What’s Apple’s replacement policy for hardware failure? Our intern is having ongoing problems with his MacBook, and thought that after three large hardware failures in a row, Apple replaced the laptop—but “some dude at the genius bar just told me that was absolutely not true.” Does anyone know the official Apple party line on this issue?

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. ungeniusedmofo says:

    Apple does not have clearcut policies for hardware replacement, more like guidelines and precedents. Each replacement is pretty much weighed in on individual basis.

  2. Trae says:

    I could be wrong, but isn’t that required by “No Lemon” laws?

  3. Pupator says:

    Wait for it…

    Why not get a PC? “They just work.” :)

  4. Jon Parker says:

    I thought it was three failures of the same component.

  5. Veeber says:

    There hasn’t been a specific written policy on it. Generally it’s three failures, but it must be of the same type. If your motherboard goes, and then a display, and then a hard drive, doesn’t count.

  6. Falconfire says:

    what kind of failures are we talking about here. There is no real “official” policy on this, but yes three major (as in like motherboard, drive, DVD etc) components failures are supposed to trigger the replace machine now button if it happens over the course of 3 years.

    Dont trust the “genius bar” employees on this one though, you need to call AppleCare.

  7. jeff says:

    I have had them replace my mac several times after 3 repairs. All three have been different. They also offered to upgrade the computer with extras for free too. But that is usually after many failed attempts to the genius bar

  8. mzs says:

    It is not true. It took FOUR years of my iBook breaking until they replaced it. Yes they even extended the original AppleCare because the track record was so bad. They did give 30-90 days of warrantee on each individual repair depending on what it was that was fixed. There were times I did not have a computer for two months at a time. Sometimes the computer would come back from repair and would not even turn-on. Sometimes I needed to wait 3 weeks for a part to come in.

    I was ready to not buy Apple ever again when after about three years someone at Apple tried to arrange a replacement and it would not get through higher people. They just extended the warrantee another year. When it kept having problemsa few people at Apple really came through and finally did a replacement.

    By problems I mean things like the screen would no longer work, The computer would not boot, the keyboard would not work, the trackpad no longer worked. After the replacement I still consider buying Apple again.

    So the gist is that it takes a whole lot of badness to get a true replacement. It really did seem though that if replacement parts were still readily available Apple would have kept trying to repair it rather than replace it.

  9. Elaida says:

    Hi,

    I work at an Apple service center in Quebec and the policy is that after 3 major repairs (logic board, screen, hd…) they replace the customer. It’s not a written in stone policy and the client has to call Apple and say that the machine has had 3 majour repairs and that they are tired and want an exchange. This seems to work most of the time.

  10. MiltyKiss says:

    Call Apple Care; Generally, it’s been ‘three failures of the same component’, but I’ve read stories and heard of people who have gotten replacements after 3-4 issues (not with the same component either).

  11. Hackoff says:

    This is a true YMMV. I have had a variety of computers with Apple and on three separate occasions I have had computers replaced.

    Different reasons each time, but sometimes it just took some persistence to get it done.

    p.s. PC computers barely work when they are working! Three cheers for VISTA

  12. acordova says:

    If a “major” component is repaired 3 times over the span of warranty coverage, you should be able to get a new machine. Things like RAM failure don’t count (unless, of course, the Logic Board is the component causing the RAM failures). Like most undisclosed things at Apple, if you ask a retail employee, they will say it’s not true. Your best bet is to talk to AppleCare, who will most likely kick it back to the store, but you’ll have documented case notes pretty much saying the machine should be replaced.

    Also, like at most retail places, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Complain loudly enough to get a manager and they’ll most likely cave quickly. It probably won’t have to come to that, though.

    I had a Power Mac that had almost everything replaced twice and still didn’t get a new one, so your milage may vary, but if all else fails, talk to a manager and they’ll work with you as much as they can. Just curious, what’s the issue with the MacBook?

