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Summary:

In my day job, helping people with computers, I see many failed hard drives. If the computer is under warranty, I’ll always try to get the system manufacturer to replace the drive rather than order a new one for the customer. Recently, two clients came in, […]

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In my day job, helping people with computers, I see many failed hard drives. If the computer is under warranty, I’ll always try to get the system manufacturer to replace the drive rather than order a new one for the customer. Recently, two clients came in, one right after another, and it really illustrated the differences between Apple and everyone else when it comes to hardware support. “Lauren” bought a sub-$1000 PC, but didn’t consider the support costs and time involved. If she had, she might have second thoughts about her decision to buy a PC.

The Dell Experience

Client #1 comes in because Windows won’t boot. The minute she turns on the PC, I know the problem. It’s that horrible high-pitched clicking noise that is worse than nails on a chalkboard to any technician. It’s obvious the drive has failed and the solution is to replace it. I booted off a test CD and verified the hard drive failure.

Fortunately the computer is under warranty. No big deal, Dell should replace the hard drive. I call Dell. After 20 minutes on hold, I’m not getting a live person, so I try the online chat and wait and wait and wait. Eventually, someone comes online. The first obstacle is that the client is a student and the father bought the computer via his work. Dell will not assist us until we tell them the owner of the computer and the shipping address. Arrrgh. So we play a multiple choice game for about 20 minutes trying to find out which name and address it was under.

We are now at about an hour. When we get the “correct” answer to the shipping address, our tech then begins to help us. I explain that the hard drive is making a high pitched clicking noise and the system doesn’t show a hard drive. First, the tech wants me to try a special diagnostic that is preformed off the hard drive. Of course the hard drive is dead, so we go back and forth with that I must be doing something wrong. His English was so shaky that I often didn’t understand his questions. (How does one answer  “Is this issue not facing now?”) Eventually the tech believes I’m doing it right and then asks me to boot off a CD that come with the system, which of course the client doesn’t have. We’re supposed to look for the disks and contact them again, but I refused. The client didn’t know where the disk is and we needed this resolved.

Eventually, the support person realizes we don’t have the disk, but he now wants us to open up the computer and reset everything. We’re now at the 1.5 hour mark. Eventually the agent agrees the hard drive should be replaced. Thank you! However, they must ship the hard drive to one of their contracted field techs per her warranty. Actually, that’s lucky; sometimes you have to ship the computer back to Dell. Her warranty was “upgraded” to include on-site repair. The tech will then contact her to set a time to install the hard drive. Three days later, there was no contact from the tech, no hard drive. Fortunately, I gave her a loaner and got her up and running.

We tried calling Dell to no avail. There was no record of the request for the hard drive. Eventually we contacted Dell “Unresolved Issues” and the hard drive was shipped. Total time on the phone: three hours. Delay in hard drive replacement: almost two weeks. The time involved on the chat I assure you is very typical and it’s not just Dell. I see it with HP/Compaqs as well. Service is simply not part of their deal.

The Apple Experience

My next client had a Macbook. I could hear it was the same problem immediately. Ironically, it was the same brand and size of hard drive as was in the Dell. I entered her serial number on Apple’s support web site, and it showed the computer was still under warranty. We then set up a “Speak to an Apple Expert” call-back for about 20 minutes later. On the dot, the technician called. I explained the loud noise and told the tech I booted off the Leopard DVD and the hard drive showed errors. He agreed to ship a new hard drive the next day. Total phone time was less than five minutes and it was 30 minutes from problem diagnosis to closure and less than 24 hours from the time I called until the new hard drive arrived on her doorstop. Again, this interaction was very typical.

For the sake of argument, let’s say these clients didn’t use a consultant to solve their problem. The Mac client could have made an appointment with a genius if an Apple store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for the repair. The PC client has no physical store she could go to unless she bought that PC at a store that also offered warranty repair.

The phrase “Penny wise and Pound foolish” comes to mind. Did the first client end up saving money because she bought a PC?

  1. Nice article – you get what you pay for….

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    1. Agreed. Thankfully, I have 3 PCs (because I am a computer guy, not a pompous twit). I have never gotten a warranty on any of them, and in a total of 9 years of ownership (5 for one, 3 for one, and one for the latest), have performed only two repairs – one failed hard drive, and one failed USB card. Total cost: $150 (including upgrading to a 1TB hard drive).

      And both fixed in under 2 days — newegg can’t ship until you order — with no hassle, no warranty, and no wasting my time going to an Apple store.

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    2. Your inability to refrain from using the “pompous twit” comment proves differently.

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      1. Yours goes in the “takes one to know one category”.

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    3. If this is about anecdotal experience, then here’s mine: I’m a student at UCSD, and every student I know with a Mac laptop has had to take it in for service, AND has had to pay a lot to fix it, usually around $300, regardless of the Apple service plan they assumed they were under — Apple considers many, many repairs as outside the bounds of their service contract, and charge FAR more than a white box PC shop. This is not the case with any of the Dells, Sonys and HPs around, except for one that had a GPU fry the motherboard. But that’s one example vs. so many Macs going in for expensive repairs, it’s almost a running joke on campus — among PC folks, that is. The Mac folks are not finding it quite as funny….

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    4. I have consulted at Motorola, Cisco, and Oracle over the last few years and all of them provide thousands of Mac laptops for their employees. They could not be happier.

      Roger your comments are simply not credible. Go spin it on some PC kiddie site because it won’t wash here.

