Apple's Semi-Official Computer Replacement Policy

Yesterday we noted that our intern Alex Chasick was told by an Apple Genius that Apple will not automatically replace a defective laptop after the third hardware failure. Alex followed our advice and called Apple’s Executive Customer Service line for some official answers. Here’s what he found out.

i called that corporate number and asked the operator for jeanne toulouse

the operator asked me if i had talked to her or her office before for this issue or a previous issue, i said i hadn’t, and she said ok, then she needs to transfer me to corporate customer relations

i talked to a guy there named jeff _____, and basically told him that i’d lost confidence in this computer, because of the hardware failures

he told me that the minimum requirements for apple to replace a machine are three completed major hardware failures (for laptops, he said hard drive, logic board, and optical drive—coincidentally what my three failures have been)

but three completed hardware failures apparently means that they’ve repaired it three times, so actually it’s the fourth failure that will get you a replacement

i asked him several times if this was official apple policy or if there’s some codeword i need to reference or anything because the genius i spoke to told me that he would keep repairing things and never replace them

and he said that it’s not their policy to automatically do it any time a customer has four hardware failures, but that if the customer asks applecare or someone at an apple store, they’ll replace it

so you have to ask, although it doesn’t sound like you need to be very persistent once you’ve had that many failures

incidentally, when i was experiencing my 8 logic board failures with my ibooks in college, they replaced them after the third failure, but that may have been because the ibook logic boards was a known issue

i asked him if it made a difference if it was the same component or different, and he said no, as long as it’s something major (which means no battery, casing, or keyboard), they’ll replace it after four

i also saw in the comments to my post that some people claimed that genius bar repairs don’t “count” for this repair total, so i asked if that was true and he said no, a repair is a repair

By the way, we wonder if Apple is regretting coming up with this “genius” moniker yet, considering how every time someone uses it now it sounds sarcastic.

“Get Applecare Executive Customer Service”
(Photo: galaygobi)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Trai_Dep says:

    While I’m ecstatic – in a daze, really – over how well Apple handled my iMac repair (failed power supply, NOT allowing me to replace it myself so they could cheerfully fix everything gratis at an Apple Store, for an out-of-warrantee, year-and-a-half old computer) I wish they’d be a bit more consistent (uhh, in a good way) about their repair policies. And communicate the 3-balls-and-you-walk rule to their geniuses.

    Gods knows it’s above and beyond, particularly compared to other computer mfrs (cough – DELL – cough), and they should emphasize this. It seems they’re short-changing themselves not to do this…

  2. xgenius says:

    As a former Mac Genius, this is the correct policy. Going into a 4th major repair is when a CPU will normally get replaced, if the customer requests it, and he or she is under warranty. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, and if a customer makes a big enough stink it can happen earlier. I would recommend having the Genius put it in the case notes that you have requested a replacement on your 3rd repair, and if a 4th repair is required, then the computer will be replaced. This will avoid future aggravation.

  3. redhelix says:

    Three failures, replace on the fourth. This is pretty true for every OEM laptop hardware warranty ever, in the history of computing. In fact, since Apple doesn’t require it to be three failures of the SAME part, their coverage is a better, if anything.

  4. redhelix says:

    @xgenius: aarrgh, cpu is short for central processing unit, not computer.

  5. xgenius says:


    Get over yourself!

  6. redhelix says:

    @xgenius: Wow, okay.

  7. BigBoat says:

    Genius use of irony XGenius.

  8. Skeptic says:

    BY XGENIUS AT 02:32 PM
    Get over yourself!

    Actually, the distinction is important in the context of this discussion. After 3 major failures you don’t want Apple to replace the CPU–which can refer to the microprocessor computer **chip** on the motherboard–you want them to replace the **entire lemon sucking computer**, case, power supplies, motherboard, memory, microprocessor and all. However, CPUs weren’t always on a chip and the term is sometimes used as to refer to a desktop computer (as opposed to the monitor and accessories). But, in the context of computer repair, such a use is ambiguous and ill advised..

  9. stopNgoBeau says:

    @xgenius: I’m not sure he needs to… I incorrectly took your comment as the fourth component that fails means the ‘processor’ gets replaced because you said CPU. I had to think for a second and realize you were talking about the computer yourself.

