Thursday, December 22, 2011

The cost of repairing a Mac is less than expected

When my iMac 11,1's 2yo 1TB Seagate drive developed metastatic blockitis I was most unhappy.

It wasn't that the drive is dying young, just two weeks after my AMEX extended warranty lapsed. Two years is short for a drive, but this machine runs all the time and goes through two full disk backups every single night. The drive has had a hard life.

The fact Apple's diagnostics missed my drive's unmasked bad blocks is annoying. There's no magic to a disk scan; I shouldn't have had to buy TechTools Pro to make a diagnosis. Windows diagnostics have managed this for twenty years.

Worse though, is the cost of the repair. FirstTech, a well regarded local shop, gave me a $625 quote to install a 2TB replacement. (They can't get 1TB drives.). I was amazed, I'm used to paying $150 or so for a drive and doing my own installation. That's what I did when my old fully serviceable G5 drive died.

The problem is that the lovely 27" iMac is not user serviceable. Elegant quite design with special thermal sensor cables turns out to have a high post-purchase price. That's why I wrote ...

Gordon's Tech: Mac drive diagnostics: TechTools Pro and Drive Genius find problems OS X missed

... When you consider that iMac 27" hard drives are NOT user serviceable, the iMac is more expensive than it seems. The iMac G5 was entirely user serviceable. Design has its price....

I was wrong though. Today i checked what the cost would be for an Apple store repair. They quoted me about $200 for a 1TB drive replacement. (They don't do upgrades, only like-for-like replacements.)

How do they do that? Apple has a flat $40 service fee, regardless of the complexity of the repair. Apple offsets the ownership cost of their elegant designs by subsidizing repair. (In this case they have another advantage -- they have an inventory of 1TB drives with bundled thermal cables even as the world runs short of hard drives.)

I still prefer my G5 iMac's design -- but that was a hot and noisy machine. My 11,1 (i5, 27" 2009) iMac is quiet and cool most of the time. Apple's subsidy of post-warrany repairs makes that tradeoff more palatable - at least if you live near an Apple store!

Update 1/6/12: One warning: they will want to keep the hard drive. This fits with their out-of-warrantee repair following their in warrantee process. Apple should make this better known. It means if you bring your machine in for an Apple Store repair, you need to do a secure wipe first. Some additional tips:

  • Create an admin account with no password that Apple can use for testing. I didn't think of this, and my machine has guest account disabled.
  • They will want to recreate the problem -- even though I have to pay for the repair. Again, their out-of-warranty repair is basically in-warranty with a parts-charge and subsidized labor.
Update 9/2/2012: In comments Alex points to a 1TB Seagate drive replacement program! Alas, my serial number wasn't accepted. I bet this is what hit me though. I wonder if Apple will eventually extend the program. I'm W8946HAH5PJ.

Update 8/3/2013: Sometime in the past year Apple sent me a check for the costs of this drive. They did eventually extend the replacement program.


Alex said...
Full refund dude!

JGF said...

Wow, great referral Alex. My serial number was rejected. but maybe they'll extend it eventually. I'll promote this.

John Gordon said...

Apple sent me an email saying that my machine was now covered by drive replacement. I called Apple Support and they submitted a refund request.