Best Buy Charges You $29 For A Restoration Disc You Don't Need

Best Buy has recently come under fire for selling people “restoration cds” at the ridiculous price of $29 dollars. PC World caught 3 of 5 Best Buy salespeople insisting that consumers couldn’t make the recovery discs themselves and would either need to buy them from Best Buy or the manufacturer (for more than Best Buy charges.) This just simply isn’t true.

The following letter from reader James shows that they’re still out there selling “recovery discs.”

Don’t buy ’em! They are a ripoff.

Hi Folks,

Just thought I’d give you some info on my recent experience at Best Buy.

The wiring in my apartment is horrible, so as I was running the vacuum in the room I use as an office, I blew a fuse and had to go downstairs and reset the breaker. Everything in the office had obviously gone out, including the computer, which was on at the time of the power outage. But, when I tried to turn the computer on, it wouldn’t start up. Monitor worked, printer worked, everything but the tower. After doing some research on my laptop, I figured it was a bad power supply and I took the tower over to Best Buy to have the Geek Squad take a look at it and replace the power supply.

The guys took a quick look and agreed that it was probably the power supply, which was going to cost me around $150, which seemed reasonable to me. But before I left they wanted to test it on a power supply they had, just to make sure it wasn’t something more serious. Well, they said that after hooking up a “store” power supply, the tower powered up, but nothing would appear on their monitors. Their assumption was that it was the motherboard, and it would be cheaper to just go ahead and buy a new tower. I said I needed to think it over and left with my tower.

The next day I came in and purchased a new tower for $524.99, a “data transfer” to get all my info from the old tower to the new tower for $99, and a restoration CD for $29. I had purchased a floor model, so they said they needed some time to replace the software on the new tower, so I told them I’d be in later with the old tower to let them transfer the data.

But something didn’t seem right. So I took the old tower to a local computer repair shop. They hooked up a new power supply and whadaya know, it worked. They installed a new power supply for about $100 and sent me home with my tower working again.

So, I went back to Best Buy since I didn’t need this new tower anymore. I had nothing physical to bring back since the tower I was purchasing was still at the store, but I brought my receipt and told them I didn’t need any of this since my computer was working. But, while they gave me back the money on the tower and the data transfer (after double checking to make sure the work hadn’t been done, even though I never gave them the old tower), they wouldn’t give me the $29 for the restoration CD because they had “already done the service.”

I didn’t need it anymore since I wasn’t buying that computer, and in my opinion it was their problem since they basically told me the computer was beyond repair (which it wasn’t). So, after some calls to Best Buy’s customer service it looks like they’re going to refund the money (although 2 weeks later when I got the bill it’s still on there). But just wanted to let people know that maybe they shouldn’t put too much faith in Geek Squad, and don’t put it past Best Buy to charge you $29 for a “service” you don’t need.

Oh, and sorry for the long e-mail.


It’s a good thing James got a second opinion. Local computer repair shops can be handy sometimes.



Edit Your Comment

  1. vaxman says:

    I remember when Futureshop (dunno if they’re down in the states) did this for windows 95 restore cd’s that are supposed to be included with the PC. They were opening all the boxes and taking out the disks.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    Ok, so I’ll agree that you don’t need the recovery CDs that places like BB charge you for.

    But what does that have to do with a power supply? Granted, the CD is the fly in the refund ointment, but it seems to me like the point of the article was more aimed at the GeekSquad trying to trump up his problem to get him to buy a new tower, data migration svcs, etc. The restoration CD was just a minor part of all of that.

  3. Crymson_77 says:

    Which is a smacking case of fraud…

    I’ve been into a Futureshop in Toronto and am still wondering how they can be so proud of their merchandise…by proud I mean jerks…and by jerks I mean “god…I am NOT paying 29.99 for a cable that costs 4.99!”…

  4. Crymson_77 says:

    @DeeJayQueue: I would say that the issues are on equal footings of stupid. The utility to create the Recovery CDs (which can also use DVDs) is installed by the manufacturer for use by the consumer. I wonder if the manufacturers know that this is occurring and what they might have to say about this total misrepresentation of facts on their part…

  5. tedyc03 says:

    I had a similar experience with a local computer shop that told a friend her RAM had gone bad, and then told her it was the hard drive. After an hour I was able to correctly diagnose the problem by removing the RAM and replacing it. These days anyone can be a technician without certifications…there really ought to be rules about it.

  6. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    @vaxman: Futureshop in canada is the same company as the US’ best buy.

