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Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: cyclemax
Date: September 09, 2007 10:17PM
I purchased a 17" 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo iMac refurb from the online Apple Store 2 weeks ago. I had it all set up and it was working beautifully until a few days ago. I just received the EyeTV 250 refurb I bought from OWC. I was trying to install the software and the optical drive would not read the CD. It would spin and grumble for 30-40 seconds then spit it out with no explanation as to why. At first I thought the CD was defective, so I tried it in my Sawtooth G4 Tower (upgraded to 1.5 GHz) and it was fine. I tried a few different CDs, and the iMac would read some but not others. I took it into my local Apple Store today ( which was packed) , and they are going to replace the optical drive. The guy who checked it out apologized several times for my receiving a defective machine. He said I could call Apple Care and ask them to send me another Refurb since I had this one for such a short time, or they could replace the drive. I decided to have them replace the drive, because the iMac was in perfect condition, looked brand new and otherwise worked great. I may not be so lucky the next time. Anyway, they don't have the drive in stock (should get it Tuesday). He said normal turnaround is 3-5 days. Bummer, but I have no problem with using my trusty G4 until I get the iMac back.
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: lafinfil
Date: September 09, 2007 10:22PM
Obligatory "Refurb Leader !"

Is it my imagination, or does it seem that there have been a lot of problems with the recent optical drives ?

Hopefully 2nd time will be a charm

: -)



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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: BigGuynRusty
Date: September 09, 2007 10:32PM
Quote
lafinfil
Is it my imagination, or does it seem that there have been a lot of problems with the recent optical drives ?

If it is an "OptiArc" I can almost guarantee it is "JunkaLicious"!
POS NEC and Sony craptacular concoction.

BGnR



"Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto! You're beautiful!"
"If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster."
"Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky."
"A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans."
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: Jem
Date: September 10, 2007 08:37AM
Situations similar to yours are the one significant reason I think twice about recommending a refurb for some folks.

Refurbs can be a crap shoot, since you don't know *why* it was returned (or even if it was ever sold to begin with) and more to the point, what was fixed or addressed to make it "like new" again.

Intermittant failures like the one you experienced with the optical drive are almost always likely to slip through on the re-evaulation (refurbishment?) process back at the mothership, whereas a blown power supply would not since it is an obvious problem with an obvious solution.

I seriously wonder how much time is spent on each "refurbed" machine before it "passes" and is put back up for sale. I have had several refurb machines over the years that have arrived with subtle but significant hardware problems that crop up eventually. If they are discovered BEFORE Applecare runs out, they are usually fixed after jumping through the requisites hoops and investing a not insignificant amount of time narrowing down the problem to "hardware only". What bothers me most is that depending on how you use your Mac, you mght not discover these problems (or recognize them) until AFTER Applecare expires.

1. More than a year after buying my current MDD, I discovered the "audio in" port was fried... but not until I needed to use it with some audio recording software. That was the only "minor" problem I had with the machine, but since the port had been unused by me until that point it made me wonder if that was why it had been "sent back" originally and if in fact any attempt had been made to identify and fix the problem. By the time I detected the problem, I was facing a motherboard repair on my dime, or buying a USB device for audio input. I obviously went the USB device route.

2. A client ordered a refurb PowerBook G4 (800Mhz) and was very happy with it for almost 2 years before deciding to buy an external FW drive for backup an storage. Only to find that the FW port on her otherwise perfectly good laptop didn't work. Oops. Again, port hadn't been used until then.

3. Another client purchased an 800Mhz iMac G4 17" refurb. It came with factory installed 256MB of RAM which worked fine until they wanted to upgrade to Tiger and the new iLife. When it came time to add memory to the user installable SO-DIMM slot, they discoved that ANY memory added to that slot (and three different sticks were tried) caused the machine to become unstable and crash. Again, no problem *until* something about the stock configuration was changed, making the latent problem apparent.

Now, I'm not saying these same problems can't happen with NEW machines too. They can and do.

My point is that refurbs are more likely to have at some point had some problem, that resulted in them being returned. Whether that problem was *actually* detected and corrected by the technicians back at Apple, in my mind, is still a big question mark. How much time does a tech spend chasing down a "phantom" problem before slapping a refurb sticker on it and putting it back on the shelf? I don't know, but my anecdotal experience suggests that it is not rare that something slips through.