    I can understand your comment if someone corrected your spelling, but you made a very non-genius mistake.

  10. redhelix says:

    @Skeptic: Exactly, thank you. If I had a computer that suffered a head crash for the fourth time, I wouldn’t appreciate it if a tech told me they replaced the CPU.

  11. Shevek says:

    I’ve had only one problem with my G4 Powerbook that required sending it in (I don’t live anywhere near anyone who can do official Mac repair). This happened right after I purchased the laptop, and I share the story here in the hope that it’ll make someone laugh.

    Within the first week of using my laptop, the ‘H’ key broke off. The tabs on the back were clearly broken, so there was no point in trying to reattach the key myself. I called up Apple, explained my problem, and they told me they’d send a replacement key that I could attach myself. Two days later, a very large box arrives at my door. I open it to find a full-sized keyboard from Apple. Sweet of them, but not exactly what I was looking for. I call them back up, explain what happened, and the rep this time tells me that my laptop has to come in for repair. Previous PB keyboards could have individual keys removed and replaced, but mine has to have the whole keyboard replaced. So, not only did the first rep send me the wrong thing, he told me the wrong solution. Well, they send me two boxes (one for the keyboard, one for the laptop). I sent my laptop away and it came back by the next week, just as I’d left it.

    It’s always funny as long as it eventually gets fixed.

  12. redhelix says:

    Former Mac Genius vs. Former Geek Squad Agent.

    Battle of the century

  13. firesign says:

    this seems right. we had a liquid cooled dual g5 power mac here at work that sprung a leak all over the processors. it didn’t go to an apple store but to an authorized repair center. after a couple of weeks and the tech at the place saying apple just kept sending him logic boards and processors and stuff over and over, i called apple directly. within two days i had a new mac pro to replace it, and sent the g5 back. these days i just call apple in the first place.

  14. Yifkong says:

    My 1st generation MacBook had a number of woeful ailments: logic board and 2 hard drive failures. It was my inaugural purchase as a Mac user, and if it weren’t for the excellent tech support and subsequent replaced laptop (which has worked fine since), I might have regretted making the switch!

  15. scoosdad says:

    Intern Alex needs to learn capitalization and punctuation if he’s going to make it in this blog!

  16. harvardfag says:

    execution a la Gawker?

  17. balthisar says:

    @redhelix: In common parlance, the CPU is the central processing unit, say, your Core Duo. But in common parlance it’s also the central processing unit, say, the thing that houses the CPU and does all the central processing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with referring to your tower (or other case) as a “CPU” — anyone should be able to distinguish them in context.

  18. ct03 says:

    @scoosdad: Clearly, you’ve never read this blog…
    FWIW, those are just IMs I sent Chris.

  19. redhelix says:

    @balthisar: Googling “define cpu” begs to differ

    And yeah, I can see how users can hear “CPU” and construe it into meaning “computer.” But when you’re a technically inclined person (or “Mac Genius”) who actually replaces and installs CPUs, you shouldn’t be calling it that.

    If I worked for Apple, (which would never happen, but lets say I did,) and I told a fellow “Mac Genius” that I replaced a customer’s CPU, they’d think I replaced the processor. That’s really all there is to it.

  20. Skeptic says:

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with referring to your tower (or other case) as a “CPU” — anyone should be able to distinguish them in context.

    “We replaced the CPU.”

    So, tell me, “Balthisar,” what did they replace in my example?

    Ambiguous language is bad when it comes to consumer issues–you don’t know what you are or aren’t getting. Unambiguous language is preferred–and it is a requirement when you are trying to get a company to live up to its agreements.

  21. Chaosium says:

    @xgenius: No really, he’s right. It may be expected from a customer service rep, but anyone actually interacting with technology should know better than to call a tower the “CPU”.

  22. scoosdad says:

    @ct03: I was commenting on the contents of the up-front stories (usually up to a pretty good writing standard aside from occasional typos), not the posted comments. They can be pretty ugly at times.

