What’s a warranty worth?

It’s been almost three years now since Mom went online and bought a laptop preinstalled with Ubuntu. That in and of itself was a momentous occasion, although the magnitude is an issue of debate. ;)

Given the chance, she said she would get another one, but said she wouldn’t buy an extended warranty this time.

Her reason was that the value of the laptop was outstripped by the warranty price. True, it was a good machine and hasn’t given her many problems, but the full service warranty was expensive, and wasn’t often necessary.

I would agree. There was a time when I bought computers with full service plans, and occasionally I was very glad I did. But sometimes the cost of the computer is less than the cost of “maintaining” it.

And that’s when Moore’s law kicks in as well. The value of the machine doesn’t hold up over time, and the price of a comparative new machine is invariably lower.

Why strain through four years of a warranty, milking a computer for all the money you paid, when a new machine — even an underpowered one by cutting edge standards — can do the same for dirt cheap?

Save the money, expect to buy a new computer sooner, and if something breaks, take it in stride. That is her attitude now, and I would agree. For her, newer is better.

It might sound odd to hear me saying these things, and I admit it sounds odd saying them. I’m trying to take on the mindset of a casual computer user this time — not a die-hard zealot of outdated machines.

But it’s not that odd either. I’ve set free computers that were finicky or unreliable or just without merit, and never batted an eye.

There are thousands upon thousands of others, in as-good or even-better condition, waiting in line for attention.

But more importantly, I would never endorse out-of-date hardware as a solution for everyone. I endorse it as a solution for me, and anyone else who finds the challenge appealing.

Your way is the best way, and that is the mantra I shall repeat until the last post to this site, some dark day in the future.

Do what you like with your computer, exercise the freedoms you should be enjoying, and if you need a new one, don’t feel you have to rationalize it to anyone.

After all, that’s what freedom means. :)

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4 Responses to “What’s a warranty worth?”


  1. 1 seidos 2011/02/18 at 10:44 AM

    the concern i have is that this kind of purchasing isn’t sustainable. parts aren’t really made to be modular enough so that if your old machine dies, you can’t just replace the part that failed easily. the companies want you to buy a new system, so that they can make more money. profit is the motive, companies only car in as such they can make a dime in the process. that is their sole purpose for existing, unless they are some kind of family owned company with good intentions, but that is rare.

  2. 2 Matthew 2011/02/18 at 12:29 PM

    My girlfriend purchased a refurbished Asus Eee with ubuntu preloaded, for cheap. The power cable got bent back with regular use, and finally became unreliable. A replacement for this propietary part is almost as much as another computer, so it has been hard to convince her not to throw away the whole system into a landfill.

  3. 3 zenfunk 2011/02/21 at 6:45 PM

    A failing powercable could easily be repaired if you can solder. If you don’t- find someone who can. It is a five to ten minute job.

    My perspective concerning warranties has changed considerably just ecently. This is because I’m undertaking a longer sailing voyage. No warranty however long or good or whatever is worth a thing when you are in the middle of the atlantic and your laptop (or GPS or sail or mast or solar cells or wind generator or …)dies on you. The problem with consumer electronics is that you never can tell if something will hold up in a constantly moving, salt saturated atmosphere. You can’t look inside (at least before buying), you can’t really tell a good soldering from the one that will not last. You don’t know how long the connectors will work properly. Noone can really tell you if even the so called ruggedized gadgets take more punches than the normal stuff. The bottomline probably is this: Don’t buy the most expensive stuff- it will break anyways. Take enough backups with you.

    • 4 Matthew 2011/02/25 at 9:56 AM

      Thanks for the advice. I will seek out someone with a volt meter and a soldering iron. I saw online that this type of issue can often be a failing power connection inside the laptop case. I suppose it would be a good start to identify whether it is the cable or the mainboard power connector which is failing, with a volt meter.


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May 6, 2011
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