  13. I bought a MacBook Pro three weeks ago (I couldn’t handle my PowerBook anymore). The bottom case was warped, preventing it from sitting level on a flat surface. I took it to the “Genius Bar” at Lenox Square in north Atlanta. They migrated my data from the warped machine to a new machine, swapped my independently purchased RAM, and gave me the new machine. It was all very simple.

    The Genius Bar is no different than any other help desk. The people you walk up and talk are most often not the most technically skilled. They can diagnose basic problems, and do general support, but the real technicians are “in the back” doing actual work. The guy at the desk may not realize they will swap the machine due to manufacturing defects. He just comes in, does what he was trained to do, and gives bullshit answers when he doesn’t know the real ones. _Sometimes_ you encounter a guy working at the desk that should be in the back.

    I’ve been on both sides of the counter. And I’ve been “in the back.”

  14. Android8675 says:

    Best Buy is on the 4th trip to service for the SAME PROBLEM, they replace the notebook. Usually though on the 3rd trip is when they replace it, but it is usually stated that on the 4th trip to service do they do a swap for a new model. (Note: Swapping for a new model “Eats” your warranty, AKA, you’ll have to buy a new extended one).

    Oh and if you’re not covered under an extended Best Buy warranty, they usually send you directly to the manufacturer. After the first service, and they can’t service stuff we don’t normally stock at Best Buy, so yeah.

    I always thought the “No Lemon” law was actually the “California No Lemon” law… I mean I assume other states have similar laws, but I’m sure your milage may vary.

  15. bilge says:

    The policy as explained to me concerning a flaky G5 tower was that it took three service calls before a total replacement could be considered, but that a replacement wasn’t guaranteed after three calls.

    I ended up getting my G5 replaced with a Mac Pro.

  16. Eric1285 says:

    Most of the time, your ability to negotiate a deal will outweigh the facts of your repair history. I’ve had Best Buy replace 2 laptops now under the no lemon policy. You really just have to know what buttons to push and how to work the manager over and convince him that it’s a better deal for the store to replace your laptop than it is to deal with you coming in every 3-4 months with a new problem.

  17. teh says:

    They will replace it after 3-4 problems, but you have to send it off to apple care. Apparently visits to the “Genius” Bar don’t count.

    That said if you’ve gone to the genius bar a lot and they haven’t fixed the problem, consider calling Apple Care and negotiating for an additional compensation (new battery, power charger, etc.).

  18. juri squared says:

    I got the ‘four times’ line with my lemon G3 iBook, before they issued the logic board recall. However, I had a friend at the Genius Bar who cut me a break and got me one after three repairs (on the same part).

  19. LAGirl says:

    he will have much better luck calling AppleCare and shipping it to them. the ‘Genius’ Bar sucks.

    also, try emailing Steve Jobs. i received a call from his executive support team within a few days of sending my email.

  20. pianos101 says:

    definitely send an email to sjobs@apple.com. Executive customer support WILL read the email and you’ll get a call back within a day or to. Believe me. I’ve done it; twice (with my MBP). The quality of their products might be going down slowly, but they have the best customer service in the industry…

  21. BrianH says:

    Some very well-fed female manager at the Santa Monica store gave me hell about a year ago over an issue like this (I mention the details [female mgr, well-fed, Santa Monica] in case someone at Apple reads this & wants to fire her, not because it’s relevant to her behavior) and when I pressed her on the policy she got all loud and aggressive. I’d give her name here but she refused to provide it (always a bad sign) and I decided to vote with my wallet rather than crucify her. But there were about 20-30 customers looking at her during her outburst. Nice for business, especially since I remained calm (but direct) the whole time.

  22. NikoPico says:

    Now I don’t know how fresh this information is, but I used to work for the Apple Tier II Customer Relations department. This is prior to when they moved the operation to Austin, and we were still in Campbell CA. We were authorized to replace hardware when a justified case was presented to us, and also deny it if we had a good reason. They had us read win-win/compromise books to better haggle you out of a replacement, so you never knew would help and who would stonewall you.