  23. jaredharley says:

    @balthisar: That’s like calling the monitor the “computer” because that’s where you do all the computing at. If you tell me your computer isn’t working anymore, I’m not going to think, hmm, maybe you mean the monitor…

    CPU = cpu chip – ie, your Intel Core 2 Duo
    Computer = the big loud thing with crap inside

  24. Throwout_Bearing says:

    As an Apple Authorized service tech I find that some people just seem to have trouble with their computers. I’ve been doing this for over 5 years and there are some customers that end up coming back again and again with multiple failures on different units. I’m convinced it has something to do with the energy they give off or something.

  25. redhelix says:

    @Throwout_Bearing: Yeah, same here from when I was with Geek Squad. Some people just don’t provide a PC-friendly environment. Maybe their apartment/house is prone to brownouts and power surges, or they smoke around their computer (check out the inside of a smoker’s PSU sometime,) or they have big hairy dogs… the list goes on.

  26. Skeptic says:

    Some people just don’t provide a PC-friendly environment.

    Well, that and statistical clustering.

  27. guy1193 says:

    Oh I believe this story. My brothers iBook G4(late 2004) broke once a month last year before he got a Macbook for xmas. It sucks because they promised him a computer if the logic board crashed for a 3rd time and they then failed to “verify the legitimacy of the crash”. So basically there is no reason i should still be with apple if it weren’t for the operating system.

  28. AlphaUltima says:

    Genius bar is a facade, just as much as the geek squad, the title doctor, or president of the united states of america.

  29. Smd75 says:

    My ex had the worst luck with her 1st gen Macbook. Suffering from the heatsink issue that randomly shutdown/restarted the computer. The store near her is credited with the solution for that. Then her Logic board died, Hard drive died, AND the battery lost all reliability. She wasn’t too happy and her parents were very skeptical of Apple’s products. When the battery died, I told her to ask for a new computer since she already had so many issues. They were a little reluctant, but gave her a new computer. :) It was pretty awesome.

  30. Chris Walters says:

    @scoosdad & @ct03: I thought about adding punctuation, but it felt dishonest. Also it would have been a lot of work.

  31. dethl says:

    Ask for a refund. Apple wants to keep their products in the hands of their customers as much as possible. Since you have a valid claim for a refund Apple will instead offer to replace the Macbook.

  32. dethl says:

    @dethl: Should probably edit a sentence: “Since you WOULD have a valid claim for a refund, Apple will instead offer to replace the Macbook”.

    Then again this may not be foolproof. Try this and see what happens.

  33. yesteryear says:

    i just took my imac g5 (now three years old) to the genius bar
    today. they are going to replace the optical drive and the logic board,
    at zero cost to me, even though my applecare extended warranty expired
    about 10 days ago. people are complaining here… but can you think of
    any other company that would honor something like that??? if i was 2
    hours late paying my car insurance and got into an accident i’d be 100%
    responsible. this is the first issue ive had in 3 years with this
    computer – that’s incredible in itself. and so far, i’ve been nothing
    but happy with how great the apple service has been. they are
    fantastic! one other reason to love apple: since the g5 is in the shop,
    i’m using my 1998 imac g3 right now and aside from being a bit slower
    than im now used to, it still works great!

  34. mkmpanic says:

    it didnt quite work that way for me… i was early adopter of the Macbook Pro and it ended up being shipped back 5x. After the 4th time i emailed steve jobs and complained about the quality. i received a call from their executive customer care and told to send it back in. i asked what their policy was for issuing a new laptop and she said they dont do it. i chalked it up to being an early adopter. i wont consider buying a new apple product, when it first comes out, again.

  35. CapitalC says:

    Maybe his new Macbook will come with functioning SHIFT and punctuation keys. :rolleyes:

  36. brent_w says:

    @xgenius: You’re the one that can’t even use simple terminology correctly.

    At least you got the “X” part right …

  37. ct03 says:

    @CapitalC: Actually, it’s MacBook. If you’re gonna be a pedant, you’d better be right.

  38. fhzwart says:

    I have an iMac being replaced by Apple right now. The problem I have is that the store had to keep my computer and tells me that they can not track when I will receive my replacement iMac. Since it was a special order through the online apple store (I upgraded the hard drive and memory) they said they would have to order it and it would be sent to my home address. After another call this evening and a week without a phone call, email or otherwise, I was told to contact Apple Care and that they could track it with the Client ID number they gave me. How long should I give Apple to get me my computer before I escalate this problem? And can someone tell me if they really can’t track the replacement? That is hard to accept.