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Readers go ballistic over hard drive warranties

Letters For a few mean times before failure more
Fri Dec 10 2004, 10:30
[We are still waiting for additional clarification on hard drive warranties. Don't hold your breath. Ed.]

Seagate five year warranties not all they seem

Hi there,

I was just discussing this with a friend and long-term reader of The Inq. It caused me some buyer's remorse (I just bought a 200GB Seagate SATA drive the other day) and inspired me to do some additional research. This is what I learned.

WDC also starts the warranty from build date, and includes the phrase "If your Product was purchased as a component integrated within a system by a system manufacturer, no limited warranty is provided by WD. Please contact the place of purchase or the system manufacturer directly for warranty service."

Maxtor, however, starts the warranty from date of purchase. (ungodly URLs on their Web page, otherwise I'd share.) However, this also appears on a separate link: "The limited, non-transferable warranty on products sold through an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is extended only to the OEM that purchases the products directly from Maxtor or Quantum.

Therefore, owners of OEM manufactured equipment containing a Maxtor or Quantum product must contact the OEM or the place of purchase for warranty service." So this is common policy. But starting the warranty from purchase makes Maxtor's warranty just a little tiny bit better. Unless you know you've got a source for fresh drives.

So... it looks like if you want a warranty, you've gotta buy retail boxes. What a drag. Either that, or I guess it's a roll of the dice. Or worth considering consulting the Mystic Smoking Head of "Bob" before purchasing.

Thanks for bringing this into the light--warranties should be usable, not worthless marketing tools.

Charlie Fulton
Chico, CA


The problem isn't as much dodgy manufacturers and retailers as it is poor consumer legislation. Where I come from we now have a mandatory 2 year warranty on all manufactured goods. And they are always from the store you bought it from, so the consumer does not have to worry about him getting OEM or not. The two years warranty are chiseled in stone. That many vendors try to dodge out of them anyways is an entirely different matter. But one thing is for sure, warranties are only worth something when they are legally binding. I suggest this should be fixed at a congressional level :)

Søren Svendsen


This bulls**t from Seagate isn't new. I stopped buying their drives several years ago after I went to them for an RMA on a (relatively) new drive only to be told:

1. The reputable on-line vendor I purchased it from wasn't a Seagate distributor (apparently I was suppossed to verify this before I made the purchase) & as a result

2. Even if a brand-new Seagate drive arrived DOA it had no warranty whatsoever.

In my case they generously offered me a one-off re-conditioned drive. Needless to say, many/most on-line distributors offer little or no warranty other than from the manufacturer.

Moral of the story: buy from Western Digital! (or almost anyone else).

P.S. If you publish this, pls don't use my name/e-mail.

Name supplied



I am the owner of RunTime Computer, a Price Watch vendor. I read your site several times daily. I noticed your article, "Seagate five year warranties not all they seem". Several manufacturers deny warranty claims on products they originally sold to an OEM. I am not a lawyer, but I would question if this is a legal practice. Their product information states a manufacturer warranty period, without mentioning that there is an exception for products sold to an OEM rather than distribution. A hardware reseller or an end customer cannot tell the difference by looking at the drive. There is no marking on the products that the manufacturer doesn't back them with their warranty.

We have had similar experiences with Western Digital Hard Drives, ATI video cards (not the "Powered by ATI" cards -- they obviously don't have an ATI warranty -- but I am talking about the "Built by ATI" cards!) I am sure that there are others that we haven't ran into by usually going through our suppliers rather than to the manufacturer.

All of the manufacturers who do this have the same non-apologetic attitude that you are SOL.

Feel free to post this comment if you would like. Use our name, or don't -- either way.




Seagate is not alone in this. I work for a small computer store and found Western Digital is the same way when it comes to warranties. They actually give us a bit over a year for their drives, but if they are not sold within a certain time frame, They (the end customer) may indeed have less than a one year warranty. We have actually had to change our warranty policy on hard drives because of this, because we can't always move stock out fast enough to not worry about this. We have some Western Digitals that, if not sold by the 12th, will not have a full one year warranty.

Some old Maxtors can have the same phenomenon observed, where they Warranty End date was actually a bit OVER 3 years from when the drive was manufactured. I'm not sure how they currently are operating their warranty policy, since we have'nt carried many maxtor drives recently.

Name supplied



Your article said:

He told the INQ: "Instead of having a new drive with coverage by Seagate of five years, or even the original one year as printed on the box, I am only covered by CDW for an undisclosed amount of time? Also, why would any warranty start before a customer even purchased the product?"

As an after-sales employee of a big retail store i get this question regularly on different items, also harddisks. Not only seagate is using this strategy, but also maxtor and nokia for their mobile phones. They claim that it is to avoid that retailers keep their old stocks rather then returning them, avoiding that they need to deliver support on products that was calculated to be out of support period. Some manufacturers even try to get dissappointed off their back with the excuse that food also has a date that it needs to be used for.

Yours sincerely,
Roy Jacobs


It's clear to me what Seagate means.

The warranty is applied from when they ship it to the OEM distributer (in this case, CDW).

CDW has a 5 year warranty with the drives.

If you purchase from a drive CDW, you do not get what's left of their warranty, instead, you negotiate your own warranty with CDW.

