I have been working this week on fixing three computers.
MacBook Hard Drive Replacement
Daughter #1's Macbook has a small 250GB hard drive, and because she takes many photos, the drive quickly filled up.
I read on the Internet that it is easy to switch drives and move the data on Macs (not so for Windows PCs!). I removed the 640GB hard drive from my daughter-in-law's old, broken computer. It took about 3.5 hours to move the data from MacBook hard drive to the external one, and then another ten minutes to physically swap the drives. Well, that and a few more steps, as outlined in http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos/2012/12/how-to-replace-the-hard-drive-in-your-macbook.html
I didn't mention in that blog posting that Apple uses proprietary bolts to mount the hard drive in this model of MacBook. Fortunately, a pair of narrow-nose pliers became the effective alternative to removing them.
(The daughter-in-law's old computer was my dad's new laptop from a few years ago. So, that PC's hard drive now runs in a MacBook.)
PC Laptop Hard Drive Replacement
Daughter #2's computer broke down while she was in Germany, and now that she is back home, I examined it. Sure enough, the hard drive had suffered a catastrophic hardware failure inside. No data access software I tried could access the data on it, it just went clunk, clunk, clunk. So, she lost it all -- including her computer's copy of Windows.
A new drive is about $80, and a fresh copy of Windows 7 is $250. But you can get a entirely brand new laptop for $380! For me, the economics did not work out.
However, I had a spare 500GB hard drive laying around, and put it into her computer. So that cost nothing.
Then I found that it is legal to download a full copy of Windows free, if (a) you need it for a computer whose hard drive is gone, and (b) the computer still has the Windows activation sticker.
This worked, but because the version of Windows made available for these situations is a bare bones version, I had to also download files specific to the computer, so that the networking and sound work, so that the resolution is correct on the screen, and so on.
Fortunately, the laptop manufacturer, Acer, makes these additional files available on their Web site. I downloaded about a dozen driver files to my desktop, copied them over via USB thumbdrive, and then installed them. Sometimes it was a bit tricky; for example, Acer has drivers for ATI (AMD), Intel, and nVidia graphics boards; a bare bone Windows won't tell you what the hardware is. It was a matter of trying one 500MB driver, being told no such hardware existed, and then on to the next.
(Funny story: for a while, Windows said it could not find the drivers I had downloaded. I tried over and over again. Finally I realized that while I was telling Windows to look in the laptop's C: drive, the files were still on the USB thumbdrive.)
Finally, I hunted around my backup drives for any copies of daughter #2's materials I might have. (She had failed to back up her laptop.) I found about 8,000 photographs, a bunch of her music, and dozens of documents (which she had emailed me for checking or printing). So, we were able to get back some of her stuff she thought she had lost.
A Tablet Bricked Hard
Last of all, I did not have success with my tablet. I managed to brick it last week in trying to upgrade Android to Cyanogen v4.2. ("Bricking" means that it won't start up, and so it acts like a brick.) I spent a few days, on and off, trying various tactics to resuscitate it, from instructions I gleaned off the Internet, such as EasyFlasher, NvFlashTf, and the Universal Naked Driver -- plus countless videos on YouTube.
The fundamental problem is that the APX driver disconnects just when flashing software starts flashing the OS back onto the tablet. I could find no solution to this problem.
Finally, I contacted the maker, ASUS, and they gave me authorization to ship it to their repair facility in North Bay, Ontario. I will mail it today, and we will see if they fix it for free. (It is still under warranty.)
So, two successful computer repairs that cost me nothing, but time!