Plug: Lenovo service still rocks

I needed to buy a new laptop for work a few months back, and after a little agonizing between the MacBook Pro and a Thinkpad T61p, I plumped for the latter. As I noted at the time, one of the major selling points was the quality of IBM/Lenovo’s after-sales warranty service, compared to the atrocious stories I’d heard about AppleCare in Europe. I was, however, taking a leap of faith — I had used IBM service to great effect in the US, but had never actually tried it out in Ireland.

Sadly, I had to put this to the test today, after the hard disk started producing these warnings:

/var/log/messages:Feb  7 11:21:13 wall kernel: 
[2075890.116000] end_request: I/O error, dev sda, sector 116189461
/var/log/messages:Feb  7 11:21:38 wall kernel: 
[2075914.824000] end_request: I/O error, dev sda, sector 116189460
/var/log/messages:Feb  7 11:24:18 wall kernel: 
[2076075.072000] end_request: I/O error, dev sda, sector 116189462
/var/log/messages:Feb  7 11:25:05 wall kernel: 
[2076121.932000] end_request: I/O error, dev sda, sector 116189463

It’s a brand new machine, and a Hitachi TravelStar 7K100 drive, with a good reputation for reliability — but these things do happen. :(

Interestingly, I thought this was a case of the Bathtub curve in action — but this comprehensive CMU study of hard drive reliability notes that the ‘infant mortality’ concept doesn’t seem to apply to current hard-drive technology:

Replacement rates [of hard drives in a cluster] are rising significantly over the years, even during early years in the lifecycle. Replacement rates in HPC1 nearly double from year 1 to 2, or from year 2 to 3. This ob- servation suggests that wear-out may start much earlier than expected, leading to steadily increasing replacement rates during most of a system’s useful life. This is an in- teresting observation because it does not agree with the common assumption that after the first year of operation, failure rates reach a steady state for a few years, forming the “bottom of the bathtub”.

Anyway, I digress.

I ran the BIOS hard disk self-test, got the expected failure, then rang up Lenovo’s International Warranty line for Ireland. I got through immediately to a helpful guy in India, and gave him my details and the BIOS error message; he had no tricky questions, no guff about me using Linux rather than Windows, and there were no attempts to sting me for shipping.

There’s now a replacement HD (and a set of spare recovery disks, bonus!) winging their way via 2-day shipping, expected on Tuesday; I’m to hand over the broken HD to the courier once it arrives. Fantastic stuff!

Assuming the courier doesn’t screw up, this is yet another major win for IBM/Lenovo support, and I feel vindicated. ;)

Update: the HD arrived this morning at 10am — a day early. Very impressive!

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  1. Ryan R
    Posted February 8, 2008 at 19:19 | Permalink

    Excellent to hear. I’ve been looking at Lenovo for a while and now find myself waiting for the Penryn offerings. I’ve heard some bad stories about the service since Lenovo took over, but this sounds great.

  2. Posted February 8, 2008 at 19:41 | Permalink

    I happened to be working for IBM at the time when the Lenovo deal was announced, and I remember telling people ‘buy your Thinkpad now, before they turn to shit.’ It is nice when that sort of cynicism turns out not to be justified!

  3. Posted February 9, 2008 at 02:25 | Permalink

    It might be worth recording the smartctl -A output for posterity?

  4. Posted February 9, 2008 at 13:09 | Permalink
  5. Pam Derringer
    Posted February 9, 2008 at 20:46 | Permalink

    You should have bought the Apple, dummy!

  6. Posted February 10, 2008 at 11:23 | Permalink

    Pam, if I’d bought the Apple and the HD failed, I’d be so much more screwed. The nearest “Genius Bar” is in another country….

  7. Pam Derringer
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 15:07 | Permalink

    Yeah, but help is a click away and it’s better technology!! Well, hope your new one works great…:)

  8. Posted February 10, 2008 at 23:38 | Permalink

    So it wanted to reallocate 167 sectors due to I/O errors but couldn’t :(

    But look at the Power-Off_Retract_Count. 262148! That should be a very low number as it only happens when power is lost to the drive while it’s still active. Even with buggy operating systems which trigger this like Fedora Core 4 for example which didn’t shutdown the drive correctly before it shutdown the machine, this should only equate to the number of times you shutdown the machine. Have you a dodgy power connector or something?

