The difference between OEM and Retail when buying computer components

I may be in the process of learning a not-inexpensive lesson here, and I wanted to share it with others in the hopes that you may avoid my pitfall.

There are two ways to buy most computer components. You can buy full retail boxes, which are exactly as produced by the factory for the part’s manufacturer, or you can buy an OEM part. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, which is someone who builds systems and buys that part to include in their system for resale. Sometimes the discount places on the web get batches of these OEM parts from OEMs who bought too many. In these cases, these discount places resell these parts to you, the end customer, at a price lower than the retail price.

The problem with that, as I’m finding out, is that the warrantee for these parts is sometimes sold along with the OEM part to the OEM. So when that part dies, you have no one to go to for a warrantee replacement. This is bad.

I had a hard drive die on my last week, and it was only about 6 months old, well within the warrantee period. Unfortunately, I bought an OEM drive, and the original drive manufacturer no longer claims any responsibility for that drive. I’m contacting the place where I bought it now to see if they’ll replace it for me, and I have no idea if they will or not. Time will tell.

Either way, be aware of what you’re buying. I’m pretty sure I’m only buying retail boxes from now on, just for the peace of mind. It’ll cost a few more bucks, but that money is insurance against something going wrong later.

— bab


5 thoughts to “The difference between OEM and Retail when buying computer components”

  1. What about software? What kind of warranties exist on software and if you register with this software, would you receive the same coverage/warranties as with Retail?

  2. That is not true. Most large OEMs (HP, Dell, Gateway, Sony etc..) guarantee you whole machine against hardware failure for at least 1 year unless you bought it used or refurbished. The smaller OEMs set a time limit on how long "they" will replace a defective part before you have to deal with the manufacture. Today 99% of all new hardware is guaranteed by the manufacture for at least 1 year.

    Example: If you bought a new computer with a Seagate Hard drive in it from a local OEM and they warrant the computer for 1 year but in year 4 the hard drive fails, Seagate the manufacture will replace it because there warranty is for 5 years. However, that same hard drive in a large OEM computer will not be warranted by Seagate but only what that OEM stated when you bought it. Why? Because large OEMs buy at a ridiculously low rate because the manufacture took out the cost of warranting the products. Your local OEM or system builder will pay a higher price for the same product with the manufactures warranty.

    Software is a little trickier. Especially, operating systems, and antivirus. The manufacture wants the OEMs to warrant it forever, but most OEMs will set a time limit like "free support for 30 days or 90 days etc…After that it is up to the customer to get in touch with the manufacture for support on defective software or "how to" stuff. Think about it even if you bought a retail version of vista at Best Buy, they will tell you to contact Microsoft for your woes or charge you and if Microsoft has to give you lessons to use the software they will charge you.

    Retail boxes simply put gets you past the "how to" portion of an installation or how to use it. The large OEMs will only warrant the product for 1 year unless you pay them more money for a longer warranty. The smaller OEM (your local computer store or system builder will warrant your product after that the manufacture’s warranty will take over. The trick here is to make sure you are buying “NEW” not used, refurbish, open, recertified, and certainly not at a fair where the price is unbelievably low.

  3. I have been building computers for several years now and most of the OS I use microsoft OEM that i would order from or I have never had a problem with OEM software. The one thing I will not do is buy OEM hardware because if it is newer its usualy more expensive and if it breaks good luck getting it replaced.

    The only motherboards i will buy are built by ASUS. The only RAM I will buy is built from Kingston. And the only HDD I will buy is Western Digital. Every one of my computers i had built have these manufacturers hard ware in them and i have never had a problem. However, all of it was baught at retail.

    Like I said, I have never had any problems with OEM software and it is a hell of a lot cheaper for the simple fact it doesnt come in a prety little box with instructions. When you install the program if you will notice at the top there is a little "Help" tag that will give you the instructions on how to use it. When you are wireing up a motherboard and you don’t have instructions good luck. I am A+ certified but even I need a little instruction on wireing up a board. When building a computer the book that comes with the motherboard is the only instruction set you need.

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