About 4 years ago, when I was still in college, I purchased my last laptop. It’s a Dell Inspiron 4100, loaded with 512MB of aftermarket RAM from Crucial, because at the time Dell charged an arm and a leg for RAM upgrades. It served me well until a little more than a year ago, just as the three-year warranty was failing. Before the warranty expired, the hard drive on it started dying, and Dell replaced it for free. About one month after the warranty expired, one of the two hinge assemblies snapped, making it nearly impossible to open/close the lid of the laptop, although everything else worked fine. I replaced the hinge myself for about $20 and 2-3 hours of my time, given that replacing the hinge involved taking a large portion of the computer apart.
Eventually, I abandoned the laptop when I got a hand-me-down Acer C100 Tablet PC from work. It had roughly the same specs, but had a smaller screen (12.1″) and was lighter. Eventually, that laptop died during a BIOS flash-gone-wrong, but I got another hand-me-down – a Toshiba Portege 3500 Tablet PC – a few weeks later.
Now, I’m losing my hand-me-down tablet, and I’m looking at resurrecting the old Dell. Windows won’t boot – it bluescreens at startup complaining that the BIOS is not ACPI compliant. (That’s funny, it’s been ACPI complaint for the past few years!) I’d initially suspect hard drive corruption, but the drive is relatively new given it was replaced a bit more than a year ago. The next suspect was the RAM. I booted up a Memtest86+ CD, and sure enough, one of the DIMMs was spewing errors.
I unplugged the laptop, removed the battery, opened the case up, removed one bank of RAM. After powering it back on, and it wouldn’t boot – or even POST. Hmmm, I bet the remaining RAM is in bank 2 instead of bank 1. I swapped the remaining RAM into the other bank, and try again. Success! Windows still bluescreens, but Memtest86+ has been running for 30 minutes straight without any more errors. The bad news is that I’ve now got 64MB RAM instead of 576MB.
I’ve been a loyal Crucial customer for years, and never had trouble with any RAM from them. It was time to see if they’d honor their lifetime warranty. I called them up, spoke to Brian in the returns department, and explained my story. Brian already knew my name and order history based on the CallerID from my phone. I gave him the serial number from the DIMM, and he was able to retrieve the order # from when I purchased it years ago. They’re happy to honor the lifetime warranty, and they transferred me to customer service to get an RMA number. After about 15 minutes on hold (I guess Saturday mornings are busy for them!), John gave me my RMA number – without me needing to repeat my name, purpose of calling, or anything else that usually ticks me off when dealing with phone support. They’re cross-shipping the replacement RAM to me, and aside from about 15 minutes on hold, the process was completely painless.
Crucial probably lost money on this order by having to send me a replacement 4 years later, but they just bought themselves a very happy customer.