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Should Apple Give Back Replaced Disks? 446

Posted by kdawson
from the consider-it-a-trade-in dept.
theodp writes "As if having to pay $160 to replace a failed 80-GB drive wasn't bad enough, Dave Winer learned to his dismay that Apple had no intention of giving him back the disk he paid them to replace. Since it contained sensitive data like source code and account info, Dave rightly worries about what happens if the drive falls into the wrong hands. Which raises an important question: In an age of identity theft and other confidentiality concerns, is it time for Apple — and other computer manufacturers — to start following the practice of auto mechanics and give you the option of getting back disks that are replaced?"
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Should Apple Give Back Replaced Disks?

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  • by taustin (171655) on Monday December 24, 2007 @01:00AM (#21802958) Homepage Journal
    In most states, the consumer does not have the option to have the old parts returned, they have the right to have the old parts returned. Where laws are properly enforced, it's a rather big deal if the mechanics doesn't do so.

    And yes, the laws regarding computer repair should be the same.
  • by Forge (2456) <kevinforge@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday December 24, 2007 @01:01AM (#21802966) Homepage Journal
    Right there on the "customize your system" page for many (if not all) Dell Machines is the option to keep your defective disks after they have been replaced.

    It costs a little extra and coming from the field support arena I know why.

    Whenever you replace a part under warranty they take the old one. Not because they have use for it but to make sure you don't. Imagine an unscrupulous person who would call in "My drive is broken" then when the tech replaces the drive, he just turns around and sells the old one (which was fine anyway).

    The same logically applies to other components and Dell only makes this special exemption for Hard drives because that's where the data is stored.
  • It's an option (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maeric (636941) on Monday December 24, 2007 @01:12AM (#21803028)
    I work as a Tier 1 agent for AppleCare and I can assure you that getting your hard drive back for a mail-in repair is an option; however, most Tier 1 agents do not know how to put this request in so it's not often done correctly. It's definitely not a standard, and if a hard drive is replaced through a mail-in repair the minimum price would be a flat-rate repair which is at least $249 but oftentimes it is more than that.
  • by Nimey (114278) on Monday December 24, 2007 @01:16AM (#21803056) Homepage Journal
    Uh, no. I can buy Latitudes and Optiplexen with my uni's account & they give us the option to keep the bad hard drive. The price is generally something like $18 for three years, and you can pay a few dollars more for four and five years. We usually get 3-year warranties plus keeping the bad drive for that period.
  • Re:It's an option (Score:2, Informative)

    by Maeric (636941) on Monday December 24, 2007 @01:17AM (#21803060)
    Something I should add is that this option is for out of warranty work. Something we call either a flat rate repair or tier level repair work.
  • by Forge (2456) <kevinforge@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday December 24, 2007 @01:20AM (#21803070) Homepage Journal
    Ohh...

    Where I come from (Jamaica) that's simple theft. If I bought a new part and payed you to replace it the old part is still mine.

    I may choose to have you dispose of it or to sell it to you as reusable scrap. The choice is mine however. And again the reason is simple and has nothing to do with personal data.

    If you have a loose IDE cable and I tell you "The drive is dead" then sell you a replacement and keep the old drive, I can then sell that old drive. My profit would be 100% of the sale price.

    Screwing over the customer so you can sell his stuff? Most jurisdictions discourage that :)
  • by jht (5006) on Monday December 24, 2007 @01:59AM (#21803314) Homepage Journal
    First of all, there's a problem with an awful lot of 80GB Seagate drives that are (mainly) used in Macbooks. Apple has been acknowledging it to a limited extent, and even though the laptop was out of warranty, the drive would likely been covered if enough of a stink was raised.

    Secondly, if he paid for a replacement, he should have been allowed to keep the old drive. Once you're paying, you are buying the new part and the labor involved. Although, if his drive in fact has the same problem the Seagate 80s are coming up with, data snooping is not a problem... (the failed drives are, in fact, causing platter damage)

    Third (and most important, perhaps), he should likely have been aware that on a Macbook the drive is a user-replaceable part. You remove the battery, unscrew the three screws that hold the memory/HD in place, and just pull the drive. Put the positioning screws on a new one, slide it in, and all is well with the world. I did a swap-out for a customer of mine two weeks ago who had a Seagate die, and the new 120 I put in cost about $100. The work took 5 minutes, most of which was spent looking for my screwdriver set!