  9. Posted February 11, 2008 at 00:05 | Permalink
  10. Posted February 11, 2008 at 00:29 | Permalink

    Hmm so invalid values are possible for that attibute. I’d keep an eye on the attribute for the next drive anyway, just in case 0x40004 was a valid value.

  11. Posted February 15, 2008 at 07:22 | Permalink

    Coincidentally, I too had a nearly new drive fail two weeks before yours but in my MacBook Pro. I’m told that I would have had just as good results (but I doubt nearly as fast) if I had taken it to the local Apple Service Provider, but I opted to take it to the Apple Store in the Toronto Eaton Centre (about two hours away).

    I showed up without an appointment at the “Genius Bar” (How pretentious is that name? Posers.) and was told to come back in 45 minutes. I went and had lunch, came back, told them that bad sectors were turning up like crazy on the drive and that I wanted a new one. They told me that they’d call me to drop it off when a new drive came in within 3-5 days (3-5 days, WTH, whenever I order drives I get them via UPS the next morning). I told them that I wasn’t coming back to the city in a couple days just to drop the machine off (surely the had somewhere they could store a 15″ notebook for a couple days) and that they’d be taking it now. They said, “oh, OK” and that was it. They called me the next afternoon to come pick it up (much faster than the promised 3-5 days for parts and 48 hours to repair). Drive replaced (complete with OS installed and updated), happy customer.

    Ideally, I would have liked to be allowed to replace the drive myself (hand/ship me a drive, see you later) but I can see why they don’t allow it. There was about 25 tiny screws I had to remove to get the keyboard off to get access to the drive so that I could brute force rsync my data off the drive before taking it in for repair. I didn’t mention the part about removing the drive and putting it in another machine to get the data off of it to the Apple employee, I don’t imagine that would have made getting it repaired any easier. ;) For reference, there’s nothing in the case to indicate to them you’ve torn it apart.

    Anyway, I can see why anyone would be apprehensive to buy an Apple machine far away from Apple land, but I think it’s hard to compare service experience for non-similar problems. While my hard drive replacement was painless, I’d imagine having a logic board replaced could potentially be more involved. On the other hand, the reason I stopped buying Thinkpads for our employees was because of the terrible repair service (drives, motherboards, displays, you name it) we received from IBM in the late 90s and early 2000s. So, unsurprisingly, your location and who you get to deal with probably has just as much effect on the outcome of any service incident.

  12. Gerry Carr
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 12:00 | Permalink


    i have a lenovo x41. the screen got broke. I am now £450 down having sent it to scotland to get fixed. Grrrr. User fault they siad which I cannot argue with . great machines though

    Pam Derringer – what are you going on my friend’s site? Wespoke yesterday about Landscape. Can I be the first to say small world?

  13. Lisa Leivan
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 21:07 | Permalink

    Hi from the US. I have an IBM t-60, purchased right before they became Lenovo. At 6 months my hard drive gave out (August ’07); I called them, got a friendly, competent guy, and had a refurbished hard drive w/a set of recovery disks within 2 days. Eight months later I got bluescreens, various error mssgs, and, ultimately, failure of the recovery disks to restore the system. I called the same number, got a guy who sounded like he was either not-so-bright, stoned, or hung over. He transfered me to some other guy who tried to sell me a warranty extension/expansion. I already have a 3-year warranty. So back to guy #1. When I couldn’t get coherent and satisfying information, I asked to be sent on to someone who could help me. He told me – no kidding – “the buck stops here.” So, what, I was talking to the CEO? Have they been hijacked by evil robot monkeys? Result: got the f-you run-around for a good hour, then I was told to ship the box to them – but I wasn’t about to ship it off to an unknown fate by that point. Finally I was transferred to somebody who gave me a number … where I found their local authorized repair center; drove the box there myself. The folks there were great, and I have confidence they’ll get it fixed soon. Now, I usually have great customer service experiences; I’m not combative, I’m intelligent, and I like to co-operate with people. If you’re thinking about a Lenovo purchase, do some research. More and more is showing up about this type of thing happening.

  14. Wilfred
    Posted December 10, 2008 at 17:33 | Permalink

    IBM / Lenovo is just good. I have had a couple of hardware failures (once keyboard, once internal cable for LCD) and they were replaced immediately, for free, next morning after I called in. And this is not to mention I had a free battery replacement when I called in to complain that the battery life was wearing out. This totally makes me want to buy another Lenovo for my next machine.