Seagate Promises Five-Year Warranty

Two years ago, Seagate, Maxtor and Western Digital cut their standard hard-drive warranties to one year from three years. Maxtor continues to offer a one-year or a three-year warranty, depending on brand, while Western Digital's warranties can be extended from one to two years for $14.95.

System builders such as Andy Kretzer, director of sales and marketing at Bold Data Technology, Fremont, Calif., said Maxtor and Western Digital's shorter warranties make it difficult to manage white-box system warranties and replacements.

Systems builders say that one-year warranties complicate their sales.

"It's nice to see someone firing a shot across the bow [of the other vendors] and [standing] behind their products," Kretzer said.

"Tier-one vendors have been reducing their standard three-year warranties on desktops to one year, and [are] selling optional extended warranties. We still offer three years on our desktops and servers. So we had to figure out our failure rate, and set aside funds for replacements," he said. "It's been difficult, especially since hard drives are the only moving part in the system. Eventually, they have to fail."

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Seagate's warranty change was spurred by the vendor's system-builder partners, said Joe Cousins, senior director of global channel marketing at the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based vendor.

"From white-box makers, it was clear that a one-year warranty did not meet their needs," Cousins said. "We are making a statement about our quality and reliability."

The new warranty applies retroactively to all drives shipped to distributors since June 1 to make a clear transition from the previous warranty, Cousins said. White-box builders can check with their distributors on warranty status.

Cousins would not discuss the defect rate of Seagate hard drives, other than to say that there is typically no defect on about 40 percent of drives returned to the vendor. To help cut costly returns, Seagate provides its channel partners with SeaTools, a software utility that identifies system problems and can determine whether or not a hard drive is faulty.

Maxtor and Western Digital officials declined to comment on Seagate's warranty move, except to point reporters to their own warranty policies. A Maxtor spokesperson did note that Seagate's five-year warranty offers a decreasing credit each year based on drive depreciation.