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Journal sootman's Journal: WD is confused about their own warranty policies 1

Original entry: Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Long story short: WDs "Caviar Black" drives are advertised as having five-year warranties but may only show 3 years. If you buy one, visit WD's warranty check page and let them know if your drive shows up as only being covered for 3 years.

One of my 19-month old, 500 GB Western Digital hard drives recently died. Well, not totally dead. It got flakey and OS X's Disk Utility said that S.M.A.R.T. reported that the drive is dying. It's pretty much dead--OS X usually won't mount it, and if it does, it doesn't stay up for long. (Side note--anyone know of a way that I can keep using this drive? Or is it totally dead once SMART says so?)

Luckily, I have a 1 TB WD Caviar 'Green' drive and my backups were pretty current. Sadly, the 500 only had a 12-month warranty so I started looking for a new drive. I generally buy whichever drive is on sale that week (I bought my 500 in 12/2006 when it was suddenly on sale for $149 instead of $249--wow!) though I've become more sensitive to the warranty situation. (I started buying Seagates a few years ago (when economical to do so) when my friend pointed out that they have five-year coverage; the 'Green' drive (purchased a month ago for $169, down from $239) has a 3-year warranty.) Nothing was on sale last week but this week presented me with two options: a $169 Maxtor at Office Depot (or Office Max, I forget which) with a 3-year warranty and a $199 WD Caviar "Black" from Best Buy with a 5-year warranty. (I generally prefer to buy from a physical store--you get it quicker, you don't have to pay for shipping, and returns are easier. It's bad enough when a product is bad and you've got spend time to return it; it's even worse when you've got to PAY to send it back and wait 2 weeks for the whole process to be done and your credit settled, etc.)

I went ahead and bought the Black but when I got home, a moment after I tore the plastic off (d'oh!) I saw that the bottom of the box states that the drive has a 3-year warranty. WTF? I went to WD's warranty check page and plugged in my serial number and, sure enough, I'm only covered until 2011--three years hence. I sent them an email on Sunday but hadn't heard back (except for their instant automated response) by Wednesday so I called them. The helpful Indian gentleman stepped me through their site and directed me to this page which also states that Caviar Black's are covered for five years, whether purchased in bulk or at retail. Thanks, buddy, for helping me make my case!

He put me on hold for a bit and then returned and asked me to fax in my receipt and they'll get it straightened out. I'll do that tomorrow (drive is at home, I just brought the serial number with me to make a call--note that WD won't even talk to you if you don't have a serial number) and will update this page with the result.

I'm now totally religious about keeping receipt and warranty info complete and accessible. For the drives that are in my Mac Pro, I keep the original receipt, a photocopy of the receipt (in case the original receipt, typically printed on thermal paper, fades) and a printed-out copy of the warranty info (don't trust that the site will be current, available, or correct when needed) taped to the case itself. If I've ever got to get inside the machine again to replace a drive, everything I need is right there. A warranty is no substitute for backups but at least the manufacturer will give me a new drive if the old one dies. (Though I've heard other horror stories, like a friend who wanted to return his dead drive--the manufacturer told him they wouldn't RMA it unless he ran their utility to verify it. The drive was SO dead the utility wouldn't run, so they wouldn't take it back. Not sure how that wound up working out for him but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

Also: after having had some things stolen and recovered recently, I am also totally a believer in registering things with the manufacturer. Just like no one ever kicked themselves for having too many backups, it's never a bad thing to have multiple places showing what you bought, including a serial number, and when.

Update: I came into work Thursday ready to get all my paperwork together. In addition to faxing them the receipt, I was going to put together a few pages showing the bottom of the box where it says '3 years' and the pages on the site that say '5 years' and the warranty check page showing that my drive has 3 years. Upon arriving at the warranty check page, I saw that my drive has been upgraded to 5 years. So without my fax, they went ahead and fixed things, though if it was due to the phone call or the original email I don't know. Since it has been fixed I'm not going to bother to send in all my stuff.

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WD is confused about their own warranty policies

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