Make the Most of the Genius Bar

If you work your way through the quick fixes and my other troubleshooting suggestions without success, you'll exhaust your patience. This can easily happen if your Mac's problem lies with its hardware--in most cases, you can't do those repairs yourself. More rarely, you might have a software problem that you can't figure out, despite your best efforts. In either case, the time has arrived for a trip to the Genius Bar. Here are a few suggestions for getting good results:

1. Bring Apple problems to Apple

Not surprisingly, the Genius Bar is best suited for problems with Apple products. Geniuses are less likely to help--and may even refuse to do so--with problems involving third-party hardware and software. If you know your problem is with Adobe Photoshop or a Canon printer, for example, you're usually better off contacting the makers of those products than dealing with the Genius Bar. If in doubt (perhaps the problem is with Apple's printing software rather than the Canon printer), you can always let the Genius sort out whom to ask for help.

2. Make an appointment

Don't drop in at an Apple Store unannounced. The Genius Bar is incredibly popular. Just show up and you'll likely have to wait several hours before your name is called. If you arrive on the late side, you probably won't even have the option to wait--there won't be any more time slots open for that day.

You'll be much better off if you make an appointment for your Genius Bar visit via Apple's Web site. Arrive a few minutes early and check in with the concierge. In most cases, the Genius Bar will call you up within minutes of your appointed time.

3. Check your warranty

Apple products generally come with a one-year warranty. If you purchase AppleCare, that extends it for another two years. For a product that's still under warranty, there's a good chance that Apple won't charge you for repair or replacement. Occasionally, it may offer a free repair or replacement even if the warranty has expired. It can't hurt to bring in your hardware and check things out.

If you expect to be paying for any repairs, you may face some difficult decisions. Many repairs cost almost as much as a replacement. Would you rather spend US$800 to fix your three-year-old MacBook or get a new one for $1,000? Ideally, give this possibility some thought before your visit.

4. Bring in the hardware

If possible, have on hand all the hardware required to demonstrate your problem. For example, if you are having a problem getting your MacBook to connect wirelessly to your AirPort Base Station, bring both the laptop and the AirPort. If this isn't practical, at least have the model names and serial numbers of the additional products. And of course bring your Mac with you.

5. Be ready to leave everything there

If it turns out that your Mac needs a repair and you give the go-ahead, you'll probably have to leave your Mac with Apple. Don't even make an appointment for the Genius Bar until you know you can do without your computer for a few days. And since there's always a chance that you'll lose data on your hard drive, back up the drive before you take off for the store.

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