    Apple should get things clear though, and also step up and start a warranty extension for these drives. They've been pretty good about it with other hardware issues so far.
  • Re:Always? (Score:3, Informative)

    by eli pabst (948845) on Monday December 24, 2007 @01:59AM (#21803316)
    I'm not sure how true that is. Every time I've been charged a "core charge", it's on something that has expensive (and reusable) material in it that can generally be made into a re-manufactured/refurbished part. For example the metal in batteries and distributors is inherently valuable, hence they charge you what amounts to a "deposit".
  • by D.A. Zollinger (549301) on Monday December 24, 2007 @02:01AM (#21803326) Homepage Journal

    I cannot count how many times I have heard this advice, yet it bears out repeating over and over and over again - do not sign ANYTHING without reading it first. This is the person's mistake, and he willingly admits to his mistake. It is a shame that it happened at an Apple store, but to be honest, it could have been anywhere, even an automotive repair shop.

    The only reason automobile mechanics must give you a replaced part if you ask for it is so that you can get a second opinion afterwards, thus hoping to reduce fraud that tends to run rampant at some questionable automotive places where either through technician ignorance, negligence, or through purposeful managerial policy, a part is replace that does not need to be replaced.

    Apple has a legitimate reason for keeping the drive which is described on the form given to the customer - it believes the drive can be fixed and sold. As a paying customer, you are a part of that economic system. If you do not wish to participate, that is your prerogative, and with standardization of components, you are more than welcome to find an alternative (which ironically the consumer considered and should have pursued).

  • by turtle graphics (1083489) on Monday December 24, 2007 @02:05AM (#21803348)
    This happened to me, too. In September, I had a complete hard drive crash in my MacBook. It was still under warranty, so I took it to the store, and was offered the same deal (only w/o the $160 charge). The bulk of my data was backed up, but there were some things I was worried about losing and a few others I knew I'd lost. I wanted to keep the possibility of sending the drive to a recovery firm while still getting my computer back, but Apple makes no provision for that. They insist on keeping the dead drive.

    It was worth it for me to just buy a new (and bigger) drive so I could keep the old one. I still haven't decided if the lost data is worth the effort of recovery, but at least I have that option now.

  • Re:Always? (Score:3, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Monday December 24, 2007 @02:33AM (#21803472)
    Core charges are on things like brake pads, alternators, and water pumps. Replace the worn bits, and the 'core' can be reused/rebuilt into an almost new part. Tires and batteries carry an environmental disposal fee.
  • Re:It's an option (Score:3, Informative)

    by mr_matticus (928346) on Monday December 24, 2007 @02:35AM (#21803480)
    A fairly typical one?

    Flat rate repair does not mean universally unitary rate repair. It just means that for the kinds of repairs that are covered, the same price is charged. It can be separated by nature of problem, product family, or level of service based.

    For example, you could have desktops at $249, notebooks at $299. Or iMacs/Macbooks at $249, Pro products at a different price. Or replacement of non-display hardware components at one price, LCD replacement at another, and complete system replacement at another. I have no idea how they do it, but it could be any of these.

    It's like a prix fixe meal--you might have one set of options at $45 and another at $60. It's still prix fixe, even if it's not the same fixed price for any possible choice. It only means you know ahead of time what you're going to be paying and there's no further hemming and hawing.

    If, for example, it goes in because it shuts down randomly and it seems to be a bad thermal sensor but turns out to be the power supply, you've already paid. Whatever surprises happen in the tech's hands are irrelevant. There are no additional labor, diagnostic, or repair charges. You've paid the flat rate for that particular repair.

  • by feyd.rm (925643) on Monday December 24, 2007 @02:58AM (#21803578)
    Apple considers the Hard Disk Drive in a MacBook to be DIY. You will not void your warranty by replacing, upgrading or repairing whatever slides into that nice little slot. If he had such a hard time with not only the price but also the fact that they were keeping his HDD maybe he should have clicked around their support site for like 2 seconds... http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/MacBook_13inch_HardDrive_DIY.pdf [apple.com] ~me
  • by diskis (221264) on Monday December 24, 2007 @03:49AM (#21803788)
    > Apple has a legitimate reason for keeping the drive which is described on the form given to the customer - it believes the drive can be fixed and sold.

