Empowering Consumers: Ease of Repair for PCs [Exclusive Survey]

by Vlad Turiceanu

Here are the top five takeaways from our just-completed survey:

1. Want to repair/upgrade your PC at home? Tall order, still
2. Most people have a budget of under 500$ for a new laptop
3. Two thirds aren’t aware about the right to repair
4. E-waste is the no. 1 problem with used electronics
5. Repairability should be legally regulated, according to most

The following research has been compiled from the opinions of 1281 readers who completed our opt-in online survey over the course of 3 weeks. More then 50% of answers were recorded from the USA, Canada and UK, while the next most popular countries were Russian Federation, India, and Australia. Their unaltered answers are presented below.

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1281Users asked
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41%Windows 11 users
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41%USA answers

Have you ever bought an electronic device knowing that the chance to repair it in the future is close to none? Or that repairing it might cost you more than replacing it altogether? Because most devices fall under this category, consumerism gains even more traction with each year.

The big problem with that is the cost associated with replacing old devices; the even bigger problem is e-waste, which plays one of the most significant roles when it comes to environmental health & well-being. In other words, not being able to repair your laptop, desktop, tablet, or any other device means that you’ll pay more (and more often) for new ones, and the old ones will be recycled appropriately, in the best-case scenario, or thrown away irresponsibly, in the worst case scenario.

While this is bad for the environment, it’s an incredible source of profit for companies. Buying a new laptop or phone each year, let’s say, means creating & selling a new device each year; that equals enormous profit.

Enter the stage, the Right to Repair Act. In short, the right to repair is a legal concept that allows consumers to improve their electronics without the usual constraints. This pushes manufacturers to build more easily repairable devices that can be fixed or upgraded right at home without the risk of losing the warranty. If you want more details about the right to repair, you can check out this page. Also, if you want to get involved and help the community, there’s an official way of doing it.

With all of these in mind, we’ve decided to research & gather as much data about the topic and how it could evolve based on your essential feedback. Some of the findings are very interesting, to say the least, while others align with the general expectations.

Laptop users are the most interested in repairability

As expected, laptop users (followed closely by desktop users) are the most interested in repairing or upgrading their devices. While for desktop users is almost standard practice for desktop users to change PC parts now and then, the problem here is compatibility and modding, as this could void the warranty over some fundamental changes. Most component manufacturers can void the warranty even for removing a screw.

When it comes to laptops, things are much worse, as ultrabooks have become the new norm. Thin gaming laptops, thin business laptops, thin workstation laptops; but with thinness comes a lack of space, hence lack of repairability and upgradability. Soldered ram or storage are some of the most unpopular choices manufacturers make, especially now when the need for more resources grows every month, also stated by a consumer:

go back to an easy replaceable battery. have easy access to the mainboard to upgrade RAM or DISI My laptop spends most of its time in my house as a replacement desktop – just being put away after use so the ultimate light weight and thinness is NOT needed as when I take my laptop to meetings its in my briefcase. Manufacturers drive to thinness and lightness has made repairable laptops a thing of the past

Anonymous responder

Do you know who also makes sleek devices that (notoriously) can’t be upgraded? Apple. That’s why, unsurprisingly, just 1% of the responders are macOS users.

Windows 10 & 11 users lead the way, with 84% of the surveyors using Microsoft’s latest operating systems.

74% of consumers spend under 1000$ on a new PC

Most people spend less than 1000$ for a new computer. Three quarters, to be precise. This is extremely surprising, as GPU prices have skyrocketed in the past few years, driving PC prices higher and higher. Here’s the opinion of one consumer:

Cost benefit to the manufacturers. Cost (profits) drives production. If the company can design a computer that is easy to repair or upgrade then it is also a win for the customers. Motherboards normally limit what can be added or changed or repaired on the computer. A motherboard needs enough ports and expansion slots to support several revisions in the future. Many really cheap models have no room for expansion, limited memory, limited power supply and limited disk drive space.

Anonymous responder

Alongside OLED screens, more powerful CPUs, and premium build quality, the GPUs shifted the market to new territories, making it ok to have an MSRP of 3-4 or even 5000$. Or at least that’s the positioning of the manufacturers.

Well, that is the case as only 9% of the consumers are willing to pay more then 2000 $ for a new device. Remember that the average basic PC costs between 300-600$, a middle-of-the-pack choice is between 800-1200$, while a video/photo editing or gaming machine could cost you north of 3000/5000$ or even more.

Do you know what the right to repair means?

Here’s where the elephant in the room shows up: almost half of the surveyors need to learn what the right to repair is. Pair that with another 22% that have heard about it but need to learn how it applies to them, and we end up with a staggering 67% of people who don’t even know that repairing their electronics is a possibility to consider.

This also translates to 67% more e-waste, a huge number. That said, the number of people concerned with environmental sustainability equals this number.

To better translate the data, two-thirds of responders need to learn that repairing their device without losing the warranty can be an option, and two-thirds are concerned about the environment. This raises the question of awareness: people would take advantage of the repair act if they knew more about it.

That’s why involvement is the solution for minimizing electronic waste: stay informed, get involved, reach out, and share this article or the data in it to raise awareness.

Most people would buy a new PC from manufacturers that explicitly support the right to repair

67% of the polled people tried to repair their PC without professional help. The number is promising, showing that more and more people are willing to keep using their old device as long as it performs well.

