E-Wasted's Adventures in Electronics Repair

So as it turns out, even though I’m really good at fixing and refurb-ing computers, I haven’t been able to sell a single one. Not for lack of trying, but admittedly I tend to not get back up on the horse very easily. For a while now I have suspected that there has always been some form of high-functioning autism going on somewhere in the equation, but I’ve also been confidently diagnosed with ADHD (and there’s a ton of overlap so for now it’s pure speculation.) I recently watched Dave Plumber’s 30min interview about his autism diagnosis as an adult, and while I went in hoping to disagree with most of it, I ended up being able to relate to almost all of it and what I didn’t, I understood completely.

Like when he talked about the fabled chicken nuggies and how it’s not necessarily about taste for those on the spectrum, but more so texture and consistency in both shape/size and texture. The texture of food has always seemed to matter to me more than others, but it was never enough to stop me from experiencing new foods, even if only to confirm my original stance. In the end though, I do tend to eat the same foods very consistently and I would have to say taste is only one of many considerations for what I eat and not necessarily most important.

Another thing is that routines, methods, systems, plans, schedules, etc. are all a huge part of how I operate. Maybe this is true for everyone, but I think that the distinction is that without them my life feels very chaotic and “off the rails”. If I don’t set timers and alarms for everything I will miss or be late for appointments and such. I also have trouble putting things down once started and often go on extensive tangents, but I also have extreme difficulty with motivation. However, I would put the latter squarely in the ADHD column.

To prove my point, I started off trying to write an update for the build post and ended up here. I also just now realized I’m almost an hour late with feeding the dog her breakfast, but still feel compelled to finish this up. I’ll just end by saying that comments like yours do help greatly in a world where many of us can feel very lost and alone. I appreciate every word and they give me motivation to continue doing the things I do, not for internet clout, but for myself and how I wish to live my life. Thank you everyone :heart:.

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It seems on the MSI B660M-A with locked processors I’m only able to change the CPU Lite Load setting that seems to statically move the CPU voltage curve up or down like an offset. On the 12100f going from Mode 12 → Mode 1 saw max CPU package draw go from 53w → 48w, on the 13400f going from Mode 9 → Mode 1 saw max cpu draw go from 90w → 80w. In both cases performance was the same or slight better than third party benchmarks. As the results seem very nuanced, I don’t think it’s worth trying to tune the cpu any further. As it stands the 13400f is only 2.5% behind my old 10900K while consuming a third of the power.

I haven’t thought about specializing in any one thing just yet, as I think I’m still firmly in the learning stage where I don’t really know what I’m good at. But if I had to say what I’m currently best at it would be cooling and thermal solutions due to my background as an autotive mechanic. Because of that I’m not only fairly good with electricity and mechanical forces, but fluid and thermodynamics as well. It all just sort of makes sense for me at a fundamental level. I also enjoy the challenge of figuring out a good thermal solution probably just as much as an overclocker does setting a record. The next thing on my list though is to definitely teach myself how to do soldering and micro-soldering.

You’re not wrong in that having a niche can make you stand out, but my concern is that I live in the exact opposite of a tech-savvy area where there probably isn’t a market for such things. I may have to end up selling online eventually, which even the thought of I loathe, but in that case I would definitely need something to make my products stand out above the crowd.

This means more to me than you could imagine, thank you so much for taking the time to write all of that out for me.

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Just curious about this , is this what someone charged that does this for a living ?
I’m picking up on the tail end here,
Coming from someone that does I.T for a living /to put food on the table …I often see on forums where folks speak of this price or that price to build this or that as a rip-off…

Just wondering if the weekend warrior was doing this for a living …if said opinion would be the same …

My 2c… an hourly labour wage for a salary earner that is working 20days a month for a firm is presumably 160hrs or more so it’s a “bulk” rate …
A labour rate for a contractor who is only “selling” you one-off 4hrs or whatever to build and install windows will look totally different …

You make some very fair points and I’ll try to elaborate a bit more. This guy was 100% a weekend warrior, but his skills and attitude were fairly professional. I would have happily paid around $200-250 for the build alone, as he did an excellent job to my exact specs and it ran flawlessly. However he did give me a bit of push-back for wanting the BIOS updated, which I found odd.

The biggest issue was with the Windows install. There is no planet on which an OS install should cost $275 including the key. The guy legit asked me where the optical drive was and how else would he install Windows. The OS install was also not optimized in the least and I spent a long time following online guides to get it running as it should have from the start. You can also find old Windows keys in junkyards that still activate and if you’re desperate there are many third party key sites where you can get them for around $20. I’m positive that he knew this as well and that he was sure that I wasn’t aware. I would have happily done it myself had I known what he was up to, but I won’t deny that my own naivety definitely played a part.