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    5. Nice to hear that Apple has their support ducks in a row. It didn’t always use to be that way. When I worked the Apple Support 800# many years back (think SE30) the customer experience was more like the Dell scenario you describe above, and perhaps even worse.

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    6. I dont buy it. Dell’s business support is amazing. As admin for a dell shop I call them quite often. The phone is answered instantly everytime and has been for 5 yrs. In the last 3 yrs I have gotten a North American english as a first language person. I give them the error code I get from running the dell diagnostics that says the drive failed, they say fine and the next day the drive is in my hands. They always offer to send some to come do the work and if it’s a motherboard replacement I usually let them but they don’t force me. And only once did that person NOT come the next day. Every Dell laptop we have used has some weird issue with it, but their Business support borders on perfect. Chat works great too but calling is the much easier way to convince them you did your due dilligence and get them to send the drive without jumping thru hoops. DELL HOME support, well that is a different monkey altogether. 2 hours on the phone taking to Kevin (really hajjib) and you might get what you want.

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    7. I don’t buy this either and agree with Roger. I too have anecdotal evidence to suggest that Dell service rocks. I’ve got two Dell laptops under warranty and I’ve had to replace the lcd screen and keypad on one and just the keypad on the other and I got it done within 2 days – 15 minutes on the phone on one day and I had a service engineer over at my house the next day. Furthermore, I own a PC (and an unbranded assembled one at that), in it’s 4 years of service to me, has only required a replacement of the power box and nothing else. None of this means anything unless the author’s hypothesis is verified by some hard statistical evidence. Throwing opinions in the air based on a single point example is hardly a good idea.

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    8. You cannot use the words dell and pc interchangeably. I have had and loved my PC’s for years. I have so few problems with them and at a fraction of the cost my PC is considerably faster than the more expensive often freezing Macs that I use at work. The fact Dell sells sub par equipment and has poor customer service does not make the rest of the PC world this way. Honestly, If I paid as much as my job did for their Macs I would EXPECT same day on site repairs. I have saved a lot of money by buying PCs

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    9. yeah this review wasn’t biased at all… I mean exaggerate much? Also this guy called with a “I’m getting what I want and that’s all I’m interested in” He should have asked the customer to try and find the disks before (or maybe while supposedly spending 20 minutes guessing, ha!) calling. I’m sure he fought the tech every step of the way that didn’t involve him getting a hard drive sent out asap. Although I will admit I hate calling CS for any company.

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    10. Yeah. Here are my daughter’s experiences with Apple.Daughter #1 loses hard drive in Scotland. Rides a bus for an hour to get to an Apple store. They tell her to reformat and reinstall. Two days later it’s dead. They order a new one. It takes a week. Has another hour bus ride (one way) to get it replaced. Daughter #2 loses hard drive in US. Goes to Apple store (fortunately close by). They replace hard drive. She goes home and the notebook can’t find the hard drive. Goes back. They screw around for an hour and conclude that the new drive is dead (duh!). But now it’s too late to order a new one because Apple doesn’t work after dark. So now she’s waiting at least two days to get the new one.

      Now for mine. Have my IT staff send in notebook for screen replacement because white is dirty gray (out of warranty) and new hard drive. The nearest Apple store is 1.5 hrs away. They send it back, saying it’s just a little dim and a new screen would cost $600. And they kindly reformat the hard drive and reinstall the OS to fix the hard drive. The drive is so flakey I can’t even restore from backup. I send it out for repair myself to 3rd party, get new screen for $300 and a hard drive that works.

      Six months later I have to dump it anyway, because running the fans at 3000RPM no longer cools it down enough to keep it going.

      Dell hard drive replacement: I call them, tell them the problem, and they ship one immediately. I pull out the old one, stick in the new one, and I’m fine. Incidentally, you don’t have to dismantle the machine to replace the hard drive (duh!).

      The bottom line is, Dell and Apple both make crap hardware for notebooks. Dell’s support isn’t great overall, but at least they’re open 24/7, and if you online chat instead of calling you can even understand them. You get better help if you call their Linux support line – they’re in the US.

      Incidentally, I only run Windows under duress, and only in VMs, so don’t give me crap about PC kiddie sites.

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  2. Great article! Very interesting to read the comparison between the two different types of support.

    I feel bad for that Dell customer. Let’s hope she chooses to become a Switcher in the future!

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  3. “Ironically, it was the same brand and size of hard drive as was in the Dell.”

    Sorry, but had to pick this up. It’s a pet peeve of mine… Please learn what irony is. :) That is a coincidence, not ironic.

    Otherwise, good article though :)

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    1. irony – • a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result

      I think he was using irony in that this was not what he expected. Fits to me. (Teacher of English and Writing)

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    2. Deliberately contrary to what one expects is not the same as “cool, they use the same hard drive”. As Alex said, that’s just coincidence.

      (Student of English and Writing)

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    3. What part of it is “deliberately contrary to what one expects” though? It’s mildly surprising, at best, that two failed computers use the same hard drive.

      An example (from Wikipedia):
      “When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan, all of his shots initially missed the President; however a bullet ricocheted off the bullet-proof Presidential limousine and struck Reagan in the chest. Thus, a vehicle made to protect the President from gunfire was partially responsible for his being shot.”

      That is ironic.

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    4. Sweet goodness people, please discuss the use of irony somewhere else. Thanks. :)

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      1. Josh, stick it.

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    5. It is not ironic that both computer companies use the same harddrive it is a coincidence. It is ironic that despite the fact that both computers used the same harddive the differential in tech support between the two was substantial.

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    6. A pet peeve of mine is when people think they are grading grammar papers when reading blog posts.

