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[ 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 steps:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. 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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