PC Warranties

Extended Warranties

If a 12-month on-site repair guarantee is included in the price of the computer from a major supplier, when making comparisons, always remember to add the price of an extended warranty to the price charged by another supplier that requires the computer to be returned to base for repairs during the guarantee period. Then, the latter firm’s prices might not look quite so tempting. Otherwise, you will have to pay for the transportation to the repair site – and lose the use of the computer while it is away for repairs.

This is especially the case with laptop and notebook computers, most of which would have to be returned to the supplier or manufacturer for repairs during the whole of their useful lives. Their innards are so like clockwork that only a highly-qualified technician knows how to work with them.

It is also advisable to find out how you stand with regard to the statutory EU-wide two-year warranties. You may have certain rights for a year that change for the next year. You need to find out how your rights change for the second year of an EU warranty.

Extended warranties for desktop computers tend to be rip-offs, because you would usually pay an independent technician much less in repair costs over the same period that a typical extended warranty costs to provide repair cover. But repairs and upgrades to laptop computers are usually very expensive, so it is advisable in this case to buy an extended warranty. But do your calculations before you sign on the dotted line and hand over your cash.

Note that laptop and notebook PCs are difficult to upgrade. The most you can do is add PC card support – modems, hard disk drives, network support, etc. You cannot obtain devices such as a video or sound card in PC Card form for a laptop or notebook PC.

I read the other day of a cracked connection cable in a Compaq notebook PC that linked it to the lid screen. Compaq said that the cable came with the screen, and since the guarantee had expired, the cost of replacing the cable would be £500.

If a notebook PC breaks down it almost always has to be returned to the manufacturer for repair, and this is the kind of thing that can happen. You have been warned. If the guarantee has expired find out what the cost of repair is likely to be before you send it to the manufacturer.

It is worthwhile knowing that most of a new computer’s failures occur within the first 12 months of ownership. The next bad period tends to be when it is in its fifth year. For that reason, extended warranties, usually costing several hundred pounds, tend to be a waste of money. Computers are built up of modules, most of which cost less than L100, so you would have to have at least two major failures before you would recoup the cost of such a warranty. Thus, the best option is to buy a computer that comes with a 1-year on-site repair guarantee. Then all you really need after that is a book on how to upgrade and repair a PC. It is surprisingly easy and satisfying to do. Such books cost between £20 to £50. Another good option is to become a regular reader of a good computer magazine, such as Computer Shopper (UK).

By obtaining a written specification of a PC’s contents, you protect yourself from being given false or misleading information that the supplier can deny having provided, or having omitted to provide. If the computer supplier refuses to put anything in writing, buy your computer from a company that will. You will then be in a position to check the quality of the components on websites, in computer magazines, and Internet newsgroups before you make a purchase. If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides newsgroups, use your newsreader (Outlook, Outlook Express, Agent, Free Agent, Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail, etc.) to search for the word mainboard for a list of motherboard manufacturer’s newsgroups.

Always remember that you are buying expensive equipment and that there is no shortage of suppliers keen to sell you second-rate, non-upgradable, skimpy or old kit. It always pays to be as knowledgeable as possible before you part with your money. Anyone who buys an old computer that cannot be upgraded to an acceptable standard, will be in a world of hurt when it refuses to run the latest software or accommodate hardware upgrades.

Page 5.Taking legal action against a seller or manufacturer and other considerations