If you can't afford a new PC, perhaps a PC check-up from PC World will give your old one a new lease of life.
Now that summer's officially here, it's probably a bit late for spring cleaning. Even if you have finished sprucing up the house, we'd wager that one thing that evaded the sweep of the duster was your PC. We're not talking about the outside of the case, but the software junk inside that means your hard disk is more cluttered than even the bulging broom cupboard.
We've all seen the symptoms: PCs that take forever to start up, hard disks that constantly complain about low disk space, hourglasses that never seem to disappear, constant error messages and so on. These are all pretty good indications that your PC is in need of a good clean. In much the same way as your car needs an annual service to keep the oily bits working properly, your computer responds well to the occasional check over and tune-up.
If you're reasonably computer literate, the chances are that you heed Computeractive's advice and complete basic maintenance tasks on an ongoing basis, checking for unwanted files, defragmenting the hard disk and so on. But if you aren't computer savvy, it's often a case of a daily prayer as you start your PC.
Wouldn't it be great if there was somewhere trustworthy you could take your computer for a tune-up? According to PC World there is and we've been having a look at its PC Healthcheck service to see whether it's worth the £40 the company is asking for it.
PC Healthcheck is offered at all PC World stores throughout the UK. It's advertised as a 50-point check for any PC or notebook computer, old or new. The make and model is irrelevant and it doesn't have to have been bought at PC World. The only requirements are that the computer will boot into Windows, is running at least Windows 95 and has a working CD-ROM drive. It's important to realise that this isn't a repair service - if your system's as dead as a doornail, you can't get a Healthcheck but there is a separate PC World Repair Service you can use.
So how does it work in practice? We went along to the Tottenham Court Road branch in London to see the process in real life. It's all done semi-automatically to ensure consistency, with the Healthcheck software guiding the technician and the customer through the entire procedure. After loading the software onto your PC, the technician walks you through the on-screen checklist, performing the tasks requested and entering the results. It's all worthy but fairly dull stuff and as the process takes about an hour, you might choose to go shopping instead.
Although it's advertised as a 50-point check that's not quite true, as some of the checks aren't done any more - the 'Check which ISPs are installed' and 'Check costs against Freeserve' tests in particular are not carried out. Nevertheless, the tasks they do are pretty much the same ones that any technically minded computer user would do if presented with a sickly PC.
The first and most vital check is a full virus scan, followed by checks on all the PC's major components, Windows settings and so on. Unwanted files that are clogging up your hard disk and programs you don't use any more can be removed and the Recycle Bins emptied. It's all done in a friendly, relaxed environment, but you can even book a home visit if this suits you better.
Every stage is clearly explained to you and any shortcomings of your PC are highlighted by the software at the end of the check. This is the bit we were most worried about - we thought there was going to be a hard sell to get us to upgrade our system, but we were assured that this is actively discouraged by PC World. If you do want to buy some new bits such as more memory or a bigger hard disk, they'll install them for free at the same time.
We were very impressed by the whole procedure as it's based on good technical practice and is very reasonably priced for what you get. It's certainly worth a try if you're tearing your hair out about how to get your PC back into shape.
Contact: PC World 0870 546 4464
Pros: Reasonably priced. Designed for non-technical users. Free upgrade fitting included in the price.Cons:Takes at least an hour. Done by appointment only. Price doesn't include repairs.Verdict:If your PC is proving to be a bit problematic, then this is an affordable way to get things back in tip-top condition.
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