On Your Side: Complications With a Netbook Return

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I bought an Asus Eee PC Seashell series netbook from Newegg.com. When it arrived, its battery would not hold a charge--and because an internal fan would not come on, the unit overheated. I had not dropped it or mistreated it in any way, so I promptly requested, and got, a Return Merchandise Authorization to have it replaced. I had the unit all packed up and ready to drop off the next day to ship back to Newegg. That night, however, my apartment was broken into and the netbook was stolen. Because the netbook had arrived nonfunctional, I asked Newegg to either refund my money or replace the unit, but they refused. Can you help?

Jen Hawkins, Peoria, Illinois

OYS responds: After we contacted Newegg about Hawkins's issue, a representative found that the company had a record of the RMA for her netbook. Once Hawkins sent Newegg a copy of the police report regarding the theft, the company issued her a $300 gift card.

A laptop's or netbook's convenient size and portability make it easy to steal. You can take a number of steps, however, to protect your PC and data. A veteran San Francisco police officer and the Newegg representative offered the following tips.

When you're on the go, be aware of your surroundings. Don't let your laptop out of your sight in public places such as cafés, conferences, airports, and libraries. Cars are not safe places to keep valuables, even if you put them in the trunk.

At home, if you have a laptop that you were planning on giving away or recycling, keep it out in the open while hiding the good one. A thief will grab the obvious laptop. Some creative laptop hiding places include under a sofa and inside a manila envelope set vertically on a bookshelf. If you prefer to keep your PC easily accessible, use a laptop lock, which is essentially a padlock designed for notebooks.

Password-protect the operating system to make the laptop harder to access if it is lost or stolen. Also, to reduce the risk of a data breach or identity theft, encrypt files and folders containing sensitive information, or use an encrypted hard drive, which is more secure than a standard hard disk. A fully encrypted disk features built-in hardware encryption; to get in and use the files, the user must enable a drive-specific password. If thieves attempt to bypass that protection, all they'll see is unreadable, encrypted data.

Finally, consider installing computer-tracing software, such as Lojack for Laptops. The utility works by periodically connecting to the Internet; if a laptop is reported stolen, the computer sends its location to a recovery service, which then alerts local law enforcement.

Milestone TV Mount Recall

Milestone AV Technologies, in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, has recalled about 131,000 flat-screen television wall mounts (the Sanus VisionMount model LF228-B1 and the Simplicity model SLF2). Since the elbow joint components on the wall mount's arm don't fit together properly, the attached TV can tilt and fall when someone adjusts the TV. Consumers should immediately inspect the wall mount and contact Milestone for a free replacement wall mount arm; see inspection instructions at Milestone's Website. For more information, call Milestone toll-free at 877/894-6280.

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