Buying Apple Hardware - General Information

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Sources for new Macs

There are four main sources for new Apple computers:

  • online store (or the equivalent in a number of countries)
  • Apple Stores (Apple owned physical locations, in a limited number of countries)
  • Independent Authorized Apple resellers (local retail locations, some but not all of which are also authorized service centres)
  • Authorized online sellers (Amazon, MacMall, others)

In some countries, Apple sales are handled through an independent Country Distributor or wholesaler, and policies and service levels can vary from good to terrible.

Configuring your Mac

In general, the safest course is to order a stock Apple configuration, and then add RAM (and/or hard drive) upgrades later with third-party parts. Apple offers Configure to Order (CTO) options, but the cost of upgrades is high, delivery time can be longer, and you lose the ability to return the purchase for refund if there is a problem. In particular, Apple's pricing for RAM and hard drive upgrades is very high. This is good for Apple shareholders, not so much for you. Plan on buying RAM and/or hard drives from a reputable third party seller.

When your machine arrives, run it in its stock condition for at least a day before you add any hardware. If there is an out of box failure, it is much easier to deal with if you have not already modified the machine.


You have the full Apple one year warranty and 90 day phone support on an Apple product purchased from any authorized seller. However, the policies for return, sales and shipping can vary with the seller. You can check with Apple to verify whether a seller is authorized, by calling them or going to the Apple website and choosing "Where to buy".

You can extend the warranty by two extra years by purchasing AppleCare coverage for your machine. AppleCare can be purchased any time within the first year. AppleCare is not in effect until it is registered online - do not let it slip to Day 366, remember to order and register in advance of the expiry. AppleCare also gives an extension of the 90 day phone support, which is the only reason to buy it early. Note that AppleCare as well as the original warranty is voided if you damage the machine by dropping it, and there is no refund on the AppleCare price, which is the reason to delay purchasing it until the 12th month.

Apple has changed the terms and conditions of the UK Higher Education store and no longer gives purchases a three year parts warranty. However, a Higher Education AppleCare extension is sold for a discounted price which adds full hardware and phone support for three years. HE AppleCare only applies to machines purchased through the UK HE Store. UK Higher Education ("HE") students, purchasing online through the UK HE Store or over the education store phone number on the site, do in fact receive a 36 month parts and labour warranty. There is great confusion over this matter, UK students should note 10.1.1 of Apple's terms and conditions for HE Individuals. The HE Agreement was made with UCAG and, unless renewed, will expire 30th September 2011. online store policies

An order from the Apple store online or physical location can be returned up to 14 days from delivery date. If the product has been opened, there is a 10% restocking charge, if unopened there is no restocking charge. This means that there is effectively 14 days price protection on unopened Apple products from Apple.

After 14 days, you do not have the right to return the machine or have it replaced with a new one. If there is a problem, you must work through the Apple warranty procedures.

There are exceptions - Configured to Order (CTO) machines cannot be returned, neither can engraved items or opened software.

Returns on Apple products bought from resellers

Apple will not do a return or exchange on products purchased from retail or online resellers; you have to deal with the return policies of that reseller. Even if the machine is DOA, Apple will only take it in for warranty repair, and will direct you to the reseller to deal with the reseller on returns. Read the return and sales policies of the reseller carefully before ordering.

Having said that, you sometimes will get better customer service and more options for configuration from a local independent reseller than from Apple.

Warranty limitations

Apple warranties for portable Macs, the Mac Mini and iPods are good worldwide; however iPhone and desktop Macs are only covered by warranty in the country of purchase. They cover breakdown in normal use of the hardware. They do not cover software issues, or damage inflicted by the user (whether accidental or intentional). Broken LCD screens and machines with dented or cracked body parts, or any evidence of water in the unit, are generally assumed to be user damage and automatically disqualify the warranty. If you want accidental damage coverage, you can buy that through your property insurance coverage, or through a company like Safeware (not an endorsement of this particular company). Certain premium charge cards will also provide for a limited period of accidental loss insurance, and or a warranty extension up to one extra year, if you purchase the machine on the charge card. Check details with your charge card company.