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      1. tw@t

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  4. Maybe it’s a country thing, but i had a dell laptop a few years ago and the dvd drive failed and wouldn’t read any disks etc. Called up the dell support line in UK, within 10 minutes some irish guy worked out that there was something wrong (can’t remember the problem faulty eye or something). Called up dell, the next day a replacement arrived at my office, i pulled my old one out the laptop, put it in the courier box and he took it back to dell for me. This was back in the 1 year onsite plus 2 years off site support days tho, but have to say Dell have never disappointed me.

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    1. Their call center for North America is no longer in North America. When you call them, you usually get someone whose English you can barely comprehend.

      Outsourcing programmers in this way is one thing, but it doesn’t work for call support.

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  5. Nice article.
    But this story happend in US. In Poland, where I live, Apple support is’t better than others. Whats more, sometimes it’s worst… Probably it is because we don’t have real Apple Store, only “Premium reselers” and “Authorized Services”… I hope some day we’ll have so good Apple support like You in US.

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    1. Agreed. The Malaysia’s Apple premium reseller won’t fix my battery problem for my Macbook. One of the staff even suggest that I had overcharged the battery. WTF?

      And they just keep suggesting me to buy a new one, which cost about half a Netbook…

      Why can’t they upgrade the service of premium reseller? Or properly the staffs are on commission based salary, it wouldn’t help the customer with problem.

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    2. Exactly,
      A few weeks ago my Dell laptop started display strange “noise” pixels on screen. So I’ve called Dell in the evening to report the problem, I have to give service tag (from sticker on a laptop) and after 5 min talk I have scheduled repair on next day morning (Dell has NBD (Next Business Day) guarantee). The next day the screen was replaced with new one without any problems (this took 20 minutes).

      On a next day I’ve asked in Apple reseller what if I had problem like this in MacBook Pro – and the answer was: you give us the laptop, and we have 14 days to repair it (sending it somewhere).

      So sorry… but till now I will stay with my Dell.

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    3. Same in Australia – I have seen Apple take MONTHS to fix problems that could be fixed on a PC in a few hours at any computer store.

      Dell is not so much better.

      You don’t get what you pay for – ASUS is cheaper, more reliable and even in Australia will courier the part to and from you.

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  6. That’s why I just bought new Apple Care for my Macbook Pro. It means total peace of mind and you can also call Apple support for help with questions on the OS, iLife and iWorks.

    Apple Is not the cheap option, but I think people should re-evaluate what the real cost of losing you system for 2 weeks due to poor customer service.

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    1. Have a friend w/a Macbook where the Nvidia chip is bad. It is covered under Applecare, but it has been 2+ weeks and he still doesn’t have the machine back or a due date. How does one operate a business with this kind of support?

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  7. Interesting article, but my experiences with HP and Lenovo support were very different…

    With HP, I talked to a technician who did speak poor English but was able to send out a new hard drive after only 10 minutes, which I recieved about 2 days later with excellent instructions, funny thing though, I received a second HDD about 1 week later.

    Lenovo was amazing, I again was only on the phone for about 10 minutes and had a new HDD in hand exactly 14 hrs after the call.

    I love my Macbook and have found Apple’s support consistently above par as well, as you point out the greatest benefit is the ability to take it into a store and talk to a real person who usually understands and go out of their way to solve the problem. (Replaced my Macbook screen, keyboard, battery all before AppleCare expired and FREE iPhone screen replacement!)

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  8. You have handle Dell techs like you know what the hell is going on.

    Dell: “This Dell, how can I help you?”

    Me: “I have a insert-model-number-here. The express code is ######. I cannot boot off the hard drive. The hard drive is clicking. The hard drive is dead. It does not show up in CMOS. When I boot off the OS CD that ships with the system, it cannot find the drive. This machine is under warranty. Ship me a new hard drive.”

    Dictate the call and steer it in the direction you want it to go to.

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    1. I second this. If you follow this outline, your Dell calls will go smoothly. Probably doesn’t work if you are not a technician.

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    2. Always works for me – but I’m using corporate support ;) Not sure how good the residential support is, but the above is pretty much how I imagine it to be.

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    3. I second that one too. I’ve never had problems with Dell doing exactly what Joseph Louthan suggests.

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  9. [...] …the "Really, it's way cheaper to buy a Mac" story again. [...]

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  10. I must be unlucky then… aside from having to make a warranty claim on every item of Apple hardware I own (except a Magic Mouse which is only a fortnight old… give it another week or two), every claim has been objected to in some way. An iPhone that Apple claimed had been submerged despite there being no evidence to other than their red tell-tale tab, a MacBook Pro battery that wouldn’t hold charge after 150 cycles AND was covered by an online recall but STILL they argued that mine wasn’t covered… etc. etc.

    I love my MBP but I think I’d have to replace about 20 HDDs on my Dell XPS M1330 at full cost before it started to look as expensive as the Apple. And I’m not onvinced that Apple’s customer service is really any better than Dell’s (which is awful). Not in the UK, anyway.

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    1. You are unlucky. I have owned dozens of Macs over the years and can only think of one time where I had to get service. I had a HD fail on a laptop and took it to the Apple store and received my fixed Mac in a couple of days. Couldn’t have been easier. Apple customer care is second to none in the US.

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  11. The least failures of a computing platform in over a three year period?

    1) Asus
    2) Toshiba
    3) Sony
    4) Apple

    Genius or no, you don’t always get what you pay for.

    http://www.squaretrade.com/pages/laptop-reliability-1109/

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    1. Speaking of reliability, the site you linked belongs to a company that sells warranties. They may be right, but something tells me not to take a warranty company’s opinion of warranty repairs at face value.