    Almost. Spareparts (parts that are returned) are taxed differently than regular parts. Apple pays less for a drive that is returned. So do _ALL_ computer manufacturers. Some do have 'keep your harddrive' fees, pay that and you'll keep the drive. The cost is to cover the taxes.
  • by speedingant (1121329) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:17AM (#21803880)

    Apple has two routes to go down if you want an out of warranty part replaced. There is exchange, and there is replace. If you choose exchange then Apple takes back the original part for refurbishing, and it costs less to replace the part. If you choose replace then the part costs more, but you get the old part back. This procedure is completely standard for many companies.

    The guy's an idiot for replacing the drive through Apple anyway. It's far cheaper to get a Seagate/Toshiba and get the tech to install it. Again, more sensationalist rubbish about Apple. He should have read the EULA.

  • I think you're ignoring the real reason why the mechanic offers you the parts back: it's the law. Not even just general property-law (which it ought to be) but -- in most states, anyway -- part of very specific laws governing automobile repair.

    Frankly I think it's time to see this generalized out to include computer repair as well, or at least to devices that can contain data, but I don't expect to see it happen until there are a few more high-profile cases of misuse or abuse of confidential information by technicians (or people further down in the refurbish/refuse cycle).
  • by djupedal (584558) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:42AM (#21803990)
    Apple has a legitimate reason for keeping the drive which is described on the form given to the customer - it believes the drive can be fixed and sold.

    Bullshit - they get $$ - credit from the manuf. Apple sends it back.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:31AM (#21804348)
    If you ever need to wipe anyting like that, and you are going to send it back anyway because it is fragged...

    Just EM it. Get youself a nice electro-magnet and fry it.

    OR, The Cheap method: put it in your microwave for a few seconds!

    That outa take care of it!
  • Re:Wait a second... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:42AM (#21804394)
    File vault can be unreliable. It has a few security problems. And it slows down performance on your computer.
  • Re:Remember kids. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @10:00AM (#21805088)
    I'm posting this reply AC in order to avoid the obvious liabilities.

    I work for an Apple store and to the best of my knowledge, we have no recourse with regard to customer's who want their drives returned. It's just not an option. On top of that, we won't even work on computers, in or out of warranty, that have a 3rd-party hard disk installed. YMMV.

    If you need to bring in a computer that has sensitive data on it, my reccomendation to you is this: back up EVERYTHING you might need from the drive and use Disk Utility to securely erase the drive. You're pretty much boned if the drive has failed. If you're really this paranoid I would reccomend not storing this type of data on your internal hard disk; at this level, you are being paranoid, no matter what you've been told/think. No one at Apple or Apple's partners has any desire/motive to recover data from your failed hard disk.

    I do not personally agree with this policy; however it is what it is and this policy has stood up to legal trials before (believe me, I know).
  • I work in a call center for a bank, and I don't know how many times I tell people that they signed a particular agreement binding us and them to something. And that they should have read it prior to signing but people really don't take the time, usually five minutes, to read anything.

    It is possible (even likely) that the customer DIDN'T sign anything binding them to whatever objectionable terms you're referring to... The reason for this is that banks, credit-card issuers, and other financial institutions usually bury a clause in anything signed by any customer that says something to the effect of:

    "And we can change these terms any time we see fit, and are only required to inform you after the change has already happened. IF you do not accept the new terms, your only recourse is to cancel your account and stop doing business with us--which also incidentally makes 100% of any amount owed INSTANTLY due for payment. Also, you're agreeing to be bound by those new terms from the date they are implemented until you cancel your account, because by opening the account you're "pre-agreeing" to these terms taht we haven't made up yet."

    And that, my friend, makes the agreement meaningless and worthless. If one party can change it AT WILL, you really don't have a contract... You have extortion. It also, literally, means that nobody can read everything... Because even when you GET informed about the changes, they don't send you the modified agreement in its entirety--they send you the changed portion. so unless you made a photocopy of the original, you are being informed of the changes to an original YOU DON'T HAVE. Once, I received an "Amended customer agreement" from a credit-card company that was one page, inded only one SENTENCE long, and it said the following:

    On Page 2, Section 1 of the original, paragraph 1 sentence 2, clause 3 is hereby amended to include the phrase "And all others as we see fit."

