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Forget DIY repair. Sometimes, you need the pros

I've never used a tech repair place before (I like fixing things myself), but I recently had to, when it came to my iPad and Pentax camera. And it was actually a good experience.

Good as new! Matt Hickey/CNET

November was a bad month for me and my gadgets. My trusty Pentax K10D got janky and quit recognizing memory cards, and I took a header on the icy hills of Seattle and crunched my iPad, though I was impressed it still worked.

At home, I've got a whole drawer full of busted electronics. I've done some repairs myself (installed hard drives, changed out power supplies, and fixed bent battery pins), but some tasks are beyond my skill set. I love both my camera and my iPad, so relegating them to the drawer of broken toys didn't appeal to me, and I sent them in for repairs. I've never used a tech repair service before, so I was a bit hesitant at first. Here's how it all panned out.

Pentax told me my camera was covered under warranty and had me send it to its repair vendor for the West Coast, CRIS Camera Service in Arizona, with a description of the problem and a copy of my purchase receipt. I was told that it would take up to four weeks to repair my camera and ship it back. It took two, and it's now good as new.

I took this photo of my repaired iPad with my repaired K10D (those dots are reflections of the lamp above the iPad). Awesome! Matt Hickey/CNET

What's great about CRIS is that it has a repair-tracking system on its Web site. It assigns you a customer number and work order number, and you can see exactly where your gear is in the process, from examination to cleaning to waiting for parts. It was really great to be kept in the loop.

Hopefully, I'll never need its service again, but if I do, I won't be a bundle of nerves like I was this time about getting my shooter fixed. And CRIS doesn't just repair Pentax; it can work on pretty much any major brand of camera.

The iPad was a different story. Apple's warranty doesn't cover dumbly slipping and landing on its products, so I knew I was going to have to pony up and just go for it. I took it to Apple, which quoted me $350--plus shipping--to fix the dented case, slightly discolored LCD, and bent glass. I cringed at that, especially when I was told that the repair process could take up to two weeks, depending on parts. Even broken, my iPad couldn't be out of my reach for that long.

Then I got turned on to iResQ, a company out of Kansas that specializes in repairing busted Apple products. Not only was the repair cheaper at $300, but it promised a three-day turnaround. That I could do.

iResQ sent me a UPS label, which I printed out. I took it and my iPad to the UPS store and sadly bid my Apple tablet farewell. I was more than ecstatic when I got it back--less than 48 hours later. In two days, I'd shipped it, iResQ had repaired it, and I got it back. I figured that to fix it that fast would be to fix it sloppily, but it's in good-as-new condition. I'm still rather stunned.

Now, after just two weeks, I'm back in the game with a perfectly functioning iPad and K10D. I feel much better, now that my stuff isn't collecting dust in a drawer.

And if you don't have broken stuff yourself, chances are that you know someone who does. The folks at iResQ tell me they're planning to set up a gift certificate system so you can buy repairs for any clumsy geeks in your life. I'm one of those, and I just might stock up, in case the rest of my Apple stuff needs fixing.

Having such a positive experience in getting my gadgets repaired made my holiday season feel brighter, but I'm curious about you, readers. Do you have any tales about getting your most loved gadgets fixed?