Now if it is *detected* within the AppleCare period, it is an annoyance, but it is usually fixed by Apple. Otherwise, if it slips beyond a year before being detected it is both an annoyance AND can be an expensive problem.

Maybe the solution is to buy the refurb, but ALWAYS buy the extended warranty? But if that is the case, it kind of minimizes the bargain of getting a refurn Mac... especially if you don't get the most current software packages with the refurb.

Now when I purchase a refurb for myself or someone else I check *every* port and feature I can think of before it goes into regular service. Even then there are parts that aren't practical to check (bad ram slots, etc.).

So to summarize, I guess my current approach to Apple refurbs is "trust but verify."

They can be a good source of a deal on a "new-toyou" mac, but keep in mind that they were 'refurbed" for a reason, and there is a good chance that depending on the nature of the problem, your deal may come accompanied with a little "surprise" down the road if the Apple techs didn't catch it before sending it along to you. Caveat Emptor.

It would be nice if each refrb came with some "provenance" documenting why it was refurbed and what, if anything was fixed. But that would shatter the illusion that these are truly "like new" so I don't expect to ever see it happen.
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: AAA
Date: September 10, 2007 08:46AM
Well, I have a few/lot of refurbs. One badbadbad apple..but got a replacement NEW on (better/newer) on Friday. Not bad for $299!

And, keep in mind you can still get AppleCare, too.
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: BigGuynRusty
Date: September 10, 2007 09:21AM
Quote
Jem
Situations similar to yours are the one significant reason I think twice about recommending a refurb for some folks.

Refurbs can be a crap shoot, since you don't know *why* it was returned (or even if it was ever sold to begin with) and more to the point, what was fixed or addressed to make it "like new" again.

Intermittant failures like the one you experienced with the optical drive are almost always likely to slip through on the re-evaulation (refurbishment?) process back at the mothership, whereas a blown power supply would not since it is an obvious problem with an obvious solution.

I seriously wonder how much time is spent on each "refurbed" machine before it "passes" and is put back up for sale. I have had several refurb machines over the years that have arrived with subtle but significant hardware problems that crop up eventually. If they are discovered BEFORE Applecare runs out, they are usually fixed after jumping through the requisites hoops and investing a not insignificant amount of time narrowing down the problem to "hardware only". What bothers me most is that depending on how you use your Mac, you mght not discover these problems (or recognize them) until AFTER Applecare expires.

1. More than a year after buying my current MDD, I discovered the "audio in" port was fried... but not until I needed to use it with some audio recording software. That was the only "minor" problem I had with the machine, but since the port had been unused by me until that point it made me wonder if that was why it had been "sent back" originally and if in fact any attempt had been made to identify and fix the problem. By the time I detected the problem, I was facing a motherboard repair on my dime, or buying a USB device for audio input. I obviously went the USB device route.

2. A client ordered a refurb PowerBook G4 (800Mhz) and was very happy with it for almost 2 years before deciding to buy an external FW drive for backup an storage. Only to find that the FW port on her otherwise perfectly good laptop didn't work. Oops. Again, port hadn't been used until then.

3. Another client purchased an 800Mhz iMac G4 17" refurb. It came with factory installed 256MB of RAM which worked fine until they wanted to upgrade to Tiger and the new iLife. When it came time to add memory to the user installable SO-DIMM slot, they discoved that ANY memory added to that slot (and three different sticks were tried) caused the machine to become unstable and crash. Again, no problem *until* something about the stock configuration was changed, making the latent problem apparent.

Now, I'm not saying these same problems can't happen with NEW machines too. They can and do.

My point is that refurbs are more likely to have at some point had some problem, that resulted in them being returned. Whether that problem was *actually* detected and corrected by the technicians back at Apple, in my mind, is still a big question mark. How much time does a tech spend chasing down a "phantom" problem before slapping a refurb sticker on it and putting it back on the shelf? I don't know, but my anecdotal experience suggests that it is not rare that something slips through.

Now if it is *detected* within the AppleCare period, it is an annoyance, but it is usually fixed by Apple. Otherwise, if it slips beyond a year before being detected it is both an annoyance AND can be an expensive problem.

Maybe the solution is to buy the refurb, but ALWAYS buy the extended warranty? But if that is the case, it kind of minimizes the bargain of getting a refurn Mac... especially if you don't get the most current software packages with the refurb.

