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10 Indispensable Tech Warranty Tips

Have you ever read through the little booklet titled Limited Warranty that came with any of your gadgets? The thick packet with the tiny text? No? Neither have we — until now. We dug through the limited warranties of laptops from Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba; smartphones from Apple, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; and tablets from Amazon, Apple, ASUS, Barnes & Noble and Samsung to see what we’ve all been missing.

We found critical limitations among the warranties and also some surprising information that just might change the way you make your decisions regarding the use and even purchase of your device.

1. Making Claims: What You Need

Most limited warranty booklets will give you a list of the type of information needed to make a claim to the warranty. Although you probably know to keep the original receipt, we also recommend that you take a picture of the receipt with your smartphone or digital camera, and also scan it and email a copy to yourself in case of fire for insurance purposes. Some devices might come with a warranty card that you need to present along with the receipt, or the company might require you to register the device. Always have that information ready, because rummaging in search of a small slip of paper while you’re already suffering from a broken piece of tech might cause you to want to throw that device against the wall.

2. Third-Party Software: Not Covered

There are some things that customers should never expect to be covered, such as data and any third-party software — even the ones that come bundled with your computer, smartphone or tablet. This limitation is explicitly laid out in all the limited manufacturers’ warranties that we read. In other words, if iCloud loses all of your photos, Apple is not responsible. And if that trial copy of McAfee fails to protect your PC from a crippling virus, tough luck.

3. Overclocking and Unlocking a No-No

There are some things that you may not know will void a limited warranty. Pay special attention, do-it-yourself people. Manufacturers will not cover computers or hand-held devices that are running unauthorized third-party software. This includes overclocking a computer and unlocking a phone or a tablet. The concern is that the software might cause unnecessary stress to the device and cause it to overheat and break.

4. Be Careful Where You Get Service

You will also lose out on the benefits of the limited warranty on a device if you have it repaired by an unauthorized third party or by an unauthorized technician. This restriction includes third-party glass or display replacements for smartphones and tablets. Yes, repairs like this might save a lot of money up front but you could end up losing out on the rest of the warranty.

MORE: Dell Support Caught Using Shady Sweepstakes to Hawk Warranties

5. Keep the Serial Number Protected

All warranties we studied had a clause about unreadable serial numbers voiding the warranty. If the serial number is etched on the exterior of your device, make sure you protect it with a piece of clear tape to avoid damage. Manufacturers use the serial number to identify that specific device, or else there is no way to prove that the serial number on your receipt or on the box matches the serial number on the gadget.

6. Repairs Could Mean Refurbished Parts

7. Warranty LengthIf a manufacturer replaces your PC’s hard drive or some other component, don’t expect it to be sent back to you along with your machine. We found a line in each limited warranty that said in one way or another that any replaced parts become the manufacturers’ property, and that the manufacturer has the right to use a refurbished or remanufactured part or product to act as a replacement.

After the repair, it’s safe to assume that the limited warranty will continue from the original purchase date of the device and that it will not give you another year of warranty starting after the repair date. For most limited warranties, the length of coverage after a repair is 90 days or the rest of the original limited warranty, whichever happens to be longer.

8. Tell the Truth About Damage

While on the topic of repairs, don’t fib when speaking to a tech support representative over the phone about the condition of your device. Many limited warranties have a clause that states that if the product is determined to have been damaged — especially liquid damage or physical damage — the customer will need to pay for the repairs. And if the customer declines to have the PC or gadget repaired, he may be forced to pay for return shipping as well.

9. Who’s Covered (And Who’s Not)

Something surprising that was in most, but not all, limited warranties is the rule stating that the limited warranty is only valid for the original purchaser of the device. Nook has a clause that says if you have been gifted a Nook, you must have a gift receipt.

We reached out to HTC about its rule. The scenario we posed was about purchasing an HTC smartphone on eBay and whether it would be eligible for limited warranty coverage. The answer was no. LG has the same clause in its smartphone limited warranty.

10. Beware of Third-Party Hardware

Most limited warranties state that they will not cover damage from connecting the device to third-party hardware. But in the case of LG and Samsung mobile warranties, they simply state that the limited warranty will not cover batteries or phones that have been used with non-approved chargers. Here’s the exact wording:

LG: What this warranty does not cover: “The product was used with or connected to accessory not supplied by LG, not fit for use with LG mobile phones or used in other than its intended use.”

Samsung: “...this limited warranty does not cover any battery if the battery has been charged by a battery charger not specified or approved by Samsung for charging the battery.”

Bottom Line

Now that we’ve pointed out what you should look for in a limited warranty, we hope you can avoid any heartache from not reading the fine print. Still, it’s a good idea to scan that little booklet for your own devices in order to save yourself from any other surprises that may be hidden inside.