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Computer Care: Extended warranties can be worth the money
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Recently, I found myself going back to my favorite electronics store, this time with my broken laptop in hand. Not even I could fix it. Well I probably could have, but didn't need to. I had an extended warranty.

Usually I decline those last minute additions at checkout. I've rarely had a television, toaster or desktop fail. But laptops are an exception to the rule.

The smaller the electronics, the more difficult and more expensive they are to repair. You should also consider the possibility of dropping it, spilling coffee on it or your dog chewing through a cord. It could happen. Most extended warranties cover it all.

For what it would cost for someone like me to repair it once, you could get a warranty covering it for another year or two.

When you buy an electronics device, consider its cost, the manufacturer's warranty and what it would cost to fix or replace it should something happen. Many times, extra coverage is warranted; other times not.

If you could replace the device for almost what it cost to purchase a warranty, you're wasting your money. Often, it is worth taking the money you would have spent on a warranty and simply putting it into a better product.

There are vast differences in warranties and you should ask a lot of questions before you purchase the extra coverage, should that be the route you're going to take.

Some warranties have you send your device back to the store or service center. Some of these will be at your expense; others will pay to have them shipped. Some warranties will send a technician to you, often the next day.

HP will pay for shipping, but you have to request a label with a Return Authorization Number, wait for it to arrive, and then ship the product back. The entire process could take weeks.

Some stores may offer "loaners" when you give them your laptop for repair. I got to use a new Toshiba Satellite while mine was being fixed. There was pile of paperwork, but it was worth it. Now I don't care how long it takes to complete repairs.

It all depends on the type of warranty you purchase. They vary widely. Even support or customer service can vary.

With Dell for example, if you buy from its home computer department, your support is outsourced; you usually get to speak with someone out of the country.

That's not the case with its business computers. You will speak with someone here that perhaps you can understand better.

I have run into the occasional condescending agent who insists on talking down to clients. Should this happen to you, ask for a supervisor. You paid for this service. There is no reason you should be subjected to abuse.

It is not only a good idea to research the product you are buying, but the store, the service and warranty as well. A good website to look at for consumer complaints is It lists many consumer complaints from fraud to just plain poor service.

When you deal with support personnel, document everything. Write down the dates and names of those you've spoken with as well as case numbers. Make sure they know exactly what is wrong with the product and why you are sending it in for repair.

Make copies of all paperwork and never relinquish the original.

I once sent in a laptop with a bad power supply and eventually got it back with a new hard drive. The power supply was not replaced until I sent it back for a second time.

Don't give them hardware they don't need. With a laptop, just that and the power supply. Remember to take out CDs, USB drives and wireless adapters whether for a mouse or Internet. You may not get them back otherwise.

You should remember of course, to back up your data from the hard drive. When you get your device back, it will be in "as new" condition. That means the hard drive will be wiped clean and the operating system will be reinstalled. So don't yell at them when your address book or photos are gone. It's up to you to save them first.

The best research you can do is before you buy anything. Scrutinize the product you want to buy. There is a lot of credence in the old adage, "you get what you pay for."

Don't solely depend on the sales guy for information. Many don't know the difference between a RAM and a radio. Use the Internet to investigate; Google your product.

Extended warranties can save you money in the long run. Just be certain you know what you are buying into. Don't get one for a $60 DVD player where you can replace the unit for what the insurance would cost.

But for a $700 laptop, I would say yes.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.