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    2. You say computing platform, but the link says laptops. Apple’s desktops have been the best in reliability for quite a while, according to Consumer Reports. They agree with the above for laptops, though. Work on it, Apple!

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    3. You’re quoting bad data from a faulty study. See
      http://tumbledry.org/2009/11/20/when_information_overwhelms

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  12. As someone already noted you get what you pay for. If you happen to own a Thinkpad and want to pay slightly more for a full warranty than what Apple charges for their warranty, you can have a tech show up at your door at an appointed time just about anywhere in the world you happen to be and replace a broken part for you.

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  13. Great write up!

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  14. Great article. Apple has had great Customer service for a long time. You wrote “The PC client has no physical store she could go to unless she bought that PC at a store that also offered warranty repair.” Well, when I bought my G3 desktop there were no Apple stores either. I had an issue with a drive not being connected, no internal cable. I called Apple and told them my situation, they dispatched a local tech to come to my house and repair my new G3. C’mon who else does that?

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    1. Dave in St. Louis Saturday, November 28, 2009

      IBM came to my house and replaced the CPU under warranty.

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  15. My macbook pro failed while I was visiting greece and I got a replacement from apple in one day from an authorized dealer. It was just a small shop in the middle of northern greece. They looked at it, checked the serial number to see if its under apple care or warranty still and got me a new one. Blew my mind how easy it was even 5k miles away from home.

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    1. wow, that is really amazing. It says something about apple, maybe like how organized they are.

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  16. I had a dell laptop and the hard drive crashed after 10 months erasing all my data that I forgtot to back up( never again). After spending a good three hours on the phone with someone who barely spoke english, they did ascertain that my hard drive was broken and needed a new one. Thanks to my warranty, they had somebody come over and install a new hard drive…that was it. I had to reload all of my software and drivers back on to the computer, and was never able to get the drivers for my bluetooth card or for my memory card reader. I wasted about 15 hours of my life trying to get Dell to restore my computer to when I first took it out of the box, but they would not budge, and was left with a computer that was about 75% effective as when I bought it, a year later. Dell has horrific customer service and was extremely unhelpful. Even after hours of complaining, and moved up the customer service food chain to the few americans who worked in the department, they still sent me disks that did not contain the necessary drivers. I will never buy Dell again. Cheap prices equals cheap parts and cheap service, I hope anyone who buys Dell does not have a broken part.

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  17. Very nice article! I’m relatively tech savvy and I’ve had the very same experiences. I have an early 2006 (May) Macbook that the battery was bulging on in November 2009 (3 1/2 years later and well out of the warranty period). I made an appointment online at the Genius Bar for the next evening after work. I showed up about :05 late, waited less than :05, told the Genius Bar tech the problem, he removed my battery, walked into the backroom, returned immediately with a brand new battery. The tech replaced the old battery, printed a receipt that I signed stating I’d received a new battery and that Apple took the old. I placed my Macbook in the box and walked out. The entire process took less than :30 minutes!

    Now, I have a question. Is there a limit on how large a hard drive I can replace my 60GB stock hard drive with? The online manual for the “early 2006″ models says 200GB but then discloses “(at the time of this printing).” At the time, Mac didn’t have a larger drive available. Does this mean that it can support a larger drive or is that meant to be the largest. I’ve seen on other forums and in the Newegg comments for larger hard drives that 320GB and even 500GB are working fine. I’ve also seen others say that once they get past 250GB they experience various problems. And yet others say that as long as the drive is partitioned off into not larger than 250GB partitions, there’s no problem.

    Any clue?

    Also, can I up move up to 7200RPM or is it best to stick to 5400RPM?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

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    1. @Morti Mouse: there is no limit to the size of the HD, AFAIK.
      I’ve upgraded some MB with a 320GB with no problem.
      As for the speed, I can’t see a lot of difference between the two, so I usually stick to 5400RPM. I’ve had a few nasty crashes with 7200s in old iBooks, but the technologies have changed in the meantime: modern HDDs should be quieter and cooler.

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  18. Or you don’t buy a warranty at all and when the drive fails, buy a replacement from your favourite online supplier and fix it the next day when it arrives.

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  19. I had a Dell monitor 4 or 5 years back that was DOA, I called them in the afternoon and the next morning a UPS guy stood on my door steep with a replacement.
    Just this evening I had UPS come by with a replacement set of Apple in-ear headphones.
    A $79 product and I bought it at a local (non-Apple) store, they refused to help me because I lost the receipt. Called Apple and asked them if the 1 year worldwide warranty could help even if I bought the product in a local store, two days later the UPS guy showed up with a replacement:) no questions asked.

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  20. [...] is of great quality and well supported. Think about that the next time you go to buy a computer. A Tale of Two Hard Drives: Apple’s Secret Weapon? [↩]Apple leads, Dell lags in customer satisfaction [...]

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  21. [...] here: A Tale of Two Hard Drives: Apple's Secret Weapon? Categories: Computers Tags: apple-expert, depot, lcd, serial, series, support-web, then-set, [...]

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  22. I’ve been hanging around this site the past couple weeks b/c I am seriously considering buying a 15″ MBP (currently have a Dell Lattitude). Price is not a consideration (happy to pay more for a MBP). However, the one hurdle I can’t get over is NBD service. I live about 45 minutes from the closest retail store, and frankly, I don’t have the time to spend going to a retail store for service. I am a business user that needs NBD on-site service (and willing to pay for it). Dell offers this to SMB customers but I can’t find anything similar from Apple. I need a service where, after remote diagnosis, the part is dropped shipped NBD and installed on-site by a contracted Tech. But I do love the design and look of the MBP. Any thoughts?