If your drive fails within your warranty from CDW, you complain to CDW. If the drive was within CDWs 5 year warranty with Seagate, CDW will complain to Seagate.

This allows CDW to sell drives under their own warranty (whatever it may be). This is useful because if it's an old product, and its manufacturer warranty is close to ending, or has passed, CDW can extend it when the sell it to you. Of course, CDW runs a risk in doing this, but can more easily push old stock.

Also, CDW can sell the drives as 3 year warranty items. This way, they can say it has a 3 year warranty, and have it on the shelf for up to 2 years, and have it still be covered by Seagate. (The customer buys it on the 2 year date or earlier, + CDW recognizes 3 years of warranty, which falls within the 5 year Seagate warranty)



Dear Inquirer

I too have had problems with warranties. My daughter's MAXTOR 8 meg Buffer drive died. Supposedly it had three year warranty. When I contacted Maxtor about RMA after I did the drive utility test they informed me that my Warranty had expired in May.

They stated that if you buy from a Best Buy/Circuit City/ or any retail Store like them you have one year and if you buy from them or a Computer Dealer it is three years warranty.

I told them i didn't see the difference - they were made at the same place and used by Customers so I guess People that Build Custom PC's are penalized for not buying a Dell/Gateway/Etc:

That is the last Maxtor I will buy. The guy on the phone was rude and asked if I had called him a Liar just because he stated that less than 1% of hard drives fail.

I told him that his information was wrong I have seen way too many drives fail for it to be less than 1% Someone did a survey of businesses that use Multiple Harddrive Setups and it was more like 30% during Warranty period and a lot of times the drive did not warn them that it was fixing to kick the bucket and die.

They may make them larger in gigs per platter but the quality is not what it used to be. Buyer beware. Western Digital is the only company that is getting my business. I have eight of those drives all Special Editions except for two Raptors and they have ran flawlessly.

These companies fail to remember that us System Builders don't like having to RMA and copy Information from one drive to another called cloning or drive to drive copy.

Freddy Parker


Regarding this article:

Most computer manufacturers have warranties like Seagate's warranty (warranty starts from manufacturers' date or ship date). As far as not having a warranty, If you buy a product from some one who is not approved to sell the product, i.e. OEM Processors (from the manufacturer), the manufacturer doesn't have to warranty the product. These items were intended to be put in to complete computer systems. They were not intended to be sold as individual components. Maybe Bob S. saved some money buying his drive from CDW, but if he had bought it from his local computer store, he wouldn't be in the position he is in now.

Derek Blonigen



Regarding the story about Seagate 5 year warranties not being all they seem, I had this very problem myself several weeks ago. It seems that Seagate is unwilling to provide warranty details on any drives purchased, and insist that customers contact their place of purchase. All I could get out of them is some vague statements and refuse to give a simple yes/no answer regarding warranty status of any drives, even if you give them the serial numbers. I suspect this is a ploy aimed at confusing buyers so that they can later turn around and say that the warranty has expired.

How can anyone be expected to purchase drives from Seagate, when none of the retailers even mention a 5 year warranty on their website, and then when you enquire about warranty they respond by pointing you to visits the Seagate website to check warranty status for the product concerned. Everyone is passing the buck, with no one willing to make a clear statement on warranty conditions applicable to any Seagate product purchased.

Also, as no will tell you the date the drive was shipped to the distributor, and it isn't written anywhere, it appears that there is no way to know for certain when the 5 year warranty expires, or even if it was shipped to the distributor after the qualifying date (June 2004). There isn't even a manufacture date on the drive, so customers are left totally in the dark and relying on Seagate's goodwill in honouring warranty claims made after the first year is up.

I have purchased around seven Seagate hard drives because of the 5 year warranty claim, but so far I don't even know if any of the drives will be covered by the warranty once the first year has passed. Needless to say, I am not pleased with Seagate's unwillingness to clarify the warranty status of any drive, and only offering to enlighten users when the time comes to make a claim. Then it's very lightly that many users will find themselves out of luck. Thank you Seagate.



After reading your article, I went to Seagate´s website to check my warranty. I bought my drive in September 2004.

It's an OEM drive, I bought it without a box, without a manual and without software whatsoever. Just the drive. My warranty period are full five years. Below follows a copy/paste of Seagate´s website:

In Warranty
Expiration 03-SEP-2009 Expiration 03-SEP-2009

*In Warranty*
This drive is covered by a Seagate warranty. It may be returned for exchange. You will not receive your original drive in return. Please back up all data before returning the drive.

I live in Portugal, an EU member state. This maybe related to policies towards consumer support in the US. For me it works. Seagate gives me full five years of warranty.




Well, this is stupid. While this is not Seagate's fault at all, your headline blames Seagate for not always offering the full warranty.

I'm not sure why you don't know, but there are actually some sellers buying hardware as OEM devices. While these devices were meant to be used in a fully configured PC, some of these guys sell these drives in retail channels instead.

So, it is not Seagate's fault at all, but the fault of the seller -- if he didn't declare these drives as OEM.

If he did, it's not fault of them both, but more fault of the customer (while you can actually argue why the seller didn't inform its customer; should be investigated in this case).

In fact, the information given by Seagate (part starting as "component") fully describes this situation.

Stefan Goehler


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