When your iPod, Zune, CueCat, HP printer, DVD player, or game console goes on the fritz, you no longer have to put it in that closet where you store all the stuff that doesn’t work but that you don’t think you should throw away. There’s now a whole world of self-help forums and repair advice websites online where you can trade tips with other owners of consumer electronics—weird things companies would never tell you, like using a piece of folded paper as a shim to get a failed hard drive working again in your iPod.
The consumer electronics industry doesn’t want us to know this (especially Apple, considering how frequently they update their iPod product line), but with care and a little maintenance, you can make your recent electronics purchases last longer than a couple of years. We should know: in the past five years, we’ve had large scale malfunctions (all out of warranty) with an iPod, a Tivo, a laptop hard drive, and an Xbox. Here is a short list of some places that can help you get your product back in working condition, so that you don’t just toss it out and buy a new one unnecessarily.