More than half of them had an ok experience, while for the other 42% was a not so good experience.

The fact that so many people had a mediocre or bad experience trying to repair their laptop or desktop PC is an alarming thing that manufacturers should address. While some of them are taking small steps in this direction, all of them should do it. And here’s the number to confirm it.

80%, this is the number of people who would buy a device that’s easier to repair. That’s why companies like Framework are getting a lot more popular, having modular laptops that can be upgraded and improved in just a couple of steps. Here’s what a repairability report from iFixit looks like.

Take a lesson from Framework laptops, who are on the right track. I do not own one, and have no connection with them, but I will likely buy my next laptop from Framework or another company like them.

Anonymous responder

This incredibly high number of potential buyers should be a real focus point for manufacturers and the future of electronic products, especially for personal computers.

Are there any measures or regulations that could improve PC repairability?

Yes, according to 83% of people polled, there should be some kind of legal regulations to enforce the right to repair for computers. Here’s what one of them said:

Either vote a law or impose taxes on computers that are not easily repaired.

Anonymous responder

Same is shared by an engineer:

As an Engineer, the not only should manufacturers be looking at DFM, but also DFT and DFR. I repair most things I have, and only buy new when I dont’ need something I cant make, or re-purpose something else to do the job. If it’s too expensive, I’ll design a cheaper version and put it on the web FREE.

Anonymous responder

The general sentiment is that repairability should be more or less enforced by law in a way that favors the user as much as the manufacturer, to keep both parties involved in the process of improving the overall experience of using a PC. But that’s not all, as we’ve asked people to propose some potential solutions or measures, and here’s their take on this:

1. Revert back to manufacturing components designed to be easily replaced from t current single fused mainboard that has to be totally replaced even if just a small component is disfunctional. 2. Provide adequate self-repair guidance and cheap replacement components online. 3. Manuf’s must provide full refurbishment and take back its own product (at end of life) policy. 4. Heayy Fines for offenders & reward for green manuf’s. Damage to R planet must B reversed now. Tks!

Anonymous responder

Stop sealing them at the factory and make it easier to add more RAM or larger hard drives to laptops. The older ones are much easier to deal with, but finding the parts you need can be a real pain. I would much rather be able to use newer versions of windows, ones that actually work, in my old laptop than to buy a cut down version or newer model that I’m not as happy with.

Anonymous responder

SYS ENGINEER 35 yrs. XP! 1) An ongoing problem since the dawn of personal computing: Because EVERY computer component, from motherboard down to simple patch cables, only feeble attempts have been made to unify and globally standardize every component (esp. hardware connectivity, new and reliable male/female connectors that are GLOBALLY adapted via IEEE, esp. making all new ones that are very easy to connect (think opposite of painfully threading a coax cable into something). Also think about magnetic guides–for cables, no screwing or snapping, all cables can only connnect one way and are pulled together via small magnetic attraction. 2) PC cases: no steel or flimsy plastic. The fancier the case (typically a top brand does this), the weaker the entire thing and more difficult it is to open up. Apple uses good materials yet make every device they’ve ever produced nearly impossible to open… you need to have a small array of special tools that Apple-certified technicians own. Cases should be larger, open-source (so to speak), made from honeycomb carbon fiber and tubes etc., aluminum, and tempered glass. The majority of generic (esp. brand) cases always lack vital components: – After opening the lock for the case, which all should have, opening the entire case should take <10 seconds with ease and no screws. Simple latches released should allow all sides and top to swing open and/or off entirely. – Inside with all components present, there should still be room to allow both hands of the average adult to easily reach in side. – All hard drives should have their own removable rack, and also can easily be removed without messing with screws or wires. – Most modern cases to not have bays for older and still used items, even 5.25″ items that are new (card readers, amplifiers, DVD players, etc.).

Anonymous responder

What do you think? We’d love to hear your take on this and other topics you’d like us to cover in our following exclusive surveys. Share your thoughts right here, and we’ll check them out!

About the data

Geo-distribution of survey responses and completion rate

The research above was constructed based on the input of our readers through an online survey that ran for 3 weeks on WindowsReport.com. Using Crowdsignal, a popular survey tool, we have gathered 1281 complete answers to all of our questions.

Geo-distribution of survey responses

We’ve received answers from 124 countries, but the most popular locations were:

  • United States of America – 41%
  • India – 10%
  • United Kingdom – 9%
  • Russian Federation – 5%
  • Canada – 5%
  • Australia – 4%

When it comes to platform distribution, readers that have completed this survey are mainly using Windows 10 (43%) and Windows 11 (41%). We’ve also recorded answers from people that are using Windows 7, macOS, iPadOS, Linux, or Chrome OS.

The raw-data used in the research above can be seen and downloaded here.

Our researchers

Vlad Turiceanu
Vlad Turiceanu

Tech-savvy, inquisitive, and willing to change the status quo, Vlad cherishes online privacy and is adamant about users’ right to intimacy. He has made it his personal mission to fight tracking in order to help his peers enjoy an uncontaminated, surveillance-free digital experience.

Proud possessor of a Windows Server 2016 certification from Microsoft, Alex does not gather cards up his sleeve, but technical achievements. As a seasoned connoisseur of informatics’ backbone, he aims to demystify networking and show the world how to use it to their advantage.

Alex Serban
Alex Serban
Networking & Security Expert
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