    When we were trained, we were told to push back on replacements, but if the client complained enough, and had the three justified major hardware repairs within their warranty, they were considered for a replacement. On the three hardware issues, I needed to get buyoff from a lead, and if I made your case, you got the replacement. When sent back with a no-go, I would convince you that Apple wanted one more hardware repair before the replacement. However, if your motherboard was replaced 4 times already, I was able to facilitate a replacement, just sign and agree to our legal documents and you were all set.

    It all mattered on the analyst you got. If you got me, I would work with you to get a replacement, if you got another analyst, she/he would ask for one more hardware replacement prior to replacement. It is really the luck of the draw on who you deal with, and this was the case with the genius. Consider it and unwritten policy.

    If you want a replacement you need to follow the orders of the phone analyst, make sure you are in warranty, have persistence, and keep a log of your contact. Build yourself a case. (Remember software issues get you no love, it has to be hardware) and send a letter to their Executive Relations department. They were one notch higher than us, and usually were able to give you what you wanted if you complained loud enough. They act on behalf of Steve Jobs.

  23. lasciate says:

    There is no written-in-stone policy about when Apple will replace a machine over repairing it. You have to call into AppleCare and request to speak to a product specialist about replacing your computer.

  24. ExtraCelestial says:

    Echoing what was already written, call Apple Care. You will sometimes get different answers depending on the Genius Bar you choose. One told me I needed to pony up $900+ even though my comp was in warranty, I took it to another and they fixed it for free. Apple Care is consistent and have more power to interpret policies.

  25. firesign says:

    i have now had apple care replace three different macs here at work due to major failures. forget about the stores.

  26. ct03 says:

    Intern Alex here. Thanks for your responses, everybody. Here are some more details: bought my MacBook Pro in summer 2006, had to get the power connection (IO?) replaced in fall 2006, then the hard drive failed in spring 2007, battery failed in fall 2007 (I’m not counting that as a hardware failure, but still an Applecare replacement), then the optical drive stopped working a few weeks ago. Some further backstory: I bought the MBP because the logic board on my iBook failed eight times over three years; after the third failure, Apple gave me a replacement; same thing after the third failure on the new one. The second replacement was a G4, supposedly impervious to logic board failures, but it failed a month out of warranty. Apple graciously replaced it, but refused to do so when it failed again a few months later.

    As anyone who’s emailed our tipline about an Apple problem knows, I’m a big fan of emailing Steve Jobs, and I’m considering doing that, but I was hoping there were some Apple insiders lurking here who could point to an internal document or process for this sort of thing, something equivalent to the airlines’ Rule 240. I know the Geniuses are a crapshoot, but I wanted to know if there was some magic phrase that I and other readers can use. Also can anyone confirm what a couple commenters said–that Genius Bar repairs don’t “count” the same way Applecare repairs do?

    Thanks!

  27. I am an apple certified desktop/portable technician. As far as “lemon laws” go, they are supposed to replace the computer if the same component fails 3 times during the lifetime of the warranty.

    honestly, I would just call applecare or take it back when a different genius is on duty. talk to a manager if the genius flakes you off

  28. firesign says:

    @BrianH: uhhh, why does it matter what her weight was? was that comment really necessary?

  29. ionerox says:

    @James Sumners: The techs in the back of house are the same as the ones in the front of house… they just don’t take equipment apart at the Genius Bar. Taking a computer apart usually takes more than the 15 minute alloted appointment time, so it gets put in back-of-house for same day/next day repair or sent out (depending on the repair & parts available.) Then the Genii at the bar can get back to the soccer moms who don’t know how to reset an iPod who flip a brick if they have to wait.

  30. firesign says:

    @ct03: heh, the 14″ g4 ibook was notorious for logic board failures. i had to replace several of them here. i still have a 12″ g3 ibook that works great.
    i suspect that emailing steve jobs has less effect than you might think. i’m guessing that, like most ceo’s of large companies, his email (like his snailmail) is intercepted by one of his assistants and any email like yours will never show up in his inbox but will be handled, if at all, by one of his subordinates with some boilerplate response.

