Love the iMac, but mine's a lemon - advice on asking for replacement?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by anemone, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. anemone macrumors member

    Jun 5, 2007
    I love the iMac, so this will not be an Apple-bashing thread. I switched from a PC the week that the aluminum iMacs came out, and I love almost everything about it. I don't ever plan to go back to a PC.

    That said, this particular iMac that I bought seems to be a lemon. Apple has probably already spent more on repairs to this 10-month old computer than I paid for it, but it is still not fully functional, and I plan to call and insist on a replacement. Here's the history.

    Early Aug. 07: I bring home my new aluminum iMac, two days after release of this model.

    Sept. '07: the hard drive dies in my one month old iMac. Time to repair--two weeks at the very busy Apple Store closest to me. Ugh. Shortly after I get my computer back, I decide to buy AppleCare, seeing this as a bad omen.

    (Mac experience goes smoothly for 8+ months, including the Leopard upgrade)

    June 25, '08: The machine comes out out of sleep mode in the morning with nothing but a gray screen. None of the usual troubleshooting boot options produce a different result. I try booting to my Leopard disc and not only does it not work, but my disc will not eject under any circumstances. AppleCare isn't able to help by phone , so I get a genius bar appt. at the Apple Store that afternoon. I decide to buy ProCare, since I can't afford to be w/o my main business computer for 2 weeks again (didn't know about ProCare last time). The geniuses suspect the logic board, since they can't even get their firewire drive to come up. They eliminate the RAM as the source of the problem.

    June 26: The Apple genius calls to say they replaced the logic board, but the problem was not resolved. They discovered that disconnecting the optical drive allowed the computer to boot, so they replaced the optical drive, but the problem still existed, so that meant they narrowed the problem down to the power cable to the optical drive. They didn't have one in stock so it was ordered.

    June 28: The part comes in, they install it right away, I get my computer back exactly 3 days after I drop it off with a new logic board, optical drive and cable. It boots fine when I get home. However, given the optical drive issues, I decide to burn a few CDs I've been meaning to burn to make sure all is well. Disc 1 burns OK, Disc 2 gets about half way through the burning process, and the screen goes black and the computer turns off completely. It boots normally when I turn it on again. I try to burn the CD again and the same thing happens, only shortly after the burn starts this time. Later, I try to install some software from a CD-ROM, and get another shutdown in the middle of the install. So, I have a functional computer, but a mostly non-functional optical drive.

    June 29: I call AppleCare again to describe the new issue. Since I am still able to do my work on the computer in its current state, we schedule a technician to come to my house to fix the problem this time so I don't have to give my iMac up to the Apple geniuses again and lose more work time. A new optical drive, cable, etc. are ordered for the house visit.

    July 1: A very nice technician who really seemed to know his stuff comes to work on the computer. I easily duplicate the problem of shut downs during a CD burn. The technician replaces all the parts that were ordered for my machine, we boot it up and try a CD burn...we get about 3/4 of the way through the burn and my computer shuts down again. Identical problem. Furthermore, the technician is unable to run his diagnostics disc from my optical drive.

    Okay, so now I have had three major repairs, and my computer is still not fully functional. I asked the technician if this is usually the point at which a replacement may be offered, since I'd read something here about 3 major repairs being the usual policy and he confirms that it is likely I would be able to get a replacement, depending on who I talk to. He thought that the next step, if this machine were to have further repairs, would be to replace the logic board again and also the video card, but that it was up to me and AppleCare to decide what came next.


    I have a bunch of questions related to replacement machines, assuming that I am able to convince them that that is what they need to do.

    1. Any tips or key words/phrases to use to get the Applecare rep to escalate this to someone authorized to offer a replacement?

    2. For those here who have been offered a replacement, and if so, how did things transpire and how long did it take? Do they ship a replacement to your home, have you go to the Apple Store, or what? Is it easy to transfer the AppleCare to the new computer?

    3. Do they usually send refurbs or new machines when replacement is authorized? Are they likely to give you the current version of iMac at the price point you paid, or do they try to match the original specs as closely as possible? The specs on mine lie between the current $1199 (processor speed and RAM match) and $1499 models (HD size and graphics card match). The machine I have is the standard spec 2.4 Ghz 20" aluminum iMac with 320 GB hard drive and 1 GB of RAM that was the $1499 model when I bought it in Aug 07. I have an extra stick of RAM that I would, of course, remove if I had to send this one back.

    Does that mean they are likely to replace it with the current standard $1499 model with 2.66 Ghz, or would they give me the current low end $20" model, but customize it to bring it up to the specs I had?

