a lot of them are certified) or can provided specialized services, there won't be a stream...a trickle at best

I was completely serious about the business plan; have you done simple searches to find out how many competitors there are? what they charge? what their target market is?

there are a whole world of things to consider, probably one of the most important being "can you afford to drive around to do this?"


(I'd also be careful about "offering your services" while on the job...you never know)

I've watched businesses of this sort come and go over the last 20+ years that I've been running my shop. Most of them open an office or retail location and are gone in less than a year because they overspent. Those trying to run a small thing out of their homes seem to last a bit longer, but I don't know of any that made it past the 5 year hump. I suppose there are probably some, they just deal with friends and others that I don't know so I don't hear about them. They certainly don't concern me or make me think of them as competition.

I agree completely with lordoffire about being careful about offering services while on your current job. At the most, leave a card and say you can't really talk about it while on the job. If you start spending time promoting yourself someone is going to get pissed somewhere down the line and turn you in and then you won't have your primary job anymore.

But, back to your IT work... How are you planning to clean PCs? In your house? Do you have enough insurance in case of theft or a fire? Where do you plan to get your parts - retail locations or do you plan to get a reseller certificate so you can buy from distribution? What about warranty if a part you sell goes bad? Do you plan to give people your cell phone number? Will you be answering calls during normal business hours, while on your current job? If not, how many (after work) hours do you plan to spend on this? What is your experience level, anyway? Can you handle Windows 98, Me, XP, Vista, 7 and 8? Will you offer to network PCs too?

I'm not trying to talk you out of this. These are all things I had to deal with when I started.

As for programs to use, well, there's a lot of opinion there and personal preference. For malware removal I like the Kaspersky Rescue CD, malwarebytes and TDSSKiller. Some rootkits will require rebuilding the MBR and Boot Sector, and on newer versions of Windows the BCD as well, but that can all be done within Windows itself, at the Repair Windows command prompt.

From your current job I would imagine you're good at wiring - maybe offering to do network / phone / stereo wiring would be a good idea too.

lordoffire said:   yeah right

...you and every other person graduating with a 2 year degree in "computer sciences" or from "career training schools"...the competition will bury you

have you ever checked craigslist for the tons of spammers offering the exact same basic things?
have you made a business plan?
do you know what it takes to run a small business?
are you CompTIA A+ certified? are you microsoft certified?

unless you are tight with a large community of internet-wielding old people, you won't survive...


Lord of Fire is on target.
Based on the questions you asked in your orig post, you do not YET have the expertise required. When you consider what getting this side business started is going to "cost" you, consider these two costs, in addition to Technet, and additional tools:
1) Time. The reason why the old adage "time is money" so appropriately applies in your case is that every hour you spend studying at 3AM(because you can't study it during the day...you have a day job) is time you could have spent having someone pay you to do whatever it is you already do know well. If you can't find a side job that interests you that utilizes whatever skills you are being paid to do in your day job, your first step should be to change your day job, which itself, may require some investment of education. If you don't approach it that way, you will never become something that a substantial number of people would pay for, when rent-a-tech's(with A+, etc certifications) are already so abundantly available at affordable rates.
2) Marketing. You need to establish what it is going to cost you to acquire a customer. If 'computer' section in CL is your ONLY strategy, I would suggest that you give that some more thought. 1983 was a bit different than things are today. Here in 2012, 97% of folks have either a grandchild, or friends kid that knows how to plug up a hard drive, copy files, and install Avast. What they don't know, they search for, and find very quickly, on YouTube.
I apologize if any part of what I'm saying sounds harsh, but, I've been exactly where you are. I started out as a contractor installing Windows. My advise to you is that if you don't expand on what you are already doing in your day job, you should either put your spare time efforts into changing that day job, or look forward to the day when you look back with regret at all the time you wasted trying to break into a saturated market in such an ill-prepared manor.

garystad said:   If you can't find a side job that interests you that utilizes whatever skills you are being paid to do in your day job, your first step should be to change your day job, which itself, may require some investment of education. If you don't approach it that way, you will never become something that a substantial number of people would pay for, when rent-a-tech's(with A+, etc certifications) are already so abundantly available at affordable rates.

