Planned maintenance

by Volker Weber

This is one of those dirty little secrets: If you buy a notebook computer, it will eventually break. Sell it before the warranty runs out. If you only have one year of warranty, try to buy two more years, or sell the machine after one year. It does not matter how much the extended warranty costs. You need to factor it into the purchase price. A machine that costs 1000 where the extended warranty costs 400 will be more expensive than a machine for 1300 with the extended warranty already included. Don't fool yourself into buying the "cheaper" machine without coverage. It will cost you dearly.

Cost is not the only issue. You also need to find out how quickly it can be serviced. This rules out every single machine you can buy at a discount store like Germany's ALDI, Lidl oder Penny. In my experience there are only two companies with adequate service for notebook computers: Apple and IBM. If you can part with your machine for weeks, you may be fine with a discount offering. If you depend on it, you need to plan ahead for the maintenance that will always strike at the worst moment.

Every notebook I ever owned was turned in for service within 3 years. The last three machines where one Thinkpad 240 which was in the shop three times, one Thinkpad T21 that was repaired twice, and the iBook which just broke yesterday. Ed's Thinkpad had at least two major defects this year.

Desktop computers or notebooks that are only infrequently used are a different story.


The third reliable company is DELL.

Udo Vetter, 2004-12-21

Since IBM has sold their computer department, that only leaves Apple and Dell. The new owner of IBM might have the brand, but will have to prove their service!

Jeroen Sangers, 2004-12-21

If you're living in Germany, you might want to give Acer a try. Lightning-fast service, routine email notifications of service status and minor stuff such as displays keyboards etc fixed within 2 work days. Over the last two years, some five or six company machines were sent in and the service was always impressive.

Oliver Reiss, 2004-12-21

Asking the audience, which have been the failing parts of your notebooks? My #1 are failing IBM Travelstar 2.4" harddisks, #2 are display failures including broken hinges (DELL...) and backlights.

Haiko Hebig, 2004-12-21

The biggest point of failure on all the IBM StinkPads I’ve ever had (and that is a lot of laptops, from a lowly 600 to a couple of T41s) has been the operating system ;o)

Ben Poole, 2004-12-21

Two seperate Thinkpads - each been back once for backlight replacments. Have to say though that the IBM service was quick and painless. I should also point out that I'm fairly rough with my laptops - often knocking them and stacking stuff on top of them.

Ian Bradbury, 2004-12-21

Mostly the display.

No HD failures to far. I could fix those myself, since the HD is a standard part. Also no broken hinges, as often found in Dell and HP notebooks.

The T240 has an Achilles' heel: the LCD ribbon cable. That was replaced three times (the last time only 2 weeks ago); also the inverter for the display. The T21 had display issues, the 600 that I had before as well.

Volker Weber, 2004-12-21

I've carried laptops exclusively for about 10 years now. Mostly Thinkpads, although I guess that'll change now. Probably switch to Powerbooks in the future.

Normally, it's the display that goes bad - not the display itself, but the connection between the display and the rest of the computer. When I start doing that thing where you are moving the display back and forth to get the video back, it's time to start looking.

We've always gotten extended warranties - 3 years. They normally last just about that long.

Hey, Volker, Merry Christmas. Wish you the best in the coming year.

Jon Johnston, 2004-12-21

..... the HD (and it wasn´t its fault, but mine) was the only thing ever with any Powerbook I owned.

This 17" beauty fell from the table, landed like a turned-over "V", ran all evening, in the morning it wouldn´t boot (surprise?).

Had HD exchanged for a bigger one, played back my VPC from my iPod and the stuff Deja Vu had put htere as well - and voila, an hour later everybody and their cat were happy again... only some registratin info (like LipSync) was lost in the process due to reinstall of Lotus Notes.

Whacking operating system to survive a broken HD and go on from memory... That was OSX 10.2, if I remember right.


Armin Roth, 2004-12-21

CD drive and display - at least with my 12" PB. But I guess the drive was already defective when leaving the apple factory (in China or Taiwan that probably is...) and the display was having the infamous bright spots on it.

Praised be the 3 years of warranty I got for 99 Euros.

Henning Stoerk, 2004-12-21

Haiko: If you got a 2.4" harddrive it already has "failed" (that's where the missing .1" come from, LOL).

But I can second your experiences with multiple IBM/Hitachi 60 and 80GB 2.5" drives failing in my and my customers' systems.


Karsten W. Rohrbach, 2004-12-21

@Karsten: Indeed... Currently, my typo rate is much higher than average: just can't get used to the keyboard of the Acer Travelmate I am using as an interim solution since the backlight of my Toughbook broke just days ago - see #2 in my above comment...

@Volker: Of course HDD replacing is easy, no need for calling the service here. Still, it's causing downtime, so I included it in my list.

Haiko Hebig, 2004-12-22

Who was the lucky person who paid 99 euros for Apple Care ?? Are you perhaps a student ?

99 EUROS ? For a Powerbook G4 ? I would've taken it, but in Belgium for the AppleCare Protection Plan - PowerBook (3 jaar) M8853 - you pay Eur 446.49, which I find a ridiculous amount of money !

That's 40% of buying a new 12' Ibook (1098 Euros, 1,2 GHZ CPU, and that is already way more powerfull than my 12' 867Mhz Powerbook).

Since money doesn't grow on my back, I figure that if I can keep my powerbook for slightly more than 2 years, I can buy a new, more powerfull iBook with the money saved from AppleCare.

Alex Boschmans, 2004-12-23

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