  31. musette says:

    They replaced my macbook pro when I had 3 hard drives swapped out before anyone realized it was a motherboard issue. It was long and involved, but I worked with phone support to get the best treatment on the advice of the local genius. Phone support also allowed me to go to the apple store to pick up a brand new MBP from the store rather than await shipment.

    My advice: call apple support phone line and document everything.

  32. sam says:

    I got my G4 replaced with a G5 a few years ago, after multiple failures. They were mostly of different components, but it all happened within a very short amount of time, so I triggered the “3 failures/3 repairs withing x-amount of time” rule. It’s definitely a YMMV situation though.

    For a complete accounting of my travails with apple back in 2005, you can start with this entry on my blog and work your way forward until my new computer arrived 2 months and much aggravation later.

  33. vision4bg says:

    I have had two Macbooks replaced, both after three repair attempts.

    There is no official policy, but in both cases it was when the repairs did not fix the ORIGINAL issue. I suspect if all faults were separate you are less likely to get a replacement.

  34. Chaosium says:

    @Trae: “Lemon laws” are generally for cars, not consumer electronics.

    Also, most OEMs have unofficial policies towards how many times a system is sent in for service, but they don’t always have hardline absolute numbers.

  35. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    I had my PowerBook G4 sent in three times for the (in)famous “white spot” problem, where spotches were appearing within the screen. The last time, they kept the machine for almost an entire month (which, for me as a my-laptop-is-my-life kind of traveling engineer guy, was almost too much to bear).

    A call to Apple Care got this escalated to Customer Relations and they ended up offering me a brand new MacBook Pro, while they returned the defective PowerBook G4 to me temporarily in order to salvage/recover/copy the data from one machine onto the other machine.

    So here’s my analysis: stick with Apple Care. The people on the phone have better connections to higher ups as well as Customer Relations. The Apple Stores exist to sell product, primarily, and provide Tier 1/”guru” support or very simple repairs. Apple Stores can’t escalate issues like Apple Care can. When it comes to laptops, *always* buy Apple’s Extended Warranty. It’s saved my bacon (and a lot of $$$) a few times over the many years I’ve used Apple products.

    And don’t take my experience as gospel. Everyone’s experience will vary. And I believe Apple products are awesome; the reason my laptops get worn out is due to the fact I tend to use them very very intensely.

    p.s. note to any Apple people reading this: I would make a very fine candidate for beta testing pre-production laptop units. Thank you very much.

    p.p.s. my MacBook Pro now has the same “white spot” problem in the screen as well. Grr.

  36. slungsolow says:

    I had a faulty power supply issue on my G5 iMac four times in 18 months. That wasn’t enough to trigger the replace procedure with 1-800-MY-APPLE. When I went to the geniuses with it, they just tried to replace everything again. I was kind of sick of that and told the guy at the counter as much but he wouldn’t offer a replacement.

    Went home, called the 800 number again, talked about my disgust with their product (and their lack of decent customer service/retention), the guy on the phone took it personally, offered me some advice where where to shove my iMac and then hung up. Called again, asked for a supervisor so I could lodge a complaint about a CSR, and then I got me a free new iMac (2nd gen intelMac) over-nighted via UPS!

    My advice is to get cursed at, document all the maintenance because they tend to ignore their existence if you don’t have proof it happened and be persistent (this usually gets you cursed at).

  37. goodcow says:

    My MacBook Pro broke repeatedly. Three batteries, three MagSafes, left I/O board, right CPU fan, hard drive, SuperDrive and top case.

    The Apple Store Genius bar wouldn’t replace it, even after consulting with managers, even after being told on my last repair that if another major component (I’d call a SuperDrive a major component) broke, I’d likely get a replacement unit.

    I E-Mailed sjobs@apple.com and got a phone call within 12 hours, and they apologized and setup a replacement for me that same day.

