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Legality of OEM reimaging hard disks during repairs

By normhaga ·
I had to send my Hp laptop back to HP again. This time for dead pixels on the display. The repairs had nothing at all to do with a hard disk failure. None-the-less, Hewlett-Packard reimaged my hard disk to the factory settings. While I backed up the data prior to shipping the computer, due to a bug in Vista that corrupted network files for which a patch has now been released, I found that my backups were useless and lost six months of work on a project.

Under Federal law it is a crime to alter or destroy data on a computer without authorization to do so. It is the same in the state I live in (Utah). And while I do not know the state of the law in California where the repairs were performed, I believe that the law is similar to the Federal law and the law of my state.

It is my belief that when a computer is taken or sent to a repair facility, that facility has no business touching the data on the hard disk except as absolutely required for the needed repairs (i.e. a failed hard disk or software that is corrupting the system). Even in this case, the data need not be destroyed. As an example, I have an E machines/Gateway laptop that the hard disk failed under warranty. Arima corporation, who performs Gateways service repairs, extracted all the data and programs from the failed hard disk imaged it onto a new HD and returned the machine as if the drive had not failed.

Under criminal tort law a corporation is liable for committing criminal acts (unauthorized alteration or destruction of data). Under negligent tort, careless acts are not excused. I could present several legal theories as to why Hewlett-Packards actions are inexcusable. However, legal theory aside, I feel that because Hewlett-Packards actions in unnecessarily reimaging my hard disk cost me six months worth of work that Hewlett-Packard should reimburse me the cost of the lost work and the going rate of a custom install that it required to restore the computer to its needed working configuration.

I would like to hear from the community, their various opinions on this action - Whether they feel a hard disk reimage was required by the repair facility, whether is is criminal in nature. What they feel about a manufacturer deciding thay want on the machines they sell and enforcing it during service. Whether is is even the manufacturers business how a person or business uses or sets up a computer, or even what data or programs are on the machine.

I am also interested in hearing from individuals who have had their hard disks reimaged during a Hewlett-Packard repair who are also interested in pursuing class action litigation against Hewlett-Packard.

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

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First thing is I think that you agreed to this

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Legality of OEM reimagin ...

When you accepted that the Warranty Repair was accepted.

As for blowing away a HDD and re imaging it I've lost count of the number of times that a software problem has caused the hardware not to work properly. Now as far as HP is concerned or any other for that matter their first option is to **** away any existing Install and install a new image takes about 10 minutes and very quickly decides if Hardware replacement is required.

I would do exactly the same thing as well at every opportunity because Labour is the most expensive thing involved in any repairs that you undertake. If you spend 20 hours recovering Data do you honestly think that the End User will be willing to pay for this? If they are silly enough not to perform a proper backup before they send in the machine they get exactly what they deserve. You loose everything that you had in place because no computer equipment is Reliable! Just think of it this way you currently have someone to complain about but what happens when your HDD fails and you haven't a solid backup? Then I take it you would complain about the maker not supplying decent hardware right?

Just last week I had a NB returned to me which was faulty the screen resolutions was dropping to 4 Bit colour after 30 minutes of running. When I applied a new image to the system it worked perfectly and was a software issue that resulted for some incompatible software being used.

Now how many people would be willing to pay for that repair? It's not covered by the Guarantee but the companies who perform this service do not claim it as a Valid Costing Job they just let it through the system and tell the end user that it is now fixed. The same thing could have been the problem with your NB and until the OS is returned to Factory Default there is no way of knowing otherwise.

Somehow I don't think that you would be any happier if HP removed the HDD fitted it to a USB Caddy and returned the machine to you with the spare HDD and a cost involved.

Col

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Agreed - no.

by normhaga In reply to First thing is I think th ...

Hal, I specifically included a note that the hard disk was not to be reimaged. I would have rather incurred the cost than have to reproduce the work.

