PC Warranties

The warranties of PC components and peripherals

Why electronic goods purchased in the US only seem cheaper than those bought in the UK and why you shouldn’t be tempted

Computers and other electronic goods, such as mobile phones, can seem to be up to 50% or even more expensive in the UK than the USA. So, can someone in the UK make big savings by buying these goods from the US? – When all of the circumstances are taken into consideration, any saving that you make usually aren’t worth the hassle or the trouble that you can run into. You may be able to make small savings or may even wind up having to pay more for the goods due to the following factors:

1. – US stores don’t include the sales tax in the advertised price because each state can set its own rate of tax, so you won’t know what the final price is until you check out. UK goods look significantly cheaper minus the current 20% VAT.

2. – Note well that the US uses a different mains electricity system to the UK. Theirs is a 110V system that uses a two-pin plug; ours is a 230V system that uses a three-pin plug. This means that you will probably have to buy an adapter in order to be able to use the device. Most laptops can work with both voltages, but, if not, you’ll have to buy a new power supply adapter, the price of which will vary between makes. You will probably be able to save by buying a reputable third-party alternative instead of buying from the device’s manufacturer. A desktop PC might provide a connection for both voltages, but, if not, you’ll have to buy a UK power supply unit. You should never consider using a power supply that costs under £30 and a decent quality unit usually costs around £50.

3. – Import duty has to be paid on all goods imported into the UK and the cost of shipping can be very high. Sometimes the shipping cost can be higher than the value of the goods. Moreover, if you don’t receive the goods, UK distance-selling regulations won’t apply to goods purchased from the US and you can have great difficulty in obtaining the goods or obtaining a refund.

4. – A US warranty will not be valid unless it is a global warranty. The UK the Consumer Rights Act (current) and the Sale of Goods Act (applicable to goods and services purchased on or before September 30, 2015) that covers goods for their expected useful life and the new two-year minimum warranty set by the EU won’t apply to US goods.

Read the Which? guides to those two Acts by clicking on the links above on their names.

The warranty period of PC monitors

Most PC monitors come with a three-year on-site, or return-to-base warranty, or a mixture of the two types of warranty. For instance, the warranty might be on-site for its first year, and then become a return-to-base warranty for the remaining two years. Note well that in many cases the warranty for the monitor included with a brand-name computer, such as Dell, HP, and Packard Bell has a three-year warranty provided by its manufacturer, even though the computer itself is only covered by a standard one-year warranty. Therefore, if the monitor packs in after the computer’s standard warranty has ended and before its own warranty ends, you can have it repaired or replaced.

The warranty periods of desktop hard disk drives

Working out the warranty period of a particular make/model of hard disk drive can be tricky because they vary from model to model and if the drive is an OEM product (supported by the vendor or the computer’s manufacturer) or a boxed retail product. For example, Seagate currently (April 2012) offers warranties that last for one year for laptop and desktop-PC drives and five years for ‘Mission Critical’ drives and three years for nearline drives (a contraction of near-online, meaning hard drives with low-rotational speeds). It is not possible to find out how these Seagate warranties match up with the actual models unless you already own one, because Seagate’s online warranty checker requires the entry of the drive’s serial number. Therefore, it can’t be used with just a particular drive’s model, so you can check before buying one.

A similar situation no doubt exists with the other two major manufacturers of hard disk drives – Toshiba and Western Digital. Moreover, EU law stipulates that all warranties have to last two years and the Sale of Goods Act in the UK stipulates that goods have to last as long as their expected useful lives, which varies from one good to another and therefore complicates matters even further. Note that the Sale of Goods Act was replaced by the Consumer Rights Act on October 1, 2015. Links to Which? guides on both of those Acts are provided at the top of this article. The Sale of Goods Act can still be used on goods and services bought on or before 30 September, 2015

The website of the manufacturer of hard disk drives will provide the available details of the warranty cover of its drives. Note that SAS hard drives are much more expensive SATA drives, being designed for continuous use in mission-critical systems, so they are usually still provided with long five-year warranties.

The warranty periods for other computer components such as video and sound cards, etc.

If you purchase computer components, such as a graphics card, sound card, network card, power supply unit, etc., it is usually provided with a statutory warranty that lasts only a year (twelve months).

The UK Consumer Rights Act (current) and the Sale of Goods Act, applicable to goods and services bought on or before September 30, 2015, provide consumer protection in the UK. Links to Which? guides on both of those Acts are provided at the top of this article.

Note that 64-bit versions of Windows require twice as much memory as 32-bit versions and a 32-bit version can only use a maximum of 3.2GB of memory, so installing anything more than 4GB is wasted and may even slow the computer down. 64-bit versions of Windows or any other operating system, such as Linux, can handle any amount that can be installed on the PC’s motherboard.

Most graphics-card manufacturers provide a one-year or two-year warranty for their products, but it is worth noting that at the time of writing this Asus, Leadtek, PNY, Gainward, and MSI provide excellent three-year warranties. There are also some manufacturers of video/graphics cards, such as PNY, that offer an extended warranty on their cards if the buyer registers it on their websites. If you buy a computer that has a standard warranty of a year, which is contestable in court, but it contains components that have a longer warranty, then that longer warranty is valid after the computer itself is older than twelve months. However, there are exceptions, such as RAM memory modules, for which a manufacturer such as Crucial provides a lifetime warranty. That means that it is covered by the warranty as long as you use the memory in a computer that supports it. That amounts to about five years, because new types of RAM memory is always being released and the older modules won’t be supported by new motherboards. Note that if a component such as a high-end graphics card dies within its warranty period, the manufacturer (or the vendor if it is an OEM card supported by the vendor instead of the manufacturer) can make you prove that you have taken adequate precautions to keep the computer’s case cool before it honours the warranty. That probably means having to provide photographs of the inside of the case that show the case fans that have been installed. Therefore, you should obtain the warranty’s terms and conditions before you make a purchase to find out what is involved in making a claim against it.

Page 3.PC Warranties: Checklist and other considerations