Apple: No, You Can't Have Your Data Back, We're Keeping It

If you have AppleCare and send your Mac in for a hard drive issue, you’ll want to be aware of their policies. If Apple can’t fix the hard drive and restore your data they’ll replace the disk, but they’ll also keep your old drive. Even if you ask for it back. Even if you try to buy it back. Reader Chris says this is standard industry policy, but he still objects to it:

I asked if I can buy a new hard drive, in order to get the old drive back: “No.”

I asked if I can buy a new hard drive on a new job ticket and then
have them install it: “No.”

I asked if there was any way to get my warranty part and my data back: “No.”

I can choose one or the other, but not both.

So, it turns out, Apple will hold your hard drive hostage at an Apple Store, not because of cost or stock management, but simply because they do. I did not mail my laptop to a service center, I took it to a store and am going to pick it up. There is, functionally, no difference for Apple if I get my warranty drive and take my old hard drive *full of my personal data* or not. In fact, I save them the trouble of disposing of it. They simply refuse to allow it. From what I hear this is standard industry practice.

In order to make sure his data was properly disposed of, Chris had to put a hold on the replacement, pick up his drive from the Apple Store, go home, erase the data himself and then bring it back to Apple so they could exchange it for a new drive. Read Chris’ entire email inside.

Chris writes:

Hello Consumerist,

I’ve got a little tale of woe concerning Apple, AppleCare, and my laptop’s data that will likely scare some of your readers in more than a few ways.

Yesterday, our dependable little PowerBook started making the dreadful clicking whirr of a dying hard drive. I took it into the Apple store in the mall today and they quickly diagnosed the problem. And better yet, it’s still covered under my extended AppleCare plan, so I get a free replacement drive. Great news, right? But I still have a drive of lost data. A successful data recovery attempt by Apple is $53. No biggie, my 2 weeks of un-backed-up data is worth more than that to me, for a variety of reasons. And if it fails, no charge.

Well, the recovery did not work, and a full-on data recovery (the kind that involves a clean room, etc.) is typically $1500+. So, then I tell them that I want my old drive back and I’ll pick it all up when it’s ready. After all, I can just get the new drive and try to recover my old data on my own, or at least ensure that it won’t get into the wrong hands by wiping or destroying it. WRONG.

Apple is, as the service person told me on the phone, “not responsible for your data”. I’ve always known this, and I back up my data before taking my laptop and/or iPod in for servicing. Unfortunately, that somehow encompasses the *physical medium* in this case as well. Apple’s policy, I was told, in the event of a warranty replacement, is to not allow you to have more than one hard drive. You either take the new one or leave it. I was livid (I paid for it, why can’t I have it back!?). But I controlled myself, since this guy’s just doing his job and can’t change policy.

I asked if I can buy a new hard drive, in order to get the old drive back: “No.”

I asked if I can buy a new hard drive on a new job ticket and then have them install it: “No.”

I asked if there was any way to get my warranty part and my data back: “No.”

I can choose one or the other, but not both. So, it turns out, Apple will hold your hard drive hostage at an Apple Store, not because of cost or stock management, but simply because they do. I did not mail my laptop to a service center, I took it to a store and am going to pick it up. There is, functionally, no difference for Apple if I get my warranty drive and take my old hard drive *full of my personal data* or not. In fact, I save them the trouble of disposing of it. They simply refuse to allow it. From what I hear this is standard industry practice. From their perspective, it’s simply a part with no value…but you can’t have it anyway.

At this point, I just wanted a resolution that didn’t involve my data floating around in the back of a store full of people I don’t know. I’m sorry, Apple, I paid for the old drive and I paid for the warranty, but there’s no way on earth I’m just letting that drive float free. Well, after a call to a good IT friend and a second call to the store by my wife, we determined that they can put a hold on the job. We can wipe the old drive ourselves, bring it back, and get the new one installed into the laptop in exchange for the now-even-more-worthless worthless part. The service rep said that this is what people end up doing in this situation.

Lessons learned:
1) Back up your data at least once a week.
2) Apple doesn’t care about your data. But they care enough to keep it from you.
3) If you can’t wipe a dead drive, you have to trust Apple.
4) It’s good to have a friends in the IT biz so you don’t have to.

I (still) appreciate Apple’s hardware and software design, their employees, their stores, their general philosophy, and up until now, I appreciated their service. But this policy really stinks. Buyer beware. I hope my experience helps other people avoid the surprise of this policy.

Keep up the good work,

-Chris

You heard Chris, if your hard drive can’t be recovered, be prepared to put a hold on your repair so that you can erase the disk yourself. Unless you trust the Apple Store with it. Do you? —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: dlayphoto)