Installing Windows 10 & 11 is a joke compared to older versions, if you get the network running Windows updater literally does everything else for you. I’ve done it dozens of times since then on anything and everything and the one time I ran into an issue was with a Dell XPS13 that had a known issue of nuking its wifi drivers when you reset it and manually installing the drivers would fail. All it took to fix was a USB ethernet adapter that automatically installed itself and then Windows took care of everything else including the wifi drivers. Also since you asked about market rates here’s what Micro Center charges:

The fact something might take you a day or two, doesn’t mean “a professional” gets to charge you a day or two of their time.

An air cooled build (… or no exotic parts build I should say), with a windows install takes about 30 minutes of leisurely screwdriving type work and doesn’t require anything but a bit of practice to do quickly. By that I mean it’s manual labor or minimum wage type skillset where you happen to follow instructions someone else wrote over and over and over… there’s no R&D costs, university degrees required, guild memberships, malpractice insurances …

Then after building there’s validation / q&a - which is also applying a process and running a suite of tests someone else wrote and published, and if you want to be fancy you’d take some flir one pics with your phone.

On top of that - there’s running the business which is by far the most complicated part – logistics, accounting, etc etc. (hence expecting no more than 5 machines a day for a one man show at max capacity).

If you come to do this with some friends, and then figure out you might be able to split some revenue with a distributor for parts, then you’re a “systems integrator” officially, and some better than linear scaling happens.

If you work as in-house IT you’re expected to be near constantly available to solve a much broader range of issues and might be responsible for far more complicated matters, and would be expected to be somewhat familiar with bespoke/artisan/particular way the particular business you’re working for operates. If you work as an IT consultant, for e.g. MSP, you’re likely to be specializing in e.g. networking or windows or backups or something; which is kind of like going to school for that, and not something where you can reach your performance potential within a week or two assembling and disassembling.

Troubleshooting is where things get somewhat interesting and could be a huge time suck, but it’s nothing that access to parts and basic diagnostic/logic skills can’t solve, at least in the PC building realm. (In my experience). … Yes you might ruin some good components using bad components along the way, as long as it’s all under warranty it’s generally not an issue.

You make some valid points however “suggesting” a PC.build even a basic one and a windows install should be billed only 30mins is a stretch … I guess how Thorough Its done plays a role . If all updates are done ,if necessary bloat is removed ,if needed best case settings are done etc etc if for example you rid the ms browsers and install Firefox and you install the bare Min pdf rewders etc

Assuming at least current hardware you’d have to bill atleast 2-3hrs if all is done thoroughly…but yeah JUST installing windows is quick…doing it thoroughly and properly …less so

I agree with this estimate. The real debate is how much the hourly rate should be.

If there’s exotic hardware, or the case is tight, or if it has a million pieces might take longer. Basic build in 30 minutes is fine typically.

Planning to spend 2-3 hours makes sense. While one machine is running burn-in test scripts you’d be maybe assembling another, and if there’s issues, you’d leave it to tend to another, and come back.

We used to do windows installs off the network back when I was “selling parts” in 2001-2005, have probably assembled close to a thousand PCs personally around that time.

I think cases are a lot better now - less made of razorblades and hate and things like rubber grommets for cable management and long cables make things easier imo.

Probably $50 as a starting price, for $100 - I’d expect extra GPU braces and benchmark scores and burnin paperwork and website to log into for after-sales support with some extra value on top of what OEMs provide.

I think that’s probably right when you’re in a populated area with lots of other people that can do the same job.

Other than that, I’d mostly expect a stock Windows installation, maybe with drivers installed.
Everything else(“Windows tuning”, “bloat removal”, etc.) I’d consider dangerous. Your customizations/“debloating” might break stuff for your users(e.g. I also remove all the unneeded Windows Store apps and advertisements for myself, but other people maybe use them).
Customers expect the stock Windows experience, not your customized setup(in general, maybe offer this as an extra to your customers who want this).

I think it’s best practice to do a fresh Windows installation yourself when you get a new machine. I don’t know under what circumstances you can get/create “recovery media” for Windows to give to your customers, but maybe provide them with a “driver DVD”(could be USB stick or link printed on paper) if needed.

If you’re doing this as a business, you should probably look into automated Windows installations.
You can usually automate everything after the boot selection screen(“Press F11 to boot…”). Could save you a lot of time(and thus money), and would get you closer to a competitive price.

In fact, I would invest the time & research needed to get fully automated stress testing as well. That way your time is spent on building computers and debugging problems, instead of watching loading bars and clicking next.

If you minimize the time you spent on doing useless tasks you maximize your value to the customer, because he doesn’t want to pay you for 30 minutes of work when 25 minutes of that are clicking next and watching loading bars.
(Of course every minute of work you do on behalf of your customers should be paid, or you’re straight up scamming yourself :stuck_out_tongue: )

You’d be surprised. Cheap cases are still quite sharp from my recent experience.