We've all done it. Whether it's spilling a drink over the keyboard, dropping a laptop, or breaking a section of your LCD display, your primary piece of kit isn't as indestructible as it looks. Accidental damage is all too common - and surprisingly distressing.
So when you find yourself with a broken machine, what do you do?
First, check whether it's still under warranty. If it is, then speak to the manufacturer before you do anything. They might have an in-house repair shop or authorised repairers in your area - and if they do, that's probably your best option. This is particularly the case if you've got a hardware issue, because they should repair it for free. Even if you have to pay and it's pricier than non-authorised repairers (or you have to pay for courier charges), your warranty may be invalidated if you go against their advice.
Note - if they have an in-house repair shop, this is likely to be a lengthy process, what with the couriering and the volume of work they have to do.
If you don't have a valid warranty, then find a repair shop. Seek recommendations from friends or online - and be wary of the place on the high street that promises to be able to fix all models and types of computing systems, no matter how nice they seem.
In fact, find a couple of repair shops, and get quotes. Compare them - what are you getting for your money? How much are the parts they're saying you'll need? How much are you paying for their labour? Are there likely to be any hidden charges? Are they asking for payment up front? What kind of guarantee of their quality of workmanship are they offering (ie if you get it home and it still doesn't work, what will they do about it)?
Obviously, once you've got these quotes, you can assess how expensive it is likely to be, and balance that against how old your kit is. Is it worth paying out this money for a repair if you think you'll need a new machine relatively soon anyway, or should you cut your losses now and save your money for a new model?
You may think you can fix your hardware yourself if you can get hold of the right parts - please, only attempt this if you're very, very sure you know what you're doing. You could end up making the issue worse, or creating a dozen more issues in its place.
When you finally get your kit back, it should be good as new - and you'll be a little bit wiser, and know to be more careful so there isn't a "next time".