    4. Any chance they would allow me to do an UPGRADE on the replacement to the low end 24" iMac if I paid them the $300 difference? That extra screen real estate sure would be nice, especially since I'm considering getting a TV tuner and we do not currently have any HDTV's in the house.

    5. My final question is, how smooth is the process of using a Time Machine backup to transfer all my old files, applications, and settings to a new computer? I know Leopard and Time Machine are relatively new, but I'm hoping that some forum members have had the occasion to try this already. I would make sure my Time Machine backup did not exclude any files or applications that I needed, and I would also do a clone of my hard drive to my extra partition on the external drive, just in case. Will applications install fine from a Time Machine backup, or is it better to install them on the new machine myself (e.g. Photoshop Elements, iWork).

    Thanks in advance for any help or advice.
  2. anemone thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 5, 2007
    oops, forgot one question

    6. Assuming I will send/ give back to Apple my current lemon machine, what do I need to do to it to securely wipe all the files and data from it? An OS clean install?
  3. Avenger23 macrumors regular


    Dec 28, 2001
    Clovis, NM
    Here's my tips on getting a replacement computer through AppleCare... I had my original MBP replaced a year ago after many problems.

    1. Be firm with the AppleCare rep on the phone, make sure you relay every problem with the computer and that technicians have been unable to fix the computer, especially the home visit that did not resolve the problem. I would also make sure that your AppleCare/ProCare warranty is there in your file while on the phone. I'm sure once the rep looks through your entire file you should be transferred to the replacement department.

    2. Mine took about 2 weeks for the whole replacement transfer to be completed. You first have to send in your machine to Apple before they will ship the replacement computer. Make sure to document all the shipping documents/ID numbers that you'll receive from the Apple replacement rep and the documents you'll receive through email. I also recommend going onto FedEx or DHL and making a copy of the signature slip for the computer once they receive it for verification.

    3. They will send you a new machine not a refurbished computer that closely matches your specifications of your machine. If you had your computer custom configured when you ordered it make sure that the specs of the new computer at least match what you have. I had to stress this because I had custom configured my original MBP with the 256MB video card and the replacement they were going to give me only had the 128MB video card.

    4. You would have to talk to the replacement rep on if they would allow you to pay the difference on a upgrade. I do not know the answer to that one.

    5. The Time Machine backup restore works excellent. I had to use this when my wife's MacBook started locking up for some reason. Make sure you do a full backup of your files using the utility. I'd also recommend making a separate copy of your "highly sensitive, can't lose" files in another folder on your backup device in case for some reason the Time Machine backup doesn't work. So far I haven't had a problem with it on repairing Macs. When you get your new machine, during the initial setup it will ask you if you want to restore the computer using a Time Machine backup. Make sure you have your backup device plugged in and select the backup file. If it doesn't show for some reason, use your installer DVD that comes with the computer and do a clean install, it will ask once it completes the install and starts the setup sequence if you want to do the Time Machine backup.
    All of the applications worked fine without any problems using the backup here. If you see a problem, you can always reinstall them using your discs.

    6. I would recommend using Disk Utility to format the drive or running a clean install on your iMac before sending it back to Apple.

    I hope this will maybe help you out there with getting a replacement computer. I understand all your frustrations on having a computer that doesn't work.
  4. anemone thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 5, 2007
    Thanks, Avenger23.

    That all sounds good except for the part about having to ship my computer back before getting the new one. Hmm...maybe they would ship the new one in advance if I gave a cc number that they could charge if I didn't return the old machine...At this point if I have to spend another work day using my slow as molasses 5-year old Dell PC I'll probably go insane.
  5. agentphish macrumors 65816


    Sep 7, 2004
    as far as I know they have a strict policy on no cross-shipping on replacements.

    My parent's 24" was replaced twice before apple owned up to the video issues with the ATI 2600HD cards and I helped to get them fixed. (can't go into detail on that, but know that I did)

    Sometimes they will allow you to go to the store and do the swap as well, so check and see if that option is in the cards. I think if you make it abundantly clear that you use this machine daily, and have already been put out by the current situation, and that a 1-2 week turnaround on a new machine is simply unacceptable, they will let you do an exchange at the store level.

    Make a time machine backup, that should be fine, but I agree with backing up the "can't lose" files in a secondary location.

    As far as a secure wipe, you can boot from your restore disc (provided the CD drive will boot to them) and run a 7 pass secure format where it writes 0's across the entire drive 7 times. This is an NSA/DOD standard hard disk wipe.

    If you can not boot from that drive, I'm not sure what a good course of action is. Maybe someone else can chime in here.
  6. anemone thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 5, 2007
    Thanks for the additional info, agentfish. A store swap would work for me (the closest store is < 10 miles away). I will try to push for that option.

