Extended computer warranty problems
November 9, 2007 6:12 AM   Subscribe

A friend bought an extended service plan (the top level) on an HP computer from Staples. They are now telling her that by wiping the drive before bringing it in for service she voided the warranty.

After nearly two years of abuse and 'maintenance' by children and casual users, the OS (Windows XP Pro) was thoroughly trashed and the 160G drive started failing intermittently. One of the fans also needed replacement.

Because of the personal data on the computer we had reservations about entrusting it to a nameless tech so I used a LINUX utility to wipe the drive, entirely removing Windows (including the OEM recovery partition). She did not receive a Windows CD when she purchased the machine and, obviously, the bundled HP Recovery disc is going to be less than useful.

They are now telling me that they are unable to reinstall Windows and will not replace any malfunctioning hardware. It is my contention that since she purchased a Windows license -- this is itemized on the receipt and the original serial sticker on the case is intact -- she is entitled to a functioning copy of XP on her hard drive.

Do I have a leg to stand on?
posted by cedar to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
 
Of course you do. As a consumer, you have the right to use that drive any you want, including wiping it out.

Put it this way: what if that hard drive wasn't working? They should just treat this repair as if the hard drive broke.

The extended warranties on computers, in my experience, are utter and complete scams.
posted by Malor at 6:21 AM on November 9, 2007


Wrap the drive in a towel and beat on it with a sturdy piece of wood, claim the drive has died when you take it in or call for service.
posted by iamabot at 6:23 AM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


By deleting the OEM recovery partition you made it very difficult for the Staples techs to do the task you asked of them (reinstalling Windows). They are almost certainly making this stand because they do not have the means or the knowledge to overcome the barrier you set in front of them.

That said, the position is absurd. If the absence of the recovery partition constitutes a voided warranty, what would happen if the HDD crashed altogether? They should be able to deal with that. My advice? Take the machine back and find another Staples location to deal with, and this time don't mention that you wiped the drive when you brief them on what's wrong. Good Luck.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:24 AM on November 9, 2007


Your contention is correct, to a point. When I talked to MS about computers at work that had an OEM license sticker but no XP media, my impression was that as long as you had the sticker, it didn't matter where you got the media or whether you had it. From my understanding, in terms of licensing you're entitled to install an OEM copy of XP with that key, from borrowed media if necessary. (No guarantees though.)

OTOH, you're definitely being screwed by Staples. I would go all Consumerist on them and try to make them fix the hardware, at the very least.
posted by pocams at 6:24 AM on November 9, 2007


As a computer technician working for a large chain myself... those Stapes guys must be morons.

Yes, your friend is entitled to an HP OEM'd version of XP on that machine, whether the hard drive has been wiped or not. Using the Staples logic, if the hard drive were to physically crash, they wouldn't reinstall Windows on it. If that seems stupid, it's because it is.

HP has a well-documented site for technicians at www.hptechzone.com. I don't know if Staples is an authorized HP dealer/service center like our store is, but even if they're not they should be able to contact HP Retail Support and order the discs.

Furthermore, if you review the terms and conditions of the warranty you purchased, it probably states specifically that it does not cover software issues, which the OS thing would be considered. If worst comes to worst, you're going to have to stand your ground to get them to service the hardware side of things and just deal with reinstalling the OS yourself. Call HP at 1-800-HP-INVENT and they will send you recovery discs for that model for a nominal fee. Installing the OS, as you might know, is a piece of cake.

Your key here in dealing with these "technicians" is that you may have to escalate the issue to a higher level, whether that be store management or corporate involvement. I feel for you... issues like this can and should be resolved quickly and easily.

P.S. Was that computer purchased within the last 12 months? If so, you're still covered by your manufacturer's warranty and you don't even have to deal with these guys until your that warranty runs out. Call HP and they'll service it or take it to an authorized service center... a couple of the big chains are. (Also, if you still can't get anywhere after all my advice, feel free to PM me and I'll see what I can do.)
posted by joshrholloway at 6:32 AM on November 9, 2007


Why would they reinstall Windows? I though the drive was failing?

If the HD working, why would the bundled recovery disk not work? The bundled disk is basically your copy of XP. I've nuked my HD plenty of times and used the OEM recovery disk.

