Ask LH: Can I Get My Hard Drive Replaced Under Warranty?

Ask LH: Can I Get My Hard Drive Replaced Under Warranty?

Dear Lifehacker, Is it possible to get the manufacturer to replace a hard disk drive that stopped working after the warranty period? The laptop is nearly 1.5 years old (so its out of the one year warranty period )and the HDD just stopped working out of the blue. Thanks, Driven To Despair

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Dear DTD,

We cover warranty issues a lot here at Lifehacker, but your case is an interesting one. It’s certainly feasible to ask, and there can really be no harm beyond time spent in doing so, because while a laptop may have a one year warranty, it’s not really reasonable to expect it to die within such a short period.

A hard drive within a laptop may — and this is a debatable topic — not be expected to last quite so long, because it’s essentially a media item rather than the computer itself. Hard drive manufacturers have been cutting back warranties on many of their products, and while they can’t legally dodge their way around Australian consumer law, that could be taken into account working out what’s reasonable in this case. Way back in the dim dark computer ages, I worked for a while as a tech support representative for a computer company, and one of the very standard warranty clauses related to warranties on rewriteable media, including hard drives, which were covered for a much shorter period than the systems surrounding them.

Again, that doesn’t mean that a vendor can write such a clause and make it legally stick, but again the ACCC’s guidelines on this don’t have absolute limits either. The relevant section of the ACCC guidelines for statuatory rights reads as so:

Statutory rights are not limited to a set time period. Instead, they apply for the amount of time that is reasonable to expect, given the cost and quality of the item.

Hard drives aren’t in and of themselves expensive items, and that may be a roadblock to getting out-of-warranty satisfaction in this case. It’s feasible to pick up a drive for under $100, and that means that it could be argued that eighteen months is a serviceable life, even without going into any kind of analysis of the actual damage issue itself. You’re going to have a better case if the notebook is pristine, whereas if it’s dripping water or covered in dents, the damage could more reasonably be assumed to be your own fault.

What I’d do is call up the vendor and ask if they’ll cover it on the grounds that they presumably sell the laptop in question as a quality item. This is especially true if you’re talking a system with an SSD, or as is the case with some of Apple’s designs, a system with a glued or soldered in hard drive, because the costs involved in replacing a drive in such a system are unlikely to be trivial. You may not get satisfaction, but it can’t hurt to try.

Also, while it won’t help in this case, it’s well worth repeating the mantra of backup. Backup is boring, backup takes time, but backup is UTTERLY VITAL.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Depending on the make and model of the hard drive, the drive itself may still have heaps of warranty left. It is well worth identifying the drive make and model and its relevant warranty – there are good odds it is still in warranty.
    If it is, then contact the drive manufacturer direct and there should be no problem.

    • I think the key word is “depending” there. Some manufacturers mark their harddrive serials as OEM and therefore don’t recognise a warranty

    • I’d be curious if you could cite a manufacturer warranty document that gives more than 12 months warranty, especially one that isn’t exceptionally limited.

      • PS: Life Hacker; Why does your comment system not allow me to use my browsers back button after commenting? If you need a talented coder, you should have just asked 😉

  • Yes, some manufacturers will do a paid replacement of components like hard drives outside of the warranty period. Your best bet is to call the Australian office of the manufacturer and see if they can help. Failing that, hard drives are usually easy to replace on your own or with the help of a local computer shop.

  • Hard drives themselves usually have 3-5 year warranties for consumer level drives (even if the company who packed it into their laptop offer less), and this must be honoured by the company you bought it through. If you have your receipt for the laptop, you should be able to take the HDD out of the laptop, take it in to the store and have them deal with shipping the faulty HDD back to the manufacturer.

    • I don’t think you are correct, if the item itself it outside the warranty, the store shouldn’t have to do anything. As it has been stated above, most hard drive manufactures mark drives that come in off the shelf computers as OEM, and don’t provide the same warranty as a retail drive (which costs more, generally because of the longer warranty). If I sell a laptop with 2 yrs warranty, and after 2.5 yrs the customer comes back with it saying the hard drive died and they checked and the drive is covered under the manufacturers (of the drive) warranty, I would explain how they can claim it, but not do it for them as it is not my place to do so, if it died within that 2 yr period, I would as per the warranty of the laptop, but as the laptop as a whole it outside of warranty, no way.

      In short – most off the shelf laptop/computers come with OEM drives. OEM drives generally all have different warranty to retail drives. Retail drives generally 3 – 5 yrs, OEM generally length of the laptop warranty.

  • Just today I arranged a replacement of a Dell laptop DVD/CD drive for a laptop which is 2 months out of warranty. They’re couriering a replacement to me at no cost. I did no special pleading and didn’t mention the ACCC. I was actually contacting them to purchase a replacement but they offered to replace it for free.

  • Just remember that there is a difference between manufacturer’s warranty and your statutory rights. The warranty can be provided by the manufacturer or the retailer, but your rights to a return, refund or replacement apply only to the retailer, so out of warranty, that’s who you’d be expected to go to (wouldn’t hurt to ask the manufacturer, but the legal obligation isn’t on them).

    Personally, I’d expect more than 18 months out of a hard drive.

      • Manufacturing defects are more and more common the cheaper the drives get. To date I still wish I could pay MORE for a drive I knew would be more reliable but it’s still a complete gamble in my opinion..

        We’ve had enterprise grade drives die within a few months, and cheap drives that last for years without so much as a bad sector. *shrug*

        • I’ve been really lucky with western & digital.

          I feel like I want to tell you how long my current 320gb drive has lasted, but I don’t want to tempt fate.

          Computer parts are like that. I recently bought a new gfx card, a 7970 and it came with a clicky fan. A $400 part and a defective fan made me take it back! But they make them to a cost and that’s the breaks.

          Nowadays I just resign myself to having to take back at least every 4th part I buy, that’s why I only buy from my local. Much easier than posting things off all around australia.

          When you think about how complex computers are, it’s amazing they work as well as they do. But the last upgrade I did was very difficult, I will NEVER upgrade for fun every again. I had to fault test every single component to find that the ram, mobo AND CPU were all faulty! Very frustrating. Never again!

        • Thank you Michael_debyl for commenting what Ive been saying for my group for ages – it *does* seem that drives are just not making the time lately.

          Heck I still have a “Microscience” 120Meg drive that still spins up and runs fine from the early 90’s – but the 1tb from 2010 is dead as!

  • In my opinion a good company would honour that under the terms of the warranty without issue. But, if not, I’m sure you’d be able to get the ACCC (or similar state authority) to get them to do the repairs under the provisions of the statutory warranty, because a hard drive should be expected to last for at least 3 years (they can last for decades). Make sure they recover your data too.

    • Most warranties only cover hardware, not hardware.

      Most shops will charge you for the software side of things (reinstall windows, data recovery etc) but not the hardware, as the hardware is under warranty, not the data. Saying that, you can get special clauses that include data recovery, just not all.

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