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    1. Every Apple Store has a Small Business Team member, and what you should do is speak with them about this. They’ll help you in any way needed, and have tons of information.

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  23. I live in Australia and have an iPhone from Optus. Normally in the past when I had an issue with an Optus phone (not apple) I would always get an outsourced support agent from an asian country with the normal issues one gets with outsourced support; very bad english being the main problem. However, with the iPhone I found Optus support to be fantastic. The support centre was still somewhere in Asia, but the operator almost had an American accent and was very knowledgeable. I thanked the operator and discussed with him how good the support was. He stated that Apple forced Optus to have a special support unit specifically for the iPhone and that all operators where hand picked, had excellent english and were fully trained in the product and the target country. All in all it was pretty impressive and it gave me warm fuzzies about Apple (and respect for their clout).

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  24. I am a DCF (Dell Community Forum) Liaison. If they reported the clicking hard disk drive on our forum, we would have contacted them and setup the exchange via a private message.

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    1. How do they get online if the computer is dead?

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    2. And how would someone know that’s where they’ll get the right/good service? I want ONE customer service number, not guess who will listen to me (or understand my English).

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  25. Awesome… this would be great for the next apple mac ad…..

    But my experience with Dell support is terrible, but the computer was 5 years old, and it was quite an immovable thing, calling microsoft, then Dell, then they say my sticker is out of warranty and they’re not even allowed to speak to me?? wth?

    Apple support, I’ve done several times, and it always ends out a happy story.

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  26. What I get from the article is that the girl with the Dell had no clue how to exercise her warranty rights .. that is not the fault of Dell but the fault of the person who gave her the computer. Also not taking the time to transfer the warranty into her name is a further failure on the part of the customer and not Dell.

    I can also state positively that if the writer had any clue how to deal with tech support he would not have had the issues with Dell that he had. It seems to me that he purposely failed in his job so Dell would look much worse than they actually are.

    I have been in the computer customer support business for over 20 years and I have NEVER had the kind of issues with tech support the writer describes, mainly because I don’t put up with it. I let them know early on that they are dealing with someone that is both computer literate and a computer professional and I get what I need much more quickly. The failure of the writer to do so merely shows his inability to properly support his customers.

    I own both PCs and APPLEs, I have used both and both have their good points and bad points as does their tech support. for every bad experience on one side there is a bad experience on the other side. This whole PC vs. APPLE is just stupid.

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    1. You just don’t get it. You shouldn’t have to be trained in proper tech support procedures to get proper tech support.

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  27. This doesn’t surprise me one bit. Once your finally make the switch to Apple products you fully realize how much better, not only their customer service is, but their products as well. I’m sure the statistics of these problems occurring on non-Apple products is also much higher! I <3 Apple!

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  28. yet another steve Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Imagine dealing with Dell when you DON’T know what’s wrong. Their low cost support people have so much time available, they’re willing to go through hours of (useless in my case) diagnostics over the phone.

    Short term solution: was HP. Long term solution, VM Ware. Thank you Apple for switching to Intel.

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  29. Great article.

    My experience with Dell is similar. Basically with Dell, the machine is usually good quality and value. However, God help you if you need support, or infact need to communicate with them in any way. Unless you are on a premium support contract, the support/sales system is outsourced and a royal pain in the ass.

    Often, the accent of the support person is so strong, communication is very difficult. If they need to transfer you a technician then usually you have to take down a number and call yourself, as they are unable to transfer. And don’t expect to call at 5.05pm and get an answer… these guys finish On The Dot! Finally, to my great irritation, if you place an order online they will often cancel the order you placed and re-create it, delaying the shipping. I have no idea why they do this, but my cynical side wonders if it is to gain their commission.

    But, its the price you (dont) pay these days for cut-price PCs.

    James

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  30. So one person doesn’t know who bought his computer or where it was shipped and that is somehow Dell’s fault? If you’re going for fairness, this article fails.

    I also service both Dell and Mac systems and my experience has been that people who are under warranty get their replacement parts within 24 hours from Dell and can opt for a technician to come to their homes and install the parts for them if they so choose.

    It’s also worth mentioning that upgrading or adding a HDD to a PC is significantly easier and cheaper than doing so for a Mac.

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    1. This has been my experience also. If you know what you are doing, it is not that hard to get decent service from Dell under warranty.

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  31. I’ll have to agree with others that have pointed out this is an unfair comparison. Would your service have been as speedy if the Apple computer had been registered by another person with a different address than the one being used?

    Maybe Apple will ship to some unregistered address and to some person to whom the computer is not registered. But then that would make me wonder about their process.

    I do agree about the advantage of having physical stores where you can take computers to be serviced. So even if the phone call had turned out to be more complicated, usually taking it to a Genius should sort the problem.

    However, just to be clear AppleCare does require that the original purchasers transfer ownership in writing to the new owner. So a Genius would be well within Apple’s policies to refuse service.

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  32. “it really illustrated the differences between Apple and everyone else when it comes to hardware support”

    No, it didn’t. It illustrated the difference between Apple and Dell. Dell is notorious for sucking.

    “but didn’t consider the support costs and time involved. If she had, she might have second thoughts about her decision to buy a PC.”