Nonetheless, if the drive is deemed to be working properly, I doubt you'll have luck with getting them to reinstall XP. I've never had a warranty cover software reinstallation on a functional drive which I nuke. The warranty's intent is to cover hardware defects, not software misuse.
Also, you do have a valid license. I don't think that's the issue with Staples. The issue is convincing Staples that your deleting the partition constitutes an issue on their part.

Your only real chance here is to convince them your HD is defunct and get them to replace that. At that point, it usually comes from HP and with factory defaults.
posted by jmd82 at 6:35 AM on November 9, 2007


Find your terms and conditions. I looked through one example of HP terms (can't be sure if it's yours) and it didn't say that wiping your hard drive voided the warranty. It did explicitly say that they would not reinstall the operating system or software though.

There seems to be little excuse for them to avoid replacing malfunctioning hardware though.
posted by grouse at 6:36 AM on November 9, 2007


My usual approach for midlevel run arround is to get the addresses of the CEO of the company and a sequence of people down the chain of command. Then you write a letter to the CEO and CC everyone else. In the letter you describe how appalled you are with their service, etc and have serious reservations about doing business with them again given what's happened. Tell them you've already mentioned these events on the web (which you just have) and are considering blogging in intimate details the rest of this ordeal. Depending on you, you can always say that you are taking this to small claims court if things are not resolved to your satisfaction. I've learned this tactic from a friend who used to work with the CEO of a large company and taken it a few times. It usually works and many times you get free stuff too.
posted by blueyellow at 6:53 AM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Why would they reinstall Windows? I though the drive was failing?"

It was failing (or the power supply). All sorts of bad sectors, ugly memory dumps and blue screens. We could get it to boot after several tries, but it wasn't gonna fix itself.

"If the HD working, why would the bundled recovery disk not work? The bundled disk is basically your copy of XP. I've nuked my HD plenty of times and used the OEM recovery disk."

It is my understanding that the HP recovery disk is dependent upon the recovery partition existing. Is this correct? To be honest, deleting that partition was kind of a mistake. I forgot there was one and just let Debian
do it's reformatting thing.

I am not worried about reinstalling the OS myself. Though I do feel she is entitled to it, I am far more concerned about the hardware issues. It is my opinion that the drive is fried, and, if so, they would have to have Windows on the replacement drive, no?

Maybe this should have been entitled: "Help me not look like an idiot to the pretty lady I'm trying to impress."
posted by cedar at 7:27 AM on November 9, 2007


Barring the "hard drive might not be workable enough to install on" issue, there's no reason at all having a blank drive should matter. If you ask them to reinstall windows, they're not going to sit there with an install disc and watch little status bars grow and then type in a computer name - they'll restore an image onto it and be done in half an hour or less. So they're definitely BSing.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:58 AM on November 9, 2007


You need HP OEM XP media for your XP (Home?) key. There is a very slim chance that the media from another big OEM, aka Dell, could work with your key, but volume license media will not, and retail full version media will not.

"Help me not look like an idiot to the pretty lady I'm trying to impress."

You can't impress her the way you want by doing this.. Not unless she was using the whole exercise as an excuse to see you again, in which case you don't really need this to impress her. Being helpful is generally good though.
posted by Chuckles at 2:57 PM on November 9, 2007


cedar writes "It is my understanding that the HP recovery disk is dependent upon the recovery partition existing. Is this correct? "

No. The recovery disks you create or order from HP are completely self contained. Basically a servicing requirement as laptop hard drives are notoriously unreliable.
posted by Mitheral at 7:17 PM on November 9, 2007


She did not receive a Windows CD when she purchased the machine and, obviously, the bundled HP Recovery disc is going to be less than useful.

Why obviously? The CD should contain the information on the recovery partition, that's how it's been with every recovery CD I've ever seen.

It was failing (or the power supply). All sorts of bad sectors, ... We could get it to boot after several tries, but it wasn't gonna fix itself.

If the disk has bad sectors, you need to get a new hard drive anyway, so the partition really is irrelevant.
posted by delmoi at 5:58 AM on November 10, 2007


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