Because laptop computers receive more rough treatment than computers that remain in one place, they are more likely to suffer from hardware problems. Therefore, it's important to evaluate the warranty on your new laptop computer.
If you order your new computer directly from the manufacturer, you may have a choice of warranties at different prices. The major differences among various offerings are the length of coverage and the location where the service is provided.
The best warranties include on-site service, which means that the manufacturer sends a technician to perform the repairs at your location. On-site service is convenient, but it can be twice as expensive as a warranty that includes repairs done at a service depot. Depot service often includes pickup and delivery by a courier, so the only real difference is the amount of time the computer is out of service.
If you do send your laptop away for service, be sure to look into various security features to keep your data safe while it's out of your hands. Some of these features are discussed in the previous section.
If you travel overseas with your laptop, be sure your warranty includes service in all the places you normally visit. Some warranties include local service in many countries, but others may require the owner of the computer to return it to the country where it was purchased.
If you bought your computer from a local store (especially if it's a big-box retailer), the salesperson might pressure you to buy an extra-cost service contract or protection plan. Don't do it. Retail service contracts are huge profit centers for the stores, but they're a bad deal for the user-you can get better coverage for less money directly from the manufacturer.
Conventional wisdom says that extended warranties and service contracts are a bad investment, because problems appear most often during the initial warranty provided with the computer. However, extended coverage (provided by the manufacturer) could be worth the additional cost if you carry the computer around a lot, or if you run your entire life and business out of your computer.
If you pay for your new computer with a credit card, you might be eligible for extended warranty coverage from your credit card company. MasterCard, Visa, and American Express all have programs that offer up to a year of additional coverage after the manufacturer's warranty expires. You might need a free upgrade to your credit card account (to MasterCard Gold or Platinum, or Visa Signature, for example), so you should talk to your credit card supplier or consult their Web site before you buy the computer.
Unless you're buying a white-box laptop from a screwdriver shop, the warranty on your new computer also includes technical support for the Windows operating system. Microsoft provides the same technical resources to their resellers that their own tech support centers use, but some companies provide better support than others. If software support is important to you, check the reviews of manufacturer's tech support centers in magazines and online.
For more details about warranties, see Chapter 2. If you need more information to make an informed choice about where to buy your computer, or if you simply want to know what a white-box computer is, check out Chapter 3.