  38. shadowsurfr1 says:

    If someone reading this a student, I would highly recommend going to your school’s help desk, if they have one like mine does. I got a white Macbook (the black one wasn’t worth $200 more for me) and I’ve had the top panel and keyboard replaced under warranty through them (it got too blackened with dirt). Their repair center will fix just about any computer under warranty, so long as they’re authorized to do so.

  39. kirschey says:

    If he bought it with his AMEX, they will investigate and give him his money back. It worked for me and my Macbook that I got in late August. I have a new one with none of those issues.

  40. deadlizard says:

    They don’t have a replacement policy, but usually they don’t have a
    problem replacing troubled machines. Buy the Applecare protection and
    they’ll do whatever you tell them.

  41. anon124 says:

    Former Apple call center rep here.

    It totally depends on the person you’re speaking to.

    Like call times, reps are only supposed to issue so many replacements per month. If you call and get a rep who says she can’t do a replacement for whatever reason, even though your product is currently smoldering on your desk, it’s best to hang up and call back. She has probably already done several replacements and knows her manager is going to come talk to her if she does anymore, even though the replacements are legit. It’s like an unwritten rule you learn when you reach that second level of support.

    I was one of the people who didn’t require much convincing from customers that their Mac was toast, but I had a manager who HATED replacing units. “Fifth repair? So what? Tell them [insert BS story here] and send it in for repair again.” Usually we used the old “since it’s a different part, it doesn’t count for replacement” line, i.e., last time was the hard, the time before that was the logic board, now it’s the optical drive. If it had been the hard drive all those times, that would have counted as three (the magical number) and we could have replaced it. Total BS, but I was told to force fed that to many customers.

    Another popular reason to NOT replace it was the three parts repaired were not all MAJOR parts. I don’t remember the number coding, but basically, the laptop keyboard would be a minor part and wouldn’t count towards the big three. There were some surprisingly big parts that would fail but were considered minor parts. When I’d go to my manager, I would be told the part wasn’t a major part that was replaced, and so didn’t count. So even though the Mac had been mailed in for repair 4 times already, two of those had been for minor parts and didn’t qualify for the magical three rule. Again, total BS. (Try explaining that to a customer — it doesn’t matter to them if the part numbers were “major” or “minor,” all that mattered was they were mailing their lemon in for the fifth time. Those were always bad calls.)

    Also, when you take your laptop to the Bar, they just box it up and mail it out South East somewhere. It’s usually faster to call AppleCare and get the box mailed to you, and the phone guys are usually more likely to replace a unit if you start the call by saying, “I won’t take no for an answer” and have a record of failed repairs for the computer. I don’t know the procedures the Bar guys use in determining repair vs replace. I know emailing sjobs with a repair history of three or four mail-ins will guarantee you a new unit…

    Good luck.

  42. ppiddyp says:

    I was able to sweet talk them into a G4 iBook back when my G3 iBook was on its third trip to applecare’s magic hideaway in under a year, all for different problems. It took two calls to customer service, but they were very pleasant about it.

  43. aquanetta says:

    A friend who used to work at AppleCare call center said that replacement usually happens after 3 major failures with any portion of the motherboard. The magic word to use when you call AppleCare is “escalate”, it’ll bring your problem to the next upper level of support, and they have easier access to making sure your repairs get done faster and can authorize replacements.

    I don’t trust the Genius Bar guys, they’ve broken more things than they’ve fixed. If you don’t want to send your computer off, go to another Apple authorized dealer/repair place other than the Apple Store.

  44. teh says:

    @Chaosium: Actually Trae may be right. While lemon laws exist for cars, many states have extended the same type of protection to other consumer products. You have to check your state guidelines, but generally if the same component breaks (or if the product has had several major repairs), then you are entitled to a replacement. You are also entitled to an extension to your warranty for the amount of time the product was out of your control for repair.