  7. bradanomics says:

    I don’t have too much to ad other than Futureshop = Best Buy

  8. SeattleGuy says:

    So, what was Best Buy going to do with the Recovery set that they made for James? Throw them away? I think not, they would have saved them and sold them AGAIN to the next sucker that bought the computer. That sounds like an enormous profit scheme there.

  9. DashTheHand says:

    Its amusing that they diagnosed it as the motherboard without reading any mobo codes or even attempting to see if it was something as simple as a video card.

    But I guess you get what you pay for when you have Geek Squad check your PC for you.

  10. whenever I need a good laugh I just stroll into best buy/circuit city and listen to the salespeople do whatever they can (especially lie/deceive) to get shoppers to buy the most useless and unnecessary accessories/extended service plans, etc.

  11. vaxman says:

    @Lin-Z: I used to think that, but I don’t think so any more. Normally when the US version invades Canada, the Canadian version of the store disappears. Best Buy started popping up here about 2 years ago, and FS is still here, and strongly competing with BB. But I just fix computers, so what do i know about businesses owning other businesses…

  12. DeeJayQueue says:

    Just another example of “because they can” sales tactics. Big box electronics stores have been preying on people who don’t know better for years.

  13. Imafish says:

    “whenever I need a good laugh I just stroll into best buy/circuit city and listen to the salespeople do whatever they can (especially lie/deceive) to get shoppers to buy”

    So true. I remember overhearing a conversation at Best Buy several years ago. A customer wanted a computer with Windows 2000 on it. The sales guy said that Windows ME was better, less buggy, and more secure. He pulled a figure out of his @ss, something along the lines of Windows 2000 having 200 known bugs and insecurities.

    Say what you will against W2k, but to say that Windows ME was better is complete BS. Obviously, BB didn’t have any computers with W2K so he had to lie to make the sale.

  14. girly says:

    I agree the most important part of this story is the power supply.

    I bought a laptop from BB about a month ago, and they did a really hard sell on the recovery disk, their configuration services, and virus software installed by them.

    I asked if I could just buy a recovery disk later if I found that I needed it, but they acted like it was extremely risky and told me it might cost $100!!

    He also said it’d be 80 bucks or something (can’t remember) to install virus software, but I told him I had some, and although he was trying to say Vista is very tricky with software installs (“you can just keep clicking on Next and it’s still stuck”), I pointed out I could always come back and buy some virus software made for Vista if I had a problem. He said that MIGHT work. (amazing!!)

    I didn’t get the CD or virus software or any of their services, and the guy looked at me like perhaps I needed an intervention for my own safety.

    I saw the recovery disk creator when I got home, and actually I did have trouble with it.

    BUT I found out the cd costs $15 shipped from the manufacturer.

    AND I told the manufacturer about my problem, and they shipped it to me for FREE!

    I got it in around 5 days, if I recall correctly

  15. girly says:

    Oh yeah, with my BB purchase, when they tried to sell me the warranty, I asked…this does have a 1 year manufacturer’s warranty, right?

    So I didn’t buy theirs.

  16. Bassdrop says:

    @vaxman: “Future Shop was purchased for over C$500 million by Best Buy Canada on November 4, 2001. Best Buy has continued to operate the Future Shop locations under their original name, although it is now opening Best Buy-branded stores in Canada as well.”

    Amusingly, sometimes they have the stores directly beside each other… they both sell the exact same items, just have different sales at different times. It only looks like they’re competing.

  17. Nelsormensch says:

    @vaxman: Best Buy does indeed own Future Shop ([]). BB bought that back in 2001, so they’re only “competing” in the same way that Rogers and Fido compete.

  18. mandarin says:

    Best Buy Sux is the official battlecry of the Consumerist

  19. ChrisC1234 says:

    What I don’t understand is WHY PC companies stopped giving you restore disks when you bought the machine. It probably only saves them $0.25 per machine.

  20. MrEvil says:

    You can always get a power supply tester for $20 or so from or even your local computer shop sometimes. Dell provides all their field techs with PSU testers. I have 2 now because I was using one before Dell required it. They’re really easy to use and can save you a boatload of time and money.

    The whole time I worked at Best Buy I pleaded with the manager to let us get a PSU tester and he never would agree to it. This was before Geek Squad.

    My friends that work at Geek Squad now say they have a PSU tester, but it’s no good for the newer 24pin ATX power supplies. It just has the 20 pin main connector and NO connections for drive power or the 4-8 pin 12V auxillary.

  21. dandyrandy says:

    ‘Best Buy has recently come under fire for selling people “restoration cds” at the ridiculous price of $29 dollars.’