Remember that the Apple warranty does not promise that your machine will be troublefree, or that you will have an instant replacement. It does not cover loss of use while the machine is being fixed. If you have a mission-critical requirement, then you need to purchase a backup machine or arrange on your own for a rental machine to cover -- Apple does not provide this.

Installing RAM does not void a warranty. Installing hard drives in some models is permissible, but not in others. In either case, the warranty is void if you damage the machine during installation.


Apple charges state or provincial taxes for all jurisdictions. Some online sellers charge state or provincial tax only for deliveries in states where they have offices. Your state or province may expect you to voluntarily report and remit taxes on incoming purchases (laws that are more often honoured in the breach than the recognizance, however).

Importing from another country will not ship outside of the USA, similarly the different country Apple online stores will ship only within their country. In general, Apple demands that you deal with the locally authorized dealers/distrubutors in your country. The problem arises when the local price is much higher than the USA price. Part of this markup is there to pay for the local services - dealer overhead, distribution, warranty support, language localization and national safety/environmental approvals.

You may be tempted to import an Apple machine, or to bring one back with you from a trip. Remember to calculate the cost of importing - you will pay your country's taxes and duties on import, there may be shipping charges and customs brokerage charges for handling, and if you are purchasing retail in another country, you will probably pay the sales tax there on the purchase, which will be difficult or impossible to get back. Warranty on non-Apple parts will undoubtedly be more difficult, as you will usually have to pay shipping and border costs both ways for warranty replacement.

Non-authorized dealers ("grey channels")

The other good way to save money is to buy the Apple machine from the non-authorized dealers (so-called "grey channels", in contrast with Apple official "white channels") but you must do it carefully. Check if they have their own warranty and if their shipping is free for your area.

Discounts and sales

There are very few discounts or sales offered on Apple branded hardware. Apple keeps the retail price approximately 3% to 7% above the wholesale price they sell to resellers at, so there is little room for discounting.

If you are qualified as a student or staff at a post-secondary educational institution, the Apple Education store is an option for some small but noticeable discounts, limited to one machine per year. Apple performs random audits of eligibility, please do not attempt to falsify the information. Your campus computer store or bookstore may have equivalent deals and discounts on Educational license software.

Apple's online Refurbished store (check under the Special Deals or Save section from the Apple store home page) offers decent discounts on refurbished Macs and iPods, which have the full new Apple warranty. Inventory in the Refurb store comes and goes rapidly, your best bet is to check the Refurb store early in the morning. Get a good idea what you want and at what price, and be ready to take action on it quickly when your model becomes available.

Amazon has rebates on some Mac models, which combined with the lack of sales tax in many areas, can make the price competitive with the Apple Education pricing (but note the limitations on returns).

When Apple introduces a new model, there are sometimes inventory clearance sales on the previous model, sometimes at Apple, more often through big box outlets. If that is the machine you want, be prepared to act quickly as they sell out usually within hours or days.

Tread with caution - eBay, Craigslist

Apple products, especially notebooks, are prime candidates for scammers to bait unwary buyers. They are in-demand items that are seldom discounted. A "new" or near new Apple computer being offered at a substantial discount from retail should be suspected of being stolen, used, or non-existent.

Be extremely careful when considering purchases on eBay or Craigslist or from unknown websites. If considering a Craigslist purchase, only deal face-to-face, where you can inspect the machine before handing over the cash. Get a receipt for all transactions, and insist on insured, trackable shipping with signature on delivery for eBay transactions.

Although PayPal, charge cards and your bank can offer some degree of protection against fraud, be aware that there are many exclusions and loopholes, and there's a good chance that you will never get a full refund. Do not rely on the payment processor to backstop you.

DO NOT deal with any Craigslist seller who is outside of your local area, or any seller who is out of country or claims the machine will be shipped to you from a third party or an out of country source.

Do not deal with any seller who wants pre-payment by wire transfer or money order, or proposes that a third party will 'hold' the product and release the funds to the seller only when you have received it, or instructs you to contact them off-eBay at a different email account. These are all hallmarks of well known scams.

See Also