I don't completely agree with this. His current day job is somewhat related, a bit tenuous sure, but the connection is there.

If you can do the work and do it well nobody will care about certifications. I've been running my shop for over 20 years. I've never taken a class and don't have any certifications. I have, occasionally, been asked if I have a certification, but it's pretty rare. If you plan to go work for someone else though... well, that's another story altogether.

garystad said:   lordoffire said:   yeah right

...you and every other person graduating with a 2 year degree in "computer sciences" or from "career training schools"...the competition will bury you

have you ever checked craigslist for the tons of spammers offering the exact same basic things?
have you made a business plan?
do you know what it takes to run a small business?
are you CompTIA A+ certified? are you microsoft certified?

unless you are tight with a large community of internet-wielding old people, you won't survive...


Lord of Fire is on target.
Based on the questions you asked in your orig post, you do not YET have the expertise required. When you consider what getting this side business started is going to "cost" you, consider these two costs, in addition to Technet, and additional tools:
1) Time. The reason why the old adage "time is money" so appropriately applies in your case is that every hour you spend studying at 3AM(because you can't study it during the day...you have a day job) is time you could have spent having someone pay you to do whatever it is you already do know well. If you can't find a side job that interests you that utilizes whatever skills you are being paid to do in your day job, your first step should be to change your day job, which itself, may require some investment of education. If you don't approach it that way, you will never become something that a substantial number of people would pay for, when rent-a-tech's(with A+, etc certifications) are already so abundantly available at affordable rates.
2) Marketing. You need to establish what it is going to cost you to acquire a customer. If 'computer' section in CL is your ONLY strategy, I would suggest that you give that some more thought. 1983 was a bit different than things are today. Here in 2012, 97% of folks have either a grandchild, or friends kid that knows how to plug up a hard drive, copy files, and install Avast. What they don't know, they search for, and find very quickly, on YouTube.
I apologize if any part of what I'm saying sounds harsh, but, I've been exactly where you are. I started out as a contractor installing Windows. My advise to you is that if you don't expand on what you are already doing in your day job, you should either put your spare time efforts into changing that day job, or look forward to the day when you look back with regret at all the time you wasted trying to break into a saturated market in such an ill-prepared manor.


I am finacially secure and stable, any income I would make from this would just be extra money, I actually enjoy trying to figure out/fix computers (ex: weekend mechanic).

I have no desire for a full scale operation. I basically want to reintall windows($85) file transer ssd drive installs ect...Using a room out of my house. Nothing major.

You would be suprised at how many ederly people need help. Thank you all for your input.

with the questions you placed in the OP, it's obvious you have no business charging for services you don't fully understand yourself, most of the computers i have serviced have been to a local person like yourself who has basically taken money for services not rendered.

are you certified to touch anything without voiding a manufacturer warranty?

just because you change your own oil, does not make you a mechanic

jacobhorne said:   I would like to start a computer repair business.

What programs(Malware Bytes, Hijack this, spybot, rkill) would be needed to ...

I would really like to use the Serial Code(windows sticker comes on tower) to refresh windows...



Great

You lack requisite knowledge, least of which problem solving.

What happens when their computer crashes on Monday afternoon while you are busy at work?

riznick said:   What happens when their computer crashes on Monday afternoon while you are busy at work?

WTF? Its not a frickin A/C in Phoenix summer. They can wait till 5:00pm.

I did this exact same thing about 5 years ago and it was a TOTAL PAIN IN THE @SS!!!

People are usually not too smart and will screw up something that you fixed already within minutes. Then they will call you, call you, call you to get it repaired again (free of charge since you obviously didn't do it right the first time).

Want to make money doing computers? Consult for businesses not INDIVIDUALS!!!

One of my wife's friends continually tells me "..... my computer isn't working again", "my programs are missing"(deleted desktop icons), "my wireless internet won't connect"... Of course, I have to fix this computer (for free).

One thing I will NEVER do again (at a job or out in the world) is say that I know ANYTHING about computers!

It's just not worth the pain of being on call 24/7 (yes even at midnight!) for the money you might be paid.

I also noticed that you said about helping older people.

