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Repairing Computers or Equipment Under Warranty

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Warranties are primarily for hardware. Most software warranties cover only the media (CD or diskette) the program came on, not the program itself. To pursue a repair under warranty, follow these steps.

First, verify that the warranty is valid.

Is the equipment still within the warranty period? The warranty coverage period varies from company to company. Some computer manufacturers provide a 3-year warranty on parts and a 1-year warranty on labor. Other computer manufacturers may provide a longer warranty for an additional cost. Warranties on individual components purchased separately from the computer (such as printers or monitors) or other equipment (such as scanners, joysticks, or external drives) may be one year or less.

Have you done anything to void the warranty? If the computer or equipment is still within the warranty period, read the small print to determine that you have made no upgrades or additions or done anything that would make the warranty invalid. For example, some computer warranties are void once you open the computer's case, even if you didn't do anything but look at the cables and cards and whatever else is in the tangle of stuff. Other computer warranties are void if you upgraded any components such as adding a bigger hard drive or maybe just adding memory. Checking the fine print can save you headaches fighting with the company.

Second, follow these steps carefully.

After determining that the warranty is still valid, check out the warranty repair process with the manufacturer either through their website or the warranty phone number. Companies don't necessarily use the same steps. Don't expect a technician to show up at your location with the first phone call. Few companies provide on-site service unless you specifically purchase a service plan that includes it.

Most frequently, you will have to take your equipment into an authorized repair shop or send it back to the company. Follow these steps in addition to the manufacturer's process to safeguard yourself and to help obtain the most satisfactory service:

  • Get a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) Number. If you are shipping your equipment, some companies require that you write the RMA number on the package. The RMA is the identification number for your equipment. Use it to track your computer's status with the company.
  • Determine how you can track the status of your equipment. Phone number? Website? E-mail?
  • Get a receipt.
  • If you can, make a copy of all of the important information you have stored on the computer's hard drive. Delete any sensitive information (such as financial information) from it.
  • Take in or send only what you are told to. If you aren't sure, ask if the repair technician wants such items as the keyboard, power cables, or mouse. Don't send any CDs or disks unless specifically told.
  • Provide a written description of the problem. Describe everything you tried to correct the problem.
  • If you are shipping a computer, pack it properly. You want it to arrive in good condition. If you didn't keep the boxes and packing material the computer or equipment came in, ask the company what you should do. Some will send you appropriate packing material.