HP Pretends Linux Voids Netbook Hardware Warranty

Installing a different operating system on a computer does not change its hardware. This is a simple enough concept…unless you work in technical support for HP. Their phone tech support have joined their Geek Squad colleagues in insisting that a Linux-infested laptop was no longer under warranty.

Kyle didn’t want to put Windows back on his netbook just so his problem would fit phone support’s standard script. He tried to make tech support see logic…and eventually they did. (Or gave him a new battery so he would go away, but the end result is the same.)

For this past Christmas, I received a HP Mini 110-3110NR netbook. So currently it is only a month and a half old. Last night, the battery in it completely died. So being almost brand new, the battery is still under warranty with the rest of the netbook. I’m a linux user, so the first thing I did when I got the netbook, was to wipe the hard drive and install linux on it. Obviously this will stop me from receiving technical support on software issues, but in no way does this void the warranty on the actual hardware.

So I launched their technical support chat, and had this discussion with a technician:

I then called their tech support, where I spoke with a “technician” who basically told me the same thing as the guy on the tech chat. He told me to do a series of tests, which had absolutely nothing to do with the battery. A startup test, some web based test, etc. It was very clear he had no clue what he was telling me to do. I then went into the BIOS, which has a diagnostic log in it, and gave him the error code 0601 that was reported when the battery first died. I checked this error code against their web page, and the message to go with it is “Primary battery needs to be replaced”. He verifies this information, and he is now certain that my battery IS the problem.

However, even now that he knows for sure my battery needs to be replaced, he still refuses to send me a replacement, without the warranty ID, which of course can only be obtained by running their Windows utility, which would mean me having to wipe my entire hard drive, and install an operating system I don’t need, just to get a number they don’t even need. After giving up with him, I ask to speak to his supervisor.

The supervisor proceeds to tell me the same thing – that he cannot warranty the battery without the warranty ID #, even though they have verified that my battery is, in fact bad, and that my laptop itself, including the battery, is still under warranty. He tells me I will need to purchase a USB flash drive from them in order to return my computer to factory condition (for $25) in order to get the warranty ID #. I tell him that is unacceptable, and that in no way are running linux on the laptop, and the battery even related. I was told that by installing linux on the laptop, I voided my software warranty. I said that’s fine, but this is a HARDWARE issue and in no way relates to that, and asked him to point out there in the warranty pamphlet I held in my hand it said I voided my hardware warranty by installing linux. He could not do this, and told me “I’m the supervisor here, and I know the warranty terms better than you”. However, he still related the two, and refused to replace my battery.

I have now been on the phone with them for 2 hours, and I get transferred to a “case manager”. She explains the issue to me, which I tell her I completely understand, but tell her that there is absolutely no reason for me to wipe my computer out when the issue isn’t even software related, and has already been verified.

Finally, after a 2 and a half hour phone call, the case manager agrees to send me a new battery. I find this some of the worst customer service I have ever encountered. The inability to speak to anyone with any real technical knowledge who could actually understand what was going on was one of the most frustrating parts. Multiple times I asked if they had a higher tier of technical support I could speak to, but was refused.

I just felt others should see how HP tries to handle their warranty issues, and treats their customers.

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