    Use of both the dollar sign ($) and the word ‘dollars’ to describe the same number is redundant.

    It’s redundant as well.

  22. Brad2723 says:

    We don’t put ANY faith in GeekSquad

  23. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    $10 says that they didn’t try reseting the BIOS before testing the store power supply. I’ve “fixed” sooo many computers that have been affected by power spikes & surges that just need a new power supply & the BIOS reset.

  24. target_veteran says:

    Don’t a lot of modern vendor computers ship with a restore partition and/or restoration utilities in a seperate flash chip? My fiancee’s parents just bought a new computer, and it has a seperate partition on the drive that contains the full restore CD.

    Also, $150 to replace a power supply? Most PSUs for Best Buy level computers run around $20-40 retail. Swapping a PSU takes maybe 15 minutes, plus however long it takes them to power it on and run some tests (read: do some other things.) So, that’s about $100/hour for service right there.

  25. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Microsoft sells OEM’s Windows cheaper when a recovery disk isn’t included.
    MS thinks this will prevent piracy.
    Yeah sure!
    A lawsuit a few years ago discovered that MS sold Windows to HP for about $20 a copy, because HP didn’t include the disk, but put a recovery partition on the hard drive.
    Gateway & Dell paid a few dollars more because they put Windows on disks without device drivers & other OEM’s paid around $30 if they supplied a full copy of Windows.

  26. Crymson_77 says:

    @target_veteran: “(read: do some other things.)

    Isn’t that supposed to read (read: stealing your porn)?

    Couldn’t help myself…too easy…

  27. howie_in_az says:

    What sort of ‘restoration CD’ is this? If it’s just a CD-R, something’s really fishy.

    lol if it’s a CD-R of a Microsoft product, maybe someone can nail BB for piracy.

  28. SaraAB87 says:

    I would never trust the geek squad with my computer. Anyone who takes their computer to the geek squad to get it checked out deserves what they get. Pick up a phone book and find a local computer repair place, there are usually several in the phone book. If you for some strange reason do not have a local computer repair place in your town or in a town near yours, then you would be better off asking family, friends, co workers or neighbors to either recommend a place or for their services, chances are someone you know can repair simple computer problems.

    Recently my computer crashed and I took it to a local repair shop, turns out the ram was bad, so they swapped the ram and I was good to go. If I went to the geek squad it would have been the motherboard, all the ram and the hard drive that went wrong….

  29. Draconianspark says:

    @howie_in_az: No, it’s a common practice. Newer PCs typically ship with a restoration partition, and have a utility ( easily accessible by end users ) to burn the contents of the restoration partition to one or more discs. This is what best buy charges for, the time spent in burning said discs.

  30. WraithSama says:

    I, for one, love Geek Squad. I work at a major aircraft manufacturer that employs thousands and I do technician work on the side. The increasingly negative image and ridiculous prices of Geek Squad has caused work for my side job to pile up. I just got transferred to a new line and already I’ve got 2 orders for new custom-built computers and virus removal from co-workers. I love the work as it’s a hobby for me and they love that I charge a tiny fraction of what Geek Squad wants.

    As long as Geek Squad continues down the lower path, I’m a happy camper.

  31. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: Yup, it’s for piracy prevention.

    The handy thing about the restore partition is if the reason you have to restore is your hard drive died…well, you’re screwed.

    I once had a lovely experience once trying to wrangle a set of recovery CDs from HP after my drive died.

  32. ogremustcrush says:

    I always enjoy reading the Best Buy posts, since I used to work for the Geek Squad. Best Buy pushes their employees hard to sell stuff like this, and the trouble is a lot start to become somewhat dishonest about it. I can tell you that dealing with several customers a day who had been told something false when they made their purchases and now expected to be held up gets very tiring.

    None of the customer service reps or GS folks have the ability to do much, at most you can ask them to get a manager, who may be nice if you’re lucky. Beating up the customer service reps or GS agents wont help though, as they never made false promises, and they don’t have the power to hold them up. I really tried to go out of my way to help people coming in as much as possible, but theres only so much you can do that doesn’t generate $$$ before the managers start getting on you.

    I had to try to sell these services like the recovery cds when customers checked out, after the salesperson had already harped on them. We were supposed to attach ourselves to sales at least once per shift at minimum. Frankly, I ussually penciled in my participation, because I thought it was awful to continue to harp on people about stuff they already said they didn’t want.

