If my toaster breaks, it’s cheaper to throw it out and buy a new one. If my refrigerator breaks, depending on the vintage of the hardware it’s usually cheaper to pay a service tech a few hundred dollars to fix it. Why is it that when my computer breaks it’s expected that someone on the phone will help me fix it for free?
The computer manufacturing industry has reached the point where hardware is a commodity item. Margins on discounted computer goods are so small that one support call could easily erase any profits the manufacturer might have had.
What are the alternatives? Computer manufacturers can stay in the business of supporting hardware, but customers should be required to pay for these services. If your printer eschews the latest copy of your new novel, a support call to Dell for $40 an hour should get that fixed in a jiffy. For users who are able to fix these issues themselves, they can save on the cost of the support call just like a television repairman can save on the cost of fixing his own TV.
This is not a new concept, just like service on your automobile is not free the cost of repairing and maintaining your computer should not be free either. In fact, this is such a good idea that companies like GeekSquad and RedHat are basing a business model on this concept.
To maintain your personal computer, it should be approached in much the same way that you maintain your automobile. Have the machine checked every so often by a professional, even if everything seems to be working fine that doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant problem lurking under the hood. This will ensure the viability of the support industry with the expertise to maintain your personal computer for many years to come.
Of course, you could also treat it as a toaster and discard the unusable system at the first sign of trouble. Considering the prevalence of spyware and the wide assortment of virii that are out there, this might just be your best option.