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Diagnostics and repairs - laptops

It’s important to check that donated laptops are functioning effectively as their new owners may lack the skills needed to resolve any issues. 

By the end of this step, you’ll be able to decide if you want to run diagnostic tests and conduct any necessary repairs yourself or involve a commercial restoration partner.


Key insights

  • Common issues

    When laptops slow down, it’s normally software that’s causing the problem. Wiping the device and reinstalling the operating system (OS) can be a simple fix. We’ll look at these steps later. Hardware issues are infrequent in new devices. 

  • IT skills

    If issues arise during the diagnostic stage, you’ll need some IT expertise to put them right. Working with IT specialists, such as IT savvy volunteers or a local computer company, will help you resolve problems more quickly. Alternatively, you can opt to outsource the entire restoration process to a third party.

  • Commercial partners

    Commercial restorers can provide an end-to-end service. They can receive donations, run checks, perform repairs (to an agreed level), wipe data, install new operating systems and software and deliver restored items to recipients. They can also securely dispose of unsuitable items (E-waste). Whilst doing so, they may be able to generate revenue which you can use to offset their costs. You’ll find out more about commercial partners later.

Managing the restoration process – laptops

Option 1. Managing the process yourself

You’ll need to run various tests (see below) to identify any issues with a device.

Once you’ve identified an issue, you can use your own expertise to fix it, outsource repairs to a local IT company or recruit a few volunteers with IT experience to help you.

As you’ll need IT skills to repair hardware issues, it’s best to only manage the process yourself if you are confident that you have access to the right technical knowhow. However, you can make the restoration process as a whole much simpler by using free open source software to wipe laptops and installing software which turns older laptops into Chromebooks. This is much easier and faster than installing new Windows operating systems. You’ll find out more about this in later steps.

Some issues may be fixed by erasing any data from the device using Eraser or Dban. We will show you how to do so in a later step.

How to run tests yourself

Remember, Macbook donors must perform a factory reset before donating their devices. 

Running diagnostics:

Firstly, run these physical checks:

  • Check for physical damage
  • Check the device turns on and off correctly
  • Check the WiFi works
  • Check the camera works


Then, run these diagnostic tests:

  • RAM
  • CPU
  • Power supply unit
  • CD/DVD drives
  • Networks


You can find out how to do these tests on a laptop or a Macbook. Here are some useful websites:

  • Apple’s guide to running diagnostics on Macs
  • A guide to running diagnostics on laptops


However, if you don’t feel confident in running diagnostics, it may be better to ask a commercial restoration partner or a local IT firm to take responsibility for this step.


  • This is a cost-effective solution if you already have prior IT knowledge or access to IT skills


  • It requires technical skills and confidence
  • Hardware issues especially can be tricky to repair – you may still need to pay for help
  • Laptops could be written off when a problem is actually easy to fix (unless you know what you’re doing)
  • You’ll need to partner with an E-waste disposal organisation to ensure that any unsuitable laptops are safely and securely disposed of

Option 2. Working with a commercial partner

Asking a commercial partner to be responsible for diagnostics and repairs ensures you can handle bulk donations. Costs can be offset by monetising laptops which cannot be economically repaired. If you are using Windows products, you should choose a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher. 


  • They’ll have the skills and capacity needed to handle bulk repairs
  • They can easily monetise unsuitable devices
  • You can be less strict about your device requirements


  • There will be a cost per laptop (see below), so you may need funding support

Things to think about

  • IT skills

    It’s really important that you have someone who knows what they are doing as otherwise they may miss a problem that could be easily fixed. You also need to be confident about deciding if the cost of repairs is uneconomical.

  • Budget

    Commercial restoration partners will typically charge at least £40 per device. The costs can soon add up if more services are added and if repairs are needed. Services offered include:

    • Pre-paid postage
    • Diagnostics
    • Simple repairs
    • Wiping data
    • Handling E-waste
    • Installing an OS (excluding the licence fee)
    • Delivering the device to you or to a recipient
  • Tailoring your approach

    Different laptops need different diagnostic tools. Macbooks vary considerably from Windows PCs in terms of steps to take.

Next Step

Diagnostics and repairs – smartphones and tablets

It’s easier to run checks on smartphones and tablets than on laptops. If you have limited technical skills, we’d recommend only accepting these smaller devices. You’ll need to make sure that they have been factory reset, otherwise you will not be able to restore them for their new owners.


Ready to get started?

If you’re interested in setting up a Reboot project, why not download the full Reboot playbook? Regardless of your budget and IT skills, it will help you develop a well-structured Reboot process and maximise your donations!