    And before you say "Well, you should have saved a copy" I challenge you to immediately produce for me every copy of every agreement you've ever signed with your creditors. If you can't, you're a rank hypocrite defending an indefensible corporate swindle.

    Now, that's not to say that I don't read everything. I do, and I even make an effort to strike through patently objectionable clauses (like the one above) and initial them, but 1) Some companies will not accept modified/amended agreements and 2) I don't always see/grok all the objectionable clauses right away because I AM NOT A LAWYER. Should I really be required to keep an attorney on retainer so I can accomplish something as simple as opening a checking-account? Or getting an oil-change?

    When it came time I looked, and read, every single piece of paperwork, and found that my monthly payment had an extra $300 tacked to it. I looked at the paralegal, who just wanted to be done and go home, and told her to call the bank because I didn't agree to that in my original paperwork that I was given.

    Unless you are an attorney, you violated the cardinal rule of real-estate... DON'T DO A CLOSING WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY WHO REPRESENTS YOU LOOKING OVER THE PAPERS. That $300 "miscalculation" likely wasn't a "mistake." Mortgage brokers are some of the sleaziest operators around--you will not find a more wretched den of scum and villainy than their annual convention. If a layman like you spotted this "error" there were probably tons of other "junk fees" in there too that you weren't really obligated to pay... I have done about a dozen property closings over the years and I have always gotten more "junk-fees" taken off the tab than I paid the lawyer to do the closing. I have come out like $5k ahead over the last decade doing this.

    Further, I'd guess since you work in a call-center, you're not very old/life-experienced just yet... Chances are they saw your DOB on the papers and decided to see how much extra they could screw you out of... Chances are the payment

  • by sugapablo (600023) on Monday December 24, 2007 @11:49AM (#21806110) Homepage
    ..I had the Apple "Genius" grab a magnet from the back room and, in front of me, wipe it all over the HD. He was very cool about it, understood perfectly, and was more than happy to do it for me.
  • by timeOday (582209) on Monday December 24, 2007 @12:04PM (#21806324)
    I'll bet that magnet didn't do a thing.
  • Give back the disk (Score:2, Informative)

    by PacketScan (797299) on Monday December 24, 2007 @02:49PM (#21808190)
    I see no reason why this disk shouldn't be returned to the user. They purchased a replacement drive..
    This is why when i do work for anyone any old parts they go in a box.
  • Caveat Emptor (Score:2, Informative)

    by tcampb01 (101714) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:31PM (#21809032)
    Unfortunately the article is light on details. While $160 is overpaying for an 80GB hard drive (esp. if it's only 5400 rpm), it's probably NOT overpaying if it includes the cost of installation as well as the cost of re-installing the OS. While the article certainly implies that they did, in fact, include the cost of installation, he doesn't mention if they did any other service or whether they broke the price down for him.

    I have upgraded the hard drive on one of my old MacBook Pros and there's external compartment to access the drive. There's no quick-access panel to make this easy. The bottom case of the laptop has to be carefully opened. An experienced person could probably swap the drive in maybe 20 minutes, but then it also has to be tested and get an OS installed and that'll take longer.

    Everyone jumps on the auto-parts law, but remember that law only applies to parts that can't be reconditioned. There are a number of car parts that can be reconditioned and when you have these replaced you generally do not get them back. But typically you'd know up front if you were getting new vs. reconditioned parts and if there's a deposit, etc. for the failed part. If you buy a new car battery -- even if you intend to replace it yourself, the parts store is generally required by law to charge you a 'core deposit' fee, which you only get back when you return the failed battery.

    I'm amazed that this person writes that they felt they were being overcharged but then did not ask about the price before agreeing to let them do the service -- then made assumptions.

    All that aside, I too would be very worried about my data falling in to the wrong hands. But isn't that ALL THE MORE reason why he should have asked questions resolved any doubt BEFORE agreeing to the service?

  • by TofuDog (735357) on Monday December 24, 2007 @08:18PM (#21810666)
    Unlike the MacBook Pro, the MacBook allows HD replacement as a "user-serviceable" part (i.e., doesn't void the warranty; one thing that keeps me from buying a MBP -the hope of eventual better MB graphics being the other...). Now, not everyone is a geek and up for installing the OS, restoring from backups (?!) etc. -but you could buy a big, fast drive for the same $ -and this was posted on Slashdot...

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