I'm trying not to laugh as I type this. My former boss (now retired) at my current job would call me 24/7 about her computer not working properly. She's 70+ years old. I got so sick and tired of going over to her house to fix her computer that her grandkids screwed up by downloading torrents, etc, etc. it was crazy.

Old people ARE NOT your target audience!!!!!!!!!! No chance!!!!!!!

On a side note:

consider what's on their mouse before you handle it.
consider what's on their keyboard before you handle it.
consider what's on their computer chair before you sit.

jimmywalt said:   I also noticed that you said about helping older people.

I'm trying not to laugh as I type this. My former boss (now retired) at my current job would call me 24/7 about her computer not working properly. She's 70+ years old. I got so sick and tired of going over to her house to fix her computer that her grandkids screwed up by downloading torrents, etc, etc. it was crazy.

Old people ARE NOT your target audience!!!!!!!!!! No chance!!!!!!!


Except here he would be paid to fix the problems vs where you had to do it for free (I assume) because she was your boss.

jimmywalt said:   I did this exact same thing about 5 years ago and it was a TOTAL PAIN IN THE @SS!!!

People are usually not too smart and will screw up something that you fixed already within minutes. Then they will call you, call you, call you to get it repaired again (free of charge since you obviously didn't do it right the first time).

Want to make money doing computers? Consult for businesses not INDIVIDUALS!!!

One of my wife's friends continually tells me "..... my computer isn't working again", "my programs are missing"(deleted desktop icons), "my wireless internet won't connect"... Of course, I have to fix this computer (for free).

One thing I will NEVER do again (at a job or out in the world) is say that I know ANYTHING about computers!

It's just not worth the pain of being on call 24/7 (yes even at midnight!) for the money you might be paid.


So true...I just tell my friends that I am Project Manager or the DBA guy rather than an IT Engineer so I don't have to deal with their wifi and printer issues. On top of that they want me to find them new printers and other pc hardware, pay for it out of my pocket and give them the receipt for reimbursement and then install it for them ! All for free. No thank you.

A lot of cynics jumped on this. If OP enjoys fixing computers and has some skills, there is a market. I do NOT want to do this and get a lot of requests from people who do not trust the CL crowd.

OP, figure out what you want to offer, devise methods to execute the services, and figure out how much it will cost you to provide the service. Set prices that make the effort worth your while -- include discounts for dropoff and surcharges for remote service. Create a web page (wordpress.com) that lists your contact information, services, prices, and references. Get business cards that include the url to the site. Leave a card with each satisfied customer.

As for services offered, check out your competition...
- Undercut local Best Buy and Staples on computer setup (back up media, all updates, move data and programs from their old PC).
- One year checkup (backup of current state, replace expired AV software with free stuff like avast, optimize PC)
- Emergency (data recovery, ondemand backup/restore, virus removal, password recovery)
- Secure Networking (configure wireless, secure network, document whole thing)
- Secure data (put encrypted container on computer desktop, encrypt usb disk)
- Automated backups (cobian)
- Windows 8 training (because it IS that different; see http://marketing.dell.com/windows-8-ebook)

Op, its a tough market, really tough market. I was heavily involved in the industry many many moons a go, we used to contract guys like you wanting to earn a little extra cash and believe me, they worked for it. A simple re-install can be time consuming, especially while transferring customers files and then you have issues with programs like "where is my copy of Office 2010"...sure they paid for it...or not. Then once its all fixed up and handed over, 9 times out of 10 you will get a call that something isn't right, its always user error, but since they handed over some cash to you, a large amount of customers feel like they will own you.

Only way to really make it worth your time is charge by the hour and keep it simple, most people won't go for that, but time and time again I see guys undercutting themselves and making less than minimum wage doing this.

I have been a self-employed and self-taught PC tech for 12 years.

IF there is money to be made in this business, it probably lies in repairing APPLE products, because they are more expensive, versus commodity-priced PCs that many people simply throw away or donate when they break.

Also, DATA RECOVERY! People will pay til it hurts when they need their irreplaceable data back.

Also, see if you can hook up with a local IT asset recovery company. You can probably buy servers, components, and stuff real cheap from them, and then sell them on eBay.

Good luck!



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