[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting
and Repair Guide | Repairs, Returns and Refunds | Performing a Repair or Return ]
Using Your Warranty
If you have a problem during the warranty period with your PC, or with a component, you
should follow the steps below to send it back to the vendor or manufacturer for repair or
replacement. Note that if you have just bought the unit very recently, you may still be
covered under a money-back guarantee. If you buy a component and it fails within a few
weeks, it is likely a dud and you should return
it for exchange rather than deal with the manufacturer on a warranty return. It's
generally simpler, and you get a new new-in-the-box unit instead of immediately having to
deal with warranty repair issues.
How you go about obtaining warranty service on your PC depends on who sold you the PC
and how you obtained it. There are several general categories:
- Retail or Local PC Company: If you purchased your PC from a local store, then
obtaining warranty service is generally straight-forward. You merely need to take the PC
in to the store, explain the problem, and give it to them to fix. You should definitely
call in advance before you do this, and explain that you are having a problem and that you
want to bring the unit in for troubleshooting or repair.
- Mail-Order Company: Getting warranty service from a mail-order company is usually
performed in a manner similar to performing a return of a product to a mail-order company
when it is within the money-back guarantee period. If you are fortunate (or smart) enough
to have on-site service, you simply need to contact the company to arrange for a service
person to visit you and perform the necessary work. If you are returning the item, follow
the steps listed below.
- Used PC: If you purchased your PC used, and you were given a warranty by the
person who sold it to you, then you should contact them and see what they will do to abide
by the terms of the warranty. Of course, you may find it hard to get an individual to
actually honor a warranty on a used system; this is one of the risks of buying a PC in
this manner. Most people sell PCs "as is", or at most guarantee that they will
not be "DOA" when you receive them. It's rare that someone will provide a
warranty on a used system or component, though some will. A company that is selling a used
PC with a warranty should be treated the same as a new PC bought from that company in
terms of executing the warranty.
When returning an item for warranty service to a mail order company, follow these
- Contact the Company's Technical Support Department and Troubleshoot the
Problem: In order to get approval to return an item for warranty service, you will
first have to contact the company's technical support department, and go through a
troubleshooting session with a technician. Obviously, no company wants to go through the
expense and hassle of a warranty repair, so they will try to fix the problem if they can
over the phone first. This is to your benefit as well in most cases.
- Obtain Authorization for a Warranty Return and Get an RMA Number: After
attempting to diagnose the problem, the technical support person should at some point
"give up" and agree to allow the unit to be returned for warranty service. Ask for a return of merchandise authorization (RMA) number. Don't forget
to do this, as most companies will not accept material for return without an RMA number,
for several reasons. The RMA number performs two important functions: it uniquely
identifies what the package is when the company receives it, and it proves that you called
the company and they gave the OK to return the product.
- Clarify the Terms of the Return: Ask the technical support person for specifics
about what is likely to be done to the equipment you are returning, and when you should
expect the work to be done. Find out all the details, including who is going to pay for
shipping, there and also back again. Be very clear, and write down everything to make sure
you have a record of your discussions. I would also specifically tell the technician that
if there is anything that requires repair that would be an extra cost item not covered by
the warranty, that you want to have the opportunity to approve the repair before the work
is done. This keeps control over your money where it should be: with you.
- Repackage the Product: The component (or PC) should be repackaged into the
original packaging that it came in (which is why I always recommend that people keep all
the boxes from their computer equipment for at least 30 days after receipt of the
hardware). If you don't have the original packaging, make sure that you wrap the item
properly. Components should be enclosed in one of those metallic static-free bags. All
hardware should be wrapped and padded to prevent damage in transit.
- Address the Package: Put the company's address on the package, according to their
instructions, and put the RMA number in clear, large text on the outside of the box as
"RMA #<number>". This is very important. Also put the RMA number on the
paperwork that you fill out for the carrier.
- Send the Package Back to the Company: Using a carrier such as UPS or Federal
Express, send the package back to the company. Note one very important thing: insurance.
Normally you are responsible for ensuring that any package you send gets from point A to
point B in one piece. Most carriers have a standard value that they automatically insure
for when you send a package, but it's typically very low. Ask, and if necessary decide if
you want to risk sending the item without insurance, or pay for it for the piece of mind.
(Remember that insurance is against not just loss, but damage as well.)
- Keep In Contact With the Company: With a repair, you need to stay in contact with
the company to make sure that the item is being worked on, and to find out what its status
is. Calling a day or two after the package is supposed to have been received by the
company to double-check that it was received is a good idea. You should get an estimate
from the company after they have examined the unit, and you should use the guidelines you
got from the technician to whom you spoke before sending the part back, as an indicator of
when to expect the work to be done.
- Verify the Exchanged Item: When you get the unit back, make sure you thoroughly
test it to ensure that the problem you sent the unit in for has been corrected.
Next: Choosing a Repair Shop
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