Data Doctors: Are extended warranties on computers worth it?

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Practically anyone selling you a computer will likely try to get you to pay a little extra for a “protection plan” that goes above and beyond the standard factory warranty. Should you go for it?

Q: Are computer extended warranties worth buying?

A: No matter what tech device you buy, practically any retailer will likely try to get you to pay a little extra for a “protection plan” that goes above and beyond the standard factory warranty.

In some cases, it seems like such a small amount of money that you may think, “Why not get the extra coverage?”

But the credit card you made the purchase with may already provide basic protection.

Many of the electronic devices you’ll buy today don’t have the moving parts that would commonly wear out in the past, making the “protection” even less likely to pay off.

In the vast majority of cases, you’re simply improving the profitability of the sale for the retailer — which is why you’re seeing it virtually everywhere.

It’s not covered

When it comes to computers, there are a variety of reasons that buying “extra protection” up front can be a waste of money.

First and foremost, these protection plans generally only cover hardware components, which is rarely what causes aggravating computer problems.

In our 30-plus years of servicing computers, the vast majority of issues that we see are software- or operating system-based, which isn’t covered by most extended warranties or protection plans.

Retailers know most consumers don’t realize this, and won’t take the time to read the fine print. Even when some form of coverage includes the operating system, it means they will return the computer to the factory settings.

That means the stuff you really care about — your programs, data files, browser settings, printer drivers and desktop icons — are all going to be wiped out.

When you get your computer back from this type of “warranty” service, the burden of reloading your programs, restoring your data files (hopefully you had them backed up), reinstalling printer drivers and getting the computer to work the way it used to, is all on you.

Warranty service can also…

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