In November 1991, Vision Technology Group Ltd opened the first PC World store in Purley Way, Croydon. In February 1993, when Dixons Group plc (now Dixons Carphone) purchased the chain, there were four PC World stores in existence. There followed a period of expansion, as more stores were opened across the country. This expansion was partly driven by a series of acquisitions, beginning with DN Computer Services in 1996, followed by Byte Computer Superstores Ltd in 1998, and MicroWarehouse in June 2004.
In September 2006, PC World UK assumed management control of its French subsidiary. In 2006, there were 163 PC World stores in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Sales in 2004/2005 (including PC World Business) were £1,695,000. In the United Kingdom, PC World Business was launched in September 1997. Since March 2001, PC World Business has been based in Bury, Greater Manchester, and has its own management team.
In October 2006, PC World launched "The Connected Home", selling PC based home entertainment systems and installation services. During 2007–2008, PC World was due to undergo a style change, with a proposed new logo, staff uniforms, store layouts, as part of its image re-branding programme. The changes were trialled at branches in Brentford, Colchester, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Southampton, Isle of Wight, Enfield, Burnley and North Shields.
In August 2008, the "proposed" logo was shelved, in favour of a new logo. In December 2008, PC World reported its first ever loss, posting underlying losses of £29.8 million in the six months to October 2008, compared to a £52.4 million profit in 2007.
The stores offer ranges of consumer-oriented PCs, laptops and peripherals, including DSG stores' own brand Advent and PC Line. Stores also have a "KnowHow desk", which offers advice and services. Some stores also have a "Component Centre" area, which contains more basic PC components such as motherboards, hard drives and cases.
On 13 December 2007, it was announced that PC World would begin selling Dell PCs in their stores. This was one of many moves Dell made to sell their desktops and laptops to a wider market. This also includes Dell selling their XPS systems in many HMV stores across the United Kingdom.
PC World opened their first two in one megastore with Currys at Wandsworth Bridge, Fulham, on 29 October 2009, followed by Merry Hill Shopping Centre (West Midlands), Aintree (Merseyside) Teesside Park (Stockton-On-Tees) and Bridge of Dee (Aberdeen) in June and July 2010.
In February 2005, PC World attracted criticism, for the strong promotion of extended warranties (also known as insurance and support packages) and in May 2013, if an extended warranty is not purchased, customers are required to use out-sourced, local rate telephone support for hardware issues or premium rate telephone lines (£1/minute, except for set up which is 75p/minute) for software issues. In June 2004, a Which? survey ranked PC World joint last for customer satisfaction.
In March 2006, PC World attempted to get away from its reputation for having sales staff on up to 20% commission who would therefore use high pressure sales tactics with its "One Team" marketing campaign. This involved adverts in major newspapers claiming staff no longer received commission, however this claim is misleading. The bonus is also based on other non-monetary metrics, such as customer satisfaction. To compensate the 275 highest earners under the old scheme for reduced bonuses, their basic pay was raised by 16% from around £11,000 to around £13,000 per year.
In December 2007, in an response to the perception that PC World staff are often young, and lacking in knowledge and communications skills, a set of e-learning courses called "The Power of Knowledge" were completed by 6,000 staff. The results were incorporated into their Christmas bonuses, as an incentive for staff to improve their knowledge.
In January 2008, a survey for Which? revealed that PC World was ranked in the bottom ten retailers in the United Kingdom. In June 2014, Which? also reported PC World overcharging for repairs, and lack of technical competence among technicians. This was from seven sampled stores.
In March 2014, an "offensive" PC World logo was visible, if you had typed 'computer superstore' on Google. In June 2014, the BBC's consumer awareness programme Watchdog found that PC World was accused of mis-selling HDMI cables in 9 out of 15 test purchases, claiming that the more you pay the better the quality, which was a false statement.
In November 1997, Gary Glitter took a laptop into a branch of PC World in Bristol for repair, where child abuse imagery was found by staff, who informed the police and Glitter was subsequently charged and found guilty of possessing child pornography. This conviction severely damaged Glitter's reputation and effectively ended his career.
In January 2006, after numerous complaints, PC World was forced to remove an advert, that gave misinformation about wireless networking. There have also been countless other complaints over adverts, particularly regarding goods advertised, but not actually available in the stores.
In September 2007, a customer alleged that when he returned a laptop under warranty with a faulty hinge, PC World refused to honour their warranty because he had installed a Linux operating system on the laptop, and therefore had invalidated the warranty he had had on the product, although the fault was a hardware matter and would not have been affected by the operating system installed.
In September 2009, PC World staff were investigated for posting abusive and offensive comments about customers on Facebook.
PC World currently trades only in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It has previously traded in other European countries, but has disposed of these as the parent company refocussed. The European stores traded under the name PC City. In February 2007, the French stores were the first of the Mainland Europe stores to be closed down.
In April 2009, the Swedish stores were closed down, and the online operation then switched to the ElectroWorld brand. 34 stores in Spain also operated under the brand PC City. In April 2011, however, all Spanish stores were closed, as part of Dixons Retail's withdrawal from the Spanish market.