Now when I purchase a refurb for myself or someone else I check *every* port and feature I can think of before it goes into regular service. Even then there are parts that aren't practical to check (bad ram slots, etc.).

So to summarize, I guess my current approach to Apple refurbs is "trust but verify."

They can be a good source of a deal on a "new-toyou" mac, but keep in mind that they were 'refurbed" for a reason, and there is a good chance that depending on the nature of the problem, your deal may come accompanied with a little "surprise" down the road if the Apple techs didn't catch it before sending it along to you. Caveat Emptor.

It would be nice if each refrb came with some "provenance" documenting why it was refurbed and what, if anything was fixed. But that would shatter the illusion that these are truly "like new" so I don't expect to ever see it happen.

I've have had better luck with refurbs.
Having purchased literally thousands of Macs over the last 23 years I find that refurbs have a better track record.
Also, if you buy a "refurb" after a big Apple show the refurbs are actually display models, that can't be sold as new.
The "Refurb" process is quite thorough, they go through the same check out process as production Macs.

BGnR



"Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto! You're beautiful!"
"If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster."
"Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky."
"A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans."
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: Jem
Date: September 10, 2007 10:17AM
Quote
BigGuynRusty
Also, if you buy a "refurb" after a big Apple show the refurbs are actually display models, that can't be sold as new.
The "Refurb" process is quite thorough, they go through the same check out process as production Macs.

BGnR

That's a good thought. And I suspect a fair number of the refurbs have *nothing* wrong with them to begin with, so a second check is actually one more check than the "new ones" get. That's what I hope for at least...

The types of problems I have come across lead me to believe they might not be easily detected in a quick standardized software based diagnostic check. I don't know if Apple actually plugs devices into each and every port to test them out... but I suspect that unless they have a specific reason to do so, they probably do not.

Since the number of MAJOR hardware failures I've seen with refurbs have been on par, or slightly lower than new Macs, I can only conclude that they do a pretty thorough job of weeding out the glaring problems in the refurb process.

But the minor, or less obvious defects do occasionally slip through. And by their very nature, these concealed (though not by intent) flaws may take a while for the "refurb" buyer to detect once the Mac is setup and put into use.

My experience has led to a healthy skepticism of refurbs on arrival. They get a stem to stern examination at the outset, and I watch them closely for anything out of the ordinary in the first few months. This leads to greater peace of mind, and and improved likelihood that any problem that crops up can be addressed under the original AppleCare warranty.

When I encounter a problem with a "new" mac, it is rarely a minor one like a bad port, but is usually a big one like a bad power supply, motherboard, CPU or GPU. Maybe I've been "lucky" though in that regard in that the problems have been so obvious :}
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: ADent
Date: September 10, 2007 04:48PM
I had a bad CRT monitor - it would work fine for about an hour then it would snap and the screen would shake every so often. I made sure I put a sticky on the monitor itself - so if the technician doing the refurb saw it he would have an idea what to look for (if he cared) - otherwise how would any tech know.

I try to do that anytime I return something or send it in for repairs, esp if a non-obvious problem.
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: cyclemax
Date: September 10, 2007 06:13PM
Fortunately, I did not have to jump through many hoops to get this problem resolved. I called Apple Care, explained the problem I was having with the optical drive and after trying to sell me extended Apple Care and restarting in Safe Mode, she agreed that I had a bad drive. I scheduled an appointment at the Genius Bar, took in my iMac and of course, the first time I put in the disk in question, it mounted, albeit slowly. The second time it did not, and booting in Netboot gave the same result. I spent maybe 10 minutes on the phone, and 20-30 minutes at the Genius Bar. Not too bad. The guy at the Genius Bar said the intermittent nature of the problem was probably the reason it made it through the refurb process.
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: Jem
Date: September 10, 2007 06:24PM
Quote
cyclemax
The guy at the Genius Bar said the intermittent nature of the problem was probably the reason it made it through the refurb process.

That's sort of what I expected. As long as they understand that when you bring it in, and don't hassle you much it's not a problem, as in your case. I guess it is easier making the case in person. Over the phone it can be a challenge some times.

Glad it worked out well for you.
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Re: Got My "New" iMac Refurb
Posted by: JoeBob
Date: September 10, 2007 08:37PM
Refurb leader!

(mental note to self, go check the ports and optical drive on the new/refurb mini).
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