    If I helped a customer from the beginning, I would recommend services like this, because I had to, but I always stayed honest about it. I told them that the recovery dvds were easy to make, I’d even show them on a display if they asked. Even replacements from the Manufacturer only cost about $15 if they wont just give them to you for free, as they will many times under warranty. Still, many people will buy them, since they were having us do a bunch of other stuff to the pc at the same time like installing av and removing bloatware.

    I really can’t say that the prices or the services are evil, as long as their honest. There are people who don’t want to bother with doing the services that GS provides, and thats fine. As long as they know the truth of the matter they are making their own decision. I sometimes wondered how many purchases were made out of pity, since I think most people realize that employees were evaluated based on their sales of services. Most employees really didn’t care about the cost of the products or the margin on them, just as long as they got the services they would be praised. I would almost exclusively sell items on sale while I was there, and I tried to convince people that they already had cables so they didn’t have to but the rediculously overpriced ones. Going as far as telling them where they could get cheap cables wasn’t a line I was willing to cross for the sake of my job, I hoped they could figure that out on their own.

  33. fluiddruid says:

    I work for a software company that sells mostly via download. We do offer backup CDs — we don’t push them and don’t make money on the deal, but they sell themselves, and in fact our staff always explains you can make your own CD for free — but we’ll still take them back if someone ends up not wanting the software.

    Sure, we actually do burn the backup CDs on demand, but ultimately a customer has a right to return a product they don’t need. This happens pretty routinely as people will buy the software not understanding what it does, or what have you.

    C’mon, Best Buy. Do you really have to screw people? Is that the only way you can make money?

  34. MonkeySwitch says:

    Best Buy did this to my boyfriend’s mom. The lady’s words were, “M’am, I don’t make a commission off of this, but if you do not buy this restoration disk and your computer breaks, there is nothing that we can do. I just don’t want you to be out a computer”
    I flat out told her and the sales lady that it was not necissary to buy the disk and as soon as we got home pulled the FACTORY disks out of the box and explained that those would RESTORE the computer to whatever state she bought it in.

    I’ve since been told that while Best Buy employees do NOT make a commission off of sales, they DO get fired if they don’t meet their quota’s for those little extras like extended warranties.

    My boyfriend’s family -and myself- will NEVER buy electronics from Best Buy again.

  35. Parting says:

    @vaxman: Future Shop in Canada belongs to Best Buy. Same big boss for both.

  36. SBR249 says:

    $29 for recovery disks? That’s a bargain compared to lenovo ($45) but twice more than HP ($14). But since my computer screwed up the disk burning, the nice person at Lenovo sent them along for free :)

  37. endless says:

    heres my take on this.

    for people who know what they are doing on computers this is a very pricey service. You can do it yourself in not alot of time for alot less money.

    but for someone like my mom, it could be very well worth it. i think there is a general inability for tech literate people to understand the needs of people who can’t use computers.

    i do not know how people who are tech illiterate can afford to be so. then again i guess they dont end up buying computers every year or two just because they are bored of the old one.


  38. MrEvil says:

    @target_veteran: No, the restore information is on a partition on the hard drive. Included is a utility which you can burn the restore information to CD/DVD for free…but only ONCE. Restore partitions for XP can take a couple gigs with all the value added software that comes with new systems and Vista takes quite a bit more. It would be cool if the OEMs came up with some way to link 4GB of flash memory to the mainboard and put recovery info on that.

    Dell is probably the most lenient when it comes to getting install CDs after purchase. Usually if you ask very nicely they’ll send them to you DHL overnight for free. If you lose them and are under warranty they’ll send you as many as you’d like.

  39. cerbie says:

    $150 for a PSU swap? If it’s using a typical PSU that BB carries and likes to push, that’s a wee bit high ($100 seems about right, with a decent PSU). Anyone can do such a swap out on their own. Just make note of what and where you unplug the old stuff (pen&paper if you must!), plug it all back in with the new one, and away you go.

    $99 for data transfer, though?! The restore CD thing seems like nothing. $99! Verify you can plug your old HDD in the new PC before you buy it, and do that job yourself!

    Silently doing restore discs is sleazy. They can probably use the mechanic’s defense, though, that it, “needed to be done.” But, the PSU/video/whatever

    @MrEvil: they could put recovery on a flash disk like that, but it would probably cost significantly more. 4GB is probably close to $25, where space on the HDD is free.

    On to PSU testers, the ‘old’ 20-pin are perfectly fine with new PSUs. The chances of a PSU having the other +12v bad, or anything similar, and be otherwise working fine, is ridiculously small.

    Does anyone else get irritated about not giving commissions, but getting rid of employees for not meeting quotas?

