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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components | Component Specification Issues ]

Component Warranties

When you buy a new PC, you normally get a warranty on the PC system itself--or at least you should, if you are a smart buyer. :^) The warranty is provided by the maker of the PC, who normally supports the PC as an integrated whole. See here for more discussion of warranty issues related to PCs.

However, if you decide to build your own PC, or buy upgrade or expansion components for an existing PC, you won't have a PC manufacturer to turn to for warranty coverage. You will instead be relying on the warranty that comes with the components you are purchasing. This means that you have to be very careful about certain component warranty issues.

It is very common for component buyers to only discover that they do not have warranty coverage on a critical part of their PC system at the time that they try to get warranty service. Needless to say, this can be very frustrating! Users tend to blame the manufacturers of the parts for not supporting their products, when the problem is usually due to buying OEM or gray market products which don't come with warranty coverage. (Can you really expect a manufacturer to honor a warranty that was never sold on a particular unit?) To avoid getting caught in this trap, you have to understand what you are buying

Many OEM parts do not have warranties that apply to the end user. The OEM buys the parts at a lower cost than a user normally would; part of the cost savings is due to buying in bulk, but part of it is that the OEM does not pay for warranty coverage from the part maker. This means that if you buy OEM parts, you usually get no warranty coverage on those items. See the discussion of OEM parts for more discussion on the differences between OEM and retail parts. Buy retail-packaged products that include warranty coverage, if you want it.

The same issue applies to gray market components. These parts are not officially supported by their manufacturers, many of whom simply consider a re-imported product to be "used and resold" even if no end user has ever touched it. Again, avoid gray market parts if you want to avoid warranty problems; buy retail-packaged product from an authorized dealer.

There are some cases where you will have separate warranty coverage for certain components of even a mass-produced PC. A notable example is the hard disk drive in a system. While some manufacturers will refuse to provide end-user support on their drives in OEM systems, others have a "no questions asked" warranty and support policy. This means that if you buy a PC with one of these drives, you may have a three-year warranty on it even if the rest of the PC is only covered for one year by the manufacturer. See this discussion of hard drive warranty coverage for more.

As with other things, when shopping for components always find out the details of the warranty before you buy. When buying a system, find out if any of the components have separate warranties and what their terms are. (Note that the PC maker may not even know, but if you find out the make and model of the components you can find out from the component manufacturer.)

Next: Brand Name and Generic Components

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