Last year I purchased a used Dell XPS M170 laptop on eBay. I checked with Dell before bidding to ensure that the warranty was still valid and that the system had not been reported stolen. I was told the extended warranty was transferable to me. Soon after I received the laptop, Dell replaced the power brick for me. Today I requested replacement of the cooling fan, but the representative I spoke to said he couldn't help until a hold on the account was resolved. Dell had placed a hold on all computers handled by a service technician who had requested replacements for laptops and then sold the laptops instead of returning them to Dell. My XPS was one of those, so Dell now refuses to honor my warranty. Can you help?
Joe Hightower, Burien, Washington
OYS responds: After we contacted Dell about Hightower's problem, the company got in touch with him directly. A couple of days later, a representative informed Hightower that Dell had decided to lift the hold on his PC-reactivating the rest of its warranty-and to reimburse him for the cooling fan he had bought.
Purchasing used equipment from an individual seller, whether on eBay, Craigslist, or another online marketplace, is risky. To avoid a warranty dispute, we recommend doing as Hightower did: Get the product's serial number from the seller before buying or bidding, and check with the manufacturer to verify that the item was purchased legitimately and that the company will support the product.
Even so, something could still go wrong. We recommend being persistent with your computer's manufacturer, as Hightower was, until you get exactly what you need out of the warranty.
See also last month's On Your Side for more on warranties.
Irksome Installation Disc
Bill Cain of Newberry Springs, California, contacted us when he bought the Magix Movie Edit Pro 15 Plus video editing software and couldn't get the installation disc to work. Unable to open or view any files, he e-mailed Magix. Unfortunately, the company didn't respond, even though he e-mailed it multiple times.
After we contacted Magix about this issue, a representative sent Cain an install disc that he had tested personally. According to Cain, the program loaded and runs as expected. If you're having trouble getting a company's customer support to respond to your e-mail messages, try calling directly. If the company doesn't list a phone number on its site, look for its listing on the Better Business Bureau's roster. Usually you can find a general company number listed.
Sony AC Adapter Recall
Sony, in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, recalled about 69,000 VAIO computer AC adapters (model VGP-AC19V17) that were supplied with certain VAIO all-in-one computers and docking stations. Insulation inside the adapter can fail over time, posing an electrical-shock hazard. Though Sony has received four reports of adapters short-circuiting, no injuries have been reported.
Consumers should turn off their computer, unplug it, and stop using the recalled AC adapter immediately; they should also contact Sony to order a free replacement adapter. For more information, call Sony toll-free at 877/361-4481 or browse to Sony's site.