    “How can we screw over those pesky customers, and our peon employees?”
    “I know, I know! We charge for services customers don’t need, and give our employees performance benchmarks to meet by selling those services, with a punishment for not low performance, but no corresponding reward if they exceed the benchmark.”
    “Brilliant!!! Are you a VP or C-letter-O, yet?”

    I need to go to the above and beyond articles and get my pulse down… :)

  40. Primate says:

    I don’t think $29 is unreasonable for a restore cd as long as one didn’t already come with the computer. Some of those restore cds take 2 or more hours to make and while you don’t have to babysit the computer the whole time it’s still an inconvenience and $29 isn’t as outrageous as some of their other charges; like $39 for a memory install.

  41. SaraAB87 says:

    This is exactly why I choose the local computer repair place rather than the geek squad. I hope they realize that the negative press has had an effect on me. Not only does the local place charge less but they don’t try to sell you things you don’t need in fact they don’t try to sell you anything, you just drop your computer off with a brief description of the problem and then you come and pick it up when its ready (provided you don’t have any problems that kill the system). I also recommend to all my friends and family that they go to local computer places instead of geek squad and tell them to go to for cables or dealextreme for other things.

  42. catprotector says:

    I can agree with almost everything said here. I myself am a computer tech with my own company and find it rediculous that someone be charged $29 for a restore disk especially when it comes with the computer. However, it is entirely possible that a customer would lose it. I’ve had several potential customers who called me with computer problems requiring a restore because they couldn’t get into the computer because it required a password or a system file went bad. When I’d ask them if they still had the CD’s that came with the system about 90% of them said NO. Most problems are pretty fixable however.

    The problem with the bigger outfits like the Geek Squad is they charge a lot of money for their service and hire unskilled techs. It gives us smaller computer businesses a bad name sometimes and also leaves customer’s doubting they’ll find a competent tech to fix the problem. Believe it or not, the best place to start is by talking with family members, friends, and even neighbors and ask who they use. If they have had a positive experience with a company they’ll tell you.

    Another problem our industry faces is that Best Buy is a known name and people are under the false belief that when they see a commercial for Geek Squad that their computer problems will be instantly solved. That doesn’t always happen.

    I agree that the best bet is to go with a smaller and more local computer company but also do your research on them. Just like some bigger companies you can also get ripped-off by some of the smaller ones, especially the cheapie techs who say they can fix your computer for $20, $40 or even a $50 flat rate.

    I charge a pretty reasonable price for the quality of work I do but it’s also hard to compete with prices like that. I just don’t know how those cheapie techs can survive by charging such a low rate. For those customers who actually consider them just remember, you get what you pay for.

  43. tony44119 says:

    I am a senior tech at Geek Squad in Ohio. We OFFER (not force) to make restore disks for computers that do not come with any for $20 if the customer has virus and spyware installed by us or $29 if that’s all that’s being done. Toshiba laptops are the only computers that we sell that come with restore disks. If a customer is wrongly charged I refund the service at pickup automatically. The disks are nice to have, especially since hard drives are the most frequent device to fail and they hold the restore image (partition) as well as the capability to make the disks from within windoze. Many customers do not feel comfortable making them on their own so we offer the service, if they refuse, no sweat. Honestly I wish manufacturers still enclosed them because it takes like 2 hours of our bench time to make them and customers shouldn’t have to pay but that’s not my doing…

  44. Goodman123 says:

    I my self am a senior tech at geek squad in ohio, If we do not offer the restore disks creation the customer will never make them. and in turn when their Hdd goes bad down the road we will be the one getting yelled at by the customer for one, the mfg not including the disk and two for us not offering to make or for not telling them they must be made. In my opinion 29 is a very reasonable price given that on an hp unit it can take up to 2 hours to create bot disks and two if the are ordered from the mfg they will be charged 20 to 30 dollars plus shipping for them.

  45. I-Disagree says:

    Why do they sell restoration cds? Don’t most computer companies have those included? Every computer I’ve ever bought has had one. Either they will include a Windows cd, or a “restoration cd” which is really just windows + other junk software. Anyway, the whole thing seems like an unnecessary, high profit margin scam.

    How do they make them? Nero burning rom and Sharpie pens?

    Sounds like upsell garbage for the computer illiterate to get suckered into.

  46. goodman123 says:

    the computer mfg do not include the recovery disks you can make they from the recovery partitions though most people do not know how to. Sony does not even allow you to do that and they charge you $29 plus shipping for them, gateway does include the os disk but you must make the aplications and drivers disks