  45. teh says:

    @ct03: As far as “Genius” Bar repairs not counting in the same way that Apple Care repairs count, when I had a problem with my laptop, I talked to several people about my problem (since I first went to a genius bar) and was given the impression that the two groups don’t talk to each other. While it sucks to have your computer out of your control, I have had much better experiences with Apple Care. Not only do you have a written record that it was sent out for repair, but they are more likely to actually fix your problem.

  46. juanguapo says:

    In my experience, it all depends on who you deal with. I’ve had multiple exchanges w/ Apple with little-to-no hassle.

    My advice…Go for the throat (ie. manager) if the store/bar is not giving you satisfaction. They can do anything they want to do.

    Apple is better than most when it comes to the exchange policy.

  47. trujunglist says:

    If you’re truly unhappy, just don’t accept the machine when they ask you to sign for it post repair. Sit there, tell them you’re not accepting an obviously flawed machine, and demand your money back. Eventually you’ll be escalated to the manager who will fix your problem.

  48. itsbetteronamac says:

    It is true that there is an “after 3 fixes, the 4th is a full replacement policy”. I know because I have been able to take advantage of it on two occasions.

    I think it’s actually called the “lemon rule.” As in after three major repairs, they official decide that they sold you a lemon. But that could just be rumor. However, this policy is kept on the down-low at Apple, as it is the Apple Store manager’s discretion whether or not to issue a CS code for such replacement.

    It should be noted that this is only Apple internal policy, and there is nothing that says that they HAVE to give you a replacement. So if they do not want to give it to you then it you are out of luck. (Best to find a friendly genius)

    It should also be noted that it is common for this policy to provide you with a “similar computer from the current line up.” This means if you had a 15″ Powerbook, you would receive a 15″ Macbook Pro.

    Hope this helps.

  49. yosarian says:

    As a former Apple ninja, I can tell you there is no written policy but the commenters who posted 3 major failures are pretty much right. It’s case by case, but as long as you have three major (computer won’t work at all until this is fixed) happen within a short period of time, you can expect a positive response if you ask for a new one. It’s a crap shoot though if they will OFFER you one, unless you’re speaking with tier 2 tech support or customer relations. They should have the gumption to spend Apple’s money and take care of you. Geniuses and Tier 1, not so much.

  50. Joel4039 says:

    As a current Apple Service Technician/Rep I would have to agree with Yosarian. Apple does not publicly disclose the fact that they will do replacements after 3 major part failures. The problem is getting through to someone who can do something about it. Most of the time the people in the Genius Bars are completely untrained in the actual workings of machines and therefore have very little knowledge. In order to get someone who can make decisions call AppleCare Customer Support. After a complaint or two about an unresolved solution they usually listen. I have never heard of a person with a repetitive machine failure not being able to get their Apple replaced as long as Apple agrees that it was not due to user abuse. (Liquid damage is not covered!)

  51. RISwampyankee says:

    I’ve been using Macs exclusively since 1985 and I’ve only had one lemon. In the course of a year I had a MacBook that went through two logic boards, a hard drive and a DVD drive. They got so tired of seeing me at the Genius Bar they just gave me a new MacBook.

  52. ct03 says:

    @anon124: Thank you for this advice. I’m gonna give it a shot tomorrow using an earlier post: [consumerist.com]
    (btw, has anyone had any recent experiences with this number; is Gene/Jeanne still there?).

  53. ct03 says:

    Also, thanks Joel4039, Yosarian, and everyone else who commented. I’ll see what happens.

  54. theglassrat says:

    Apple doesn’t really have an official policy on this. The guideline is for three major failures or three failures of the same component. It’s not followed especially well though.

  55. borsk1 says:

    I had a computer get sent out for repairs 3 times, each unsuccessful. Eventually they replaced it for free. They also gave the me the option pay a bit extra on the replacement computer to upgrade it beyond what my previous machine had. Not to mention, they also gave me iWork as a free bonus. I didn’t like having computer problems and was frustrated when i called for help, but they did their best to make it right for me.

  56. LVP says:

    Ask Steve Jobs.

    steve@mac.com