    The difference between similar XPS and MacBook Pro laptops is in general on the order of $600 (Specifically, similar 500GB SATA 7200RPM hard drives / 4GB 1066DDR3 RAM / 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processors cost $725 more on a 15″ MacBook Pro than the Dell’s XPS 15.4″).

    For $725, you could buy another, slightly less expensive, laptop when yours breaks. Unless you want a Mac. Then you’d need at least $1000

    Oh yeah, plus tigerdirect/newegg sell replacement PC parts.

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  33. Dell vs Apple is a big price difference, is it really worth paying so much more for better support in the rare event of hard drive failure? You can just buy a new hard drive yourself with the money you save…

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    1. Right on. You made the point all the sheeple are trying hard to ignore. Typical HDD failure rates within the first year are below 5%. So, I’d rather save several hundred dollars up front than pay for the premium of having a half-eaten fruit on the lid.
      And, if you need to, buy a second laptop with the money saved!
      Unless, you want to have your computers shipping with cracked screens…now known as iCrack :)

      Share
  34. Apple support is certainly better – no question. However, a macbook with a 13 inch screen is $999. I can find a comparable compaq ( 2GB ram, 250GB hd 14″ screen ) for $529. Is the service worth $471?

    Share
  35. Granted this was with Dell Latin America and not Dell US, but I’ve actually had great support from Dell. I have an Inspiron 1420 that’s been generally working well, but has had a few issues. When my power supply died, a new one arrived 24 hours later. When my computer was overheating, a support tech came to my house two days later and replaced the heatsink. When it kept overheating, another support tech came two days after that and replaced my entire motherboard. Most calls were quick and there were barely any hassles.

    One of the reasons I buy Dell is because it has great support. I’m from Colombia and Apple computers aren’t directly distributed by Apple, so support tends to be through awful third parties. Dell has the best support of any manufacturer in my country. After seeing friends and family suffer through HP and Vaio support, I wouldn’t buy any other brand.

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  36. your first client was smart to buy a pc but dumb to not get a warranty, especially if they don’t know how to repair it them self. Obviously, you can’t repair a mac yourself so you are forced to buy the warranty.

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  37. You mentioned that the Dell pc was one of the cheaper, under $1000 pcs, and that macbook has to be worth more than twice that (here in Argentina it’s exactly 4 times more expensive than in US), so the service is what I would expect.

    The mac owner should be glad she’s not a smoker, or else that whole repair process would have taken 2 minutes, and she would have gotten her laptop back with a faulty disk and no warranty.

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  38. For client #2 you entered the serial number on Apple’s website.

    Why then, for client #1, did you not enter the Service Tag number on Dell’s website?

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    1. “After 20 minutes on hold, I’m not getting a live person, so I try the online chat and wait and wait and wait. Eventually, someone comes online.”

      To get online chat support, I you have to enter the S/N. AFAIK

      Share
  39. [...] Apple Blog has a look at how much (good) tech support is actually worth – sure, you saved money on that Dell, but is that anything compared to how much money [...]

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  40. “you get what you pay for”–Right, Mac customers pay more for the brand name, nothing more. Not just the hard drive, but nvidia graphic cards and similar brand ram is used in macs. It always amuses me that macs “just work”, of course they do. Any company that only supports one monitor, one motherboard, one graphic card etc can claim they “just work”. They only have provide support/drivers(kexts) for one model of each component.

    I would rather have the choice of which components go in my pc. These days, there is no excuse to not know how to replace something like a hard drive or ram. Google is the best do it yourself remail manual. Most people who have owned a few computers over the years know that when you buy a store warranty, nine times out of ten you don’t use it. The warranty usually runs out and then the pc begins having problems. You already have a one year warranty with any purchase and you can bet that for most people if you put that three or four hundred aside it can be spent later on repairs you can do yourself if need be.

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  41. That’s been my experience. In fact, Dell still owes me around $1,300… in 2005, 30 days after I bought my new Dell laptop, it crashed. Hard drive failure. After countless hours on the phone, Dell Support said that because it was within 30 days they’d issue me a full refund if I mailed them my laptop. Did just that. Once Dell received it, they said they’d only let me do an exchange, not get the refund they promised. I said screw you for the bait + switch, send me back my computer and I’ll replace the hard drive myself. They said they had already refurbished it and sold it to someone else. @#$&$!

    What’d I do? Based on my customer service experience, I refused to take a replacement, and they refused to issue the refund check they promised me.

    Dell got to keep my $1,300, but lost my business forever.

    Apple gets my business for the next XX years, however many thousands of dollars that’ll add up to. ($5k and running since 2005)… and I’m an anti-Dell evangelist, and have talked many a friend out of buying a Dell.

    I lose $1,300. Dell loses xx,000. Eat it, Dell.

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  42. P.S. It’s worth noting that the $5,000 I’ve spent on Apple computers since 2005 is on 2 laptops, a PowerBook in ’05 and a Macbook in ’07.

    Both are still alive. Both are still kicking a$$ and taking names. Both will be around for years to come.

    I <3 Apple.

    Share
  43. i also repair computers. i can tell immediately that the laptop must have been an inspiron or vostro. had it been a latitude you have been connected to a different person when you requested tech. support(the team you are transferred to has to do with the service tag you give) the optiplex.latitude support is outstanding with prompt knowledgeable help and quick parts delivery. the support for consumer models is handled by a different team your experience is typical.

    Share
    1. Just like how AT&T sends iPhone customers to AT&T Business support and not the normal support queues.