    I didn't even think about the possibility of not being able to boot from a disc to wipe the drive, but it seems pretty likely I won't be able to, given the behavior of that drive since it was replaced. Well, I will remove what I can when the time comes, even if it's not a secure wipe, and I'll ask the AppleCare person for advice on that front.
  7. Avenger23 macrumors regular


    Dec 28, 2001
    Clovis, NM
    If you can't boot the computer off the install disc for some reason. I would at least remove all your files and programs off the computer using the Secure Empty Trash option in the File menu of the Finder. Also, I would clear out your password on the user account that's on the machine.
  8. agentphish macrumors 65816


    Sep 7, 2004
    You can def. perform the secure empty trash.

    When my parents had their machine swapped at the store, my dad told them he wanted proof of a secure wipe. He dropped the machine at 9am, they booted the machine to a disk, went into Disk Utility and he saw them choose the secure 7-pass mode. He came back in the evening (a 7 pass wipe takes a LONG time) and they showed him the machine on with nothing but a NO symbol (circle w/ a line through it, like ghostbusters) on the screen.

    That was good enough proof for him that the wipe was secure. There's nothing saying that they didn't just stop the secure wipe after he left, but i want to believe that they didn't.

    Just be firm, and remind them that for all your troubles it's really the least they can do for you.
  9. patrickmacrumor macrumors regular

    Jun 24, 2008
    Like others have said, be firm. I would also add that you ask to speak to a product specialist right away. Product specialists are the ones who have the authority to say yes or no when it comes to replacing a computer.

    My MacBook had an LCD, inverter (2nd time), and a logic board replaced, but they could still not fix a flickering issue.

    Now, there have been cases (mine included) where the replacement, although new, came with some sort of problem. I don't want to scare you. It happened to me. If this happens to you, call them right away. Your chances of them replacing it again is higher within the first 14 days. After the first 14 days, they could ask you to bring it to an Apple Store or a repair centre. Again, ask to speak to a product specialist right away.

    My first replacement had a bad trackpad button. The customer service representative wanted me to reset the PRAM. I told him it was a physical problem as the button was not making any clicking sound although the machine was accepting the click. He still wanted me to reset the PRAM. At this point, I said: "You are wasting my time." I called again and aske for a product specialist right away, and he told me I was right: the problem had nothing to do with the PRAM.

    My second replacement had a bad keyboard, especially a bad P key. When typing, I could feel a delay between what I was typing and what was appearing on the screen. The P key had to be pressed twice before being acknowledged. I told the product specialist: "My first name starts with a P, my last name has a P, and my banking institution has a P in its name, do you realize how many P's I have to type in a day?"

    The third replacement is what I'm currently using now. It's been close to a month now. The only good thing I got out of all this was they upgraded me to one model up the base MacBook model. I did not have to ask for this.

    Good Luck! I sincerely hope you get a good working computer this time. I know how frustrating this kind of problem can be. I am well placed to know it.
  10. ashjamben macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2007
    Shanghai, China
    they always like a PRAM reset applecare, no matter what the problem. "the harddrive has caught fire due to overheat".. "ok sir, if you could just restart the computer and when its boots back up press the...." :p

    just thought i'd mention, i remember reading a story from another macrumors user who insisted they sent the replacement before he sent his machine in, so he could send files over from his old mac. good luck if you want to try and find the exact thread.
  11. patrickmacrumor macrumors regular

    Jun 24, 2008
    :D Yes, he was telling me that he still had to do a PRAM reset. After my first few calls, I always do a reset on my own before calling and tell them: "Before you ask me to, please note that I have already did a PRAM reset."
  12. Avenger23 macrumors regular


    Dec 28, 2001
    Clovis, NM
    What's sad about the whole PRAM reset issue is that they tell that to everybody including certified Apple repair technicians. I used to hate calling AppleCare on repairs when I worked as a Mac computer technician for the local school district, that was the first words out of their mouth after getting all the name and address info they ask at the start.
  13. patrickmacrumor macrumors regular

    Jun 24, 2008
    I think PRAM reset is the equivalent of "Have you tried rebooting your computer first?" of the Windows world. Thank God, it's not the same when it come to cars. Could you imagine?

    Owner: My car has a weird noise when I brake.
    Car manufacturer : Turn off the engine, disconnect the fuel hose, turn the ignition key, and wait for five seconds.
    Owner: Done.
    Car manufacturer : Now reconnect the fuel hose. Start the engine. Is the problem gone now?
    Owner: No.
    Car manufacturer : Take it to an authorized service provier.

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