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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | Repairs, Returns and Refunds | Deciding on a Course of Action ]

The Warranty Period

If your PC (or components) are within their warranty period, then obviously you will want to make use of your warranty should anything happen to the equipment covered. Most PCs come with a warranty of a year, with some longer than that. Most components similarly come with a one-year warranty, though many are much shorter, and items such as hard disk drives are typically longer (three to five years being typical).

Even if you have a warranty, in some circumstances you may decide not to use it. One thing that many people do not think about is that some warranties cover parts only, and do not cover labor, or shipping and handling. Some warranties I have seen cover parts and labor for one year, and then parts only for another year or two. You need to check the specifics of your warranty.

If your system vendor is across the country, and your warranty is for parts only, you may be faced with a tradeoff: the value of the parts you are likely to need for the repair, versus the cost of shipping to and fro. In some cases this can be significant. If your whole PC goes kaput that's one thing, but for simpler problems like a floppy drive that is behaving erratically, you may want to consider taking the PC into a local repair shop. If you're paying for the labor anyway, the savings of having a floppy drive under warranty may be dwarfed by the cost (and risk!) of shipping your PC cross-country (and also being without a PC for a longer period of time).

Many larger PC vendors, especially the big mail order companies, are now either including, or offering as an option, on-site warranty service. This is a tremendous convenience, especially for those who need their PCs back up and running quickly. This service is normally provided by third parties who are contracted by the system vendor to go out to your location and do the work you need. You arrange for this by contacting the system vendor.

Another factor is the quality of what you are going to get back after you use your warranty. Some hard disk drive manufacturers, for example, replace defective drives with refurbished units. If I had a drive that was nearly three years old and near the end of its warranty, and I sent it in to be repaired, if I got back a refurbished drive I might be wary about trusting it with critical data. I might use it only for secondary storage and get a newer drive for my critical applications and data.

Bear in mind that when you purchase a name-brand computer such as a Compaq, IBM or HP, warranty service is typically going to be provided not by the store that sold the computer, but rather by the manufacturer of the PC. Obviously when you purchase from a local computer company or from a direct-mail seller such as Dell or Micron, they provide the service. But most of the companies selling makes such as Compaq or IBM are just retail stores and service does not come with the package. You will have to contact the company that actually makes the PC when you have warranty issues.

Assuming you do decide to use your manufacturer's warranty, you will need to follow the proper procedure for performing warranty service work. With good companies this is a minor nuisance; with bad ones it is a major hassle. See this section for instructions and tips on obtaining warranty service work.

Warning: Do not just send parts back to a vendor on your own initiative, even if you have a warranty. Most vendors who receive a package without an RMA number will just send it right back to you.

Next: The Post-Warranty Period

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