      I worked for a contracted company, supporting Honeywell’s battalion of Dell notebooks. On the off chance we had to call into Dell support, usually for off-model problems (we worked with about 5 diff models, max), we got their corporate support. Fantastic people. If Apple Support does any poaching, that’s probably a gold-mine.

      Share
    2. And you win the prize Tom. Yup this was an Inspiron. The tech support for “business” class customers is awesome. Kinda like flying coach vs first class. With Apple it’s always first class.

      Also I’ve noticed that like Apple, the Optiplex support doesn’t really care who is listed as the owner because that’s not really needed to replace the part.

      I love it when you tell them the diagnostic code that indicates the hard drive has failed and they ask if you ran a virus scan :-)

      Oh, and for the record, neither customer was charged for my time: though I had hoped the Dell assistance went as quick as the Apple one

      Share
  44. If anybody is stupid enough to believe this cock-and-bull story, they would be stupid enough to pay $2500 for a Linux machine with an Apple logo and think they are getting a great deal because they have a warranty on a $50 hard drive. I can have 2 Wintel rigs for that kind of money with RAID. Suck on that, MacBoys!!

    Share
    1. If anyone is stupid enough to buy a Mercedes when they could get 4 souped up Civics for the same price, they are probably just lame hipsters with no jobs that hang out at Starbucks all day with the other sheeple. Irony.

      Share
  45. [...] A Tale of Two Hard Drives: Apple’s Secret Weapon? Amen. Sphere: Related Content Share on: Facebook | digg_url = 'http://www.redstate.com/erick/2009/11/28/links-for-2009-11-28/&#39;; digg_title = 'links for 2009-11-28'; digg_skin = 'compact'; | Reddit [...]

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  46. [...] for 2009-11-28 A Tale of Two Hard Drives: Apple’s Secret Weapon? Amen.  Print This [...]

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  47. If you pay an extra couple of hundred USD for the laptop from dell you can get next day on site support and the laptops will still cost half of what a mac costs. This article is bias since you don’t take that options into consideration. Also most hard drives last 3 to 5 years and by then you will most likely look to get an other laptop anyway.

    Share
  48. I noticed the writer is comparing an Apple customer who was the purchaser and had the product disk to a Dell customer who was a third party and did not have a disk. He had already run the disk test before he even called Apple. Sounds like apples and oranges to me, no pun intended. I’m typing this on my Dell XPS laptop. The fingerprint reader died after about 18mths. I had purchased discounted extended warranty. Used online support. Foreign tech guy took over computer, confirmed issue and sent tech to my office. (Apple does not offer on site support in my area.) Turned out to be more serious hardware issue. Dell sent prepaid box and I had it back in a few days. I’ve bought a number of Dells, and some have come new with defects (bad screen on laptop, dead cd drive on desktop). All replaced quickly with no hassle.

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  49. So, both companies use the same hard drive? Why the huge price difference?

    I’d rather save $800+ and deal with an hour on the phone when something eventually does break than pay an upfront cost for shorter phone times in the future.

    OR… If you truly want superior customer service buy from Dell’s Small Business line. As with most companies, when you buy from the business side (not consumer) you get a better deal and better service.

    Share
  50. fasteddie on November 25th, 2009 at 1:30 pm wrote

    Apple support is certainly better – no question. However, a macbook with a 13 inch screen is $999. I can find a comparable compaq ( 2GB ram, 250GB hd 14″ screen ) for $529. Is the service worth $471?

    No viruses, no crapware, installed software that actually has value, elegant design, elegant OS, generally above average service. As pointed out, the average nerd who would frequent a site like this, is able to assemble a computer, both hard and soft ware from scratch for low $$. Got news for you all, you are a tiny niche. The average person, like at least 90% of the computing public, cannot or does not want to do so, no matter how easy you seem to view things. BTW, the Macbook cost less than list on Black Friday and you should be able to order a refurbished model from Apple at any time for similar savings.

    Share
  51. To those who know what they’re doing, no the expense is not worth it. To those who don’t, putting a premium on support can be the smartest thing they can do. Which, I would argue, both of those clients did since they went to a computer professional to fix the problem. Nothing like DIY-ers who don’t know what to do.

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  52. Yeah, apple = god, PC = devil. Gee, be creative or something. I run PCs, I build my own, I have problems, I replace failed parts. Apple is really really nice if you are computer illiterate and only want to have access to 3% of the software market. Yeah, go team.

    Share
  53. [...] A Tale of Two Hard Drives: Apple’s Secret Weapon? Amen. [...]

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  54. The difference in service appears to be the user and their consultant. One had the CD, the other did not. One couldn’t prove ownership of the laptop, and the other could. Dell has similar support via their website.

    I blame the consultant in particular. I have not had such difficulties with Dell tech support.

    Share
  55. I was eight months pregnant when my bosses hard drive failed in his macbook pro, took it to the authorised repair centre, they fixed it plus replaced the screen (which had a slight dent which I didn’t report). Three weeks later my step daughter dell laptop hard drive failed. Dell sent a replacement hard drive but the technician failed to arrive. Twenty phone calls later still no tech. Step daughter asks me to fix it. By this time I had the baby, all my tools were still at work. Hysterical from lack of sleep, I took the laptop, replacement hard drive and baby to the apple reseller. The tech said “I thought you could do this yourself” baby started crying. He then spoke to his boss then fixed it for me and refused to charge me.

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  56. CR’s surveys have Apple far ahead in tech support and customer service. IN other words the data backs this anecdote up.

    And Apple has their call centers here in the US. Call Dell etc and you’re talking to people in India.

    Also I find Apple’s paperwork and processes much more straightforward.

    That being said, they aren’t perfect. And the other guys are perfectly bad either.

    It’s more of a good to excellent comparison.

    Share
    1. “And Apple has their call centers here in the US. Call Dell etc and you’re talking to people in India.”

      Please get your facts straight. Dell has several call centers across the globe. They also have about half a dozen centers in the US, including Texas, Tennessee, and Ohio.

      Share
  57. I can’t help but laugh at this. Dell sells more computers in a day than Apple sells in a year. As result, you will hear more about Dell’s failing and poor support than Apples. About the poor support, I am not sure what you were doing wrong. I do computer work on the side for friends and family and have had to contact dell a couple dozen times over the years to get replacement parts. Never had an issue, but I was smart and made sure to collect the information about the purchase ahead of time should I need it.

    I will share with you my one experience with Apple. My sister brought me her non working Ipod Nano (2nd gen). Several months before it got stepped on, and made a crack on the screen in the corner, about half an inch long. So several months go by, and the Ipod continued to work like normal. One day, it stopped turning on. I tried various tips I found online, tried different chargers, cables and such to attempt to get it working again. I ended up taking it to the local Apple store because it was still under warranty. Apple said because of the crack, the Ipod was damaged and cannot be covered under warranty. They wanted $250 to repair it. Of course we told them to shove it, and she bought a Zune to replace it.

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  58. I’ve had really good experience with Dell. We call, or chat them, and usually within about 10 minutes, hard drive issues and other simple, obvious issues are resolved. We also buy the Optiplex, Precision, and Lattitude lines, not the lower end crud, which of course affects the overall experience as well.

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  59. So the dell client:
    greedy, and bought it’s laptop on company name, now it’s dell’s fault they checked the shipping address, (probably verifying authenticity of the customer)?
    The dell client had lost it’s recovery cd, which was an inconvenience, and again dell’s problem?
    The apple client did not lose his leopard cd, so apple wins?

    you’re logic is flawed

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    1. and so is my english :D

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  60. Not even close to my experience. I have a Dell laptop and a Mac, and both are good products, in my opinion. When I had problems with a Dell (my 3rd Dell and the only one I’ve had problems with, my 5 year old laptop still runs fine) they shipped me a new hard drive right away and sent me a pre-packaged label to return the old one.

    In fact, my only beef about either of these products is the rabid excessive loyalty that people have about them.

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  61. Subhajit DasGupta Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Why should I pay $1000 more just so I can get a $75 drive replaced in a day (shipping time from Apple to customer) instead of just put down the $75 and buy a new hard drive myself? For the extra $1000 I pay for an Apple, I can buy…let me see…13 (yes, that’s THIRTEEN) hard drives. Not worth the extra $1000, Apple, thanks.

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  62. I can not believe the bullshit from this guys article. I’m in Tech support for a very large company and I get a great response from Dell.

    I have used apple support and it took 1 week to replace the DVD drive on an imac. On top of that they lost my appointment and I had to wait for hours.

    this article is a lot of progaganda just like the apple commericals.

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  63. How about a story about an Apple iMac hard drive that fails 1-1/2 yrs after purchase. Not sure what the typical Dell warranty is, but I don’t want to be paying Apple to replace their crap hard drive have that short a period.

    Big fan of Apple in general, but very unhappy w/my current situation. They were going to charge me $370 (parts and labor). They tell me hard ware fails. Well, stand behind your product. Take out the bad drive, and push it back to the manufacturer. These things can’t be breaking after 1-1/2 yrs.!!

    I ended up buying a hard drive from Newegg for $80. I’ll try to install myself. If I fail, the Geek Squad at BestBuy will do it for $50. Saved myself the difference, the a little bit of pride not padding Apple’s pockets for their crap drive.

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  64. It’s a night & day difference between Apple & Dell with regard to business support for tech people. I support a small business and we have mostly Dell Optiplex & Latitudes. We also have a 1 Macbook Pro. Something on a Dell breaks and I can either web-chat or call them. Usually pretty quickly they have a part shipping next day air to me. They’ve done that even with things like laptop keyboard modules. If it’s something I can’t fix, they send a tech out next day who fixes it on-site while I’m watching. A motherboard swap takes about 30 minutes and is usually completed within 24 hours of when I first call in the problem. Now compare that to Apple. The ethernet port on the Macbook Pro went out. We are not near a retail store so the only option was mailing it in with a 7-10 day turnaround. On top of that, I didn’t want to send the hard drive in because we have confidential information on it. They almost turned my repair down (despite having Apple Care and being within warranty). I finally convinced them to make a note that the hard drive wouldn’t accompany the laptop. They said there are no guarantees that they’ll actually fix the hardware problem without the hard drive installed. Unbelievable. Here’s hoping they fix the hardware without the drive. I think we’ll stick with Dell from now on.

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  65. Funny, I have just the opposite experience. Apple tech was crappy. Couldn’t verify address, since it had been a gift…etc. And a hard drive on a Dell is wayyyyyy easier to replace than in an apple notebook. Troll a little?

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  66. any real technician has 2nd level support phone numbers. they skip all the troubleshooting and just ask you what problem youre having. im on the phone for maybe 10 minutes and i receive a case number(for the record) with an overnighted part order. if youre saying spending 2000 on a probook is a better deal then spending even 1500 on an HP then we can agree to disagree. if both hp and apple laptops are under warranty its solely shipping costs and installation time and apple loses in both categories, also if there is no warranty the apple HD costs a lot more.

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  67. Hay Admin , i like with ur blog. Do you have twitter or facebook so i can follow you ?

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