Second, because HP enforces the MS agreement, I feel that releasing an OS that corrupts network data when synchronizing is the fault of HP as well as MS.

Third, it is a crime, at least on a federal level, to alter or destroy data without authorization.

Fourth, the HP tech notes state that the issue was reproducible in bios. Therefore, no reimaging was required.

Fifth, HP offered to purchase the machine back. Of course, they wont pay what I paid.

Sixth, after a week and a half setting the computer back up, I took two backups. One was with the backup software I use and the other with the Vista Business/Ultimate backup. I tested both, they are good.

Seventh, the post itself indicates that it is possible and feasible, at a minimal cost, to recover the data without spending more time than it takes to reimage the hard disk. The program I use can do a bare metal restore in about an hour for 30+ gigs of data and programs.

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Accept it sh1t happens

by tim_seabrook In reply to Agreed - no.

If i get to this situation, (I support 11 laptop users) Data is Copied not Backed up I don't care how many DVD's I have to use and quite often make two copies. It's one of those givens re-image the hard drive to see if the faults are cured, you can be sure that there are fixes that have been over looked or just released.

I'm sure HP said make sure you have a copy of your data backed up , and after all isn't this more about your Backup software not doing what it should have ???

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OK then lets take a look at the legal Aspects of not re imaging

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Agreed - no.

With a re imaged drive there is no possibility of the repairer ever being put in a difficult position of having to report one or more of their customers for Illegal Activity. Once the Data is gone it's gone and never to be seen again so you can not report what is never seen can you?

That covers both the Owner and the Repairer weather you like it or not but it's true.

So if you are working on any level of Secure System you would never have returned the HDD as it's possible to recover data off the empty platters if you have the time & inclination to do so. So it's possible to recover all your data and still have a working OS as well. But the main problem here is that you should never have let your Data out of your Hands.

Here once a HDD enters this place it never leaves the place as a working HDD, just in bits when it's decommissioned, even then the platters are headed straight to a furnace to be melted down any guesses why it is so?

The current going rate to recover everything that has ever been written to any HDD is about $450,00.00 here is my bill and you need to pay it before the NB is returned. My guess is that you will not accept the NB as that is way more than the cost of several new Ruggerised NB that are far better than the system that you bought.

Now I build my own computers and my own NB's as well so I don't deal with any of the Big OEM Companies but I do know that they all advise and warn you of the possibility of a re image and they tell you to save your data before returning the machine. I believe that this also comes with the packaging as well so you really have no recourse to anything as you where warned.

The last NB that I sold was returned 5 days after delivery with the screen going to the basic Display after 30 minutes of running and you needed to turn it off let it cool down and the start up again before you could change the screen resolutions. The cause some incompatible software was installed which caused the problem. Without removing this software there was no possibility of repairing the NB and it would have been returned exactly the same as it arrived with no solution. That is Unacceptable to me. If you where willing to cover the cost of a HDD you should have removed it and sent in a letter asking HP to supply a new HDD at your expense. Most people are unwilling to accept this however as they mistakenly think that they have paid a lot of money for the NB and they expect it to work no matter what they do to it.

If your backup failed that speaks volumes of your backup software not anything of HP service arraignments. Personally I never fully trust any Backup Software and I always copy the data across to a HDD as I've seen way too many failed Backups over the years and know better than to ever fully trust them again and certainly I never ever trust any Backup performed by M$ backup software. I can almost guarantee that it will fail at some point.

I specifically included a note that the hard disk was not to be reimaged. I would have rather incurred the cost than have to reproduce the work

First thing is that you didn't make any mention of this but none the less why should HP believe you? They can waste hours attempting to get something to work only to find out that the problem is some installed software that the end user has installed. This is a Paid For Repair buy I've never seen these repairs actually charged for as it's not worth the hassles involved.

because HP enforces the MS agreement, I feel that releasing an OS that corrupts network data when synchronizing is the fault of HP as well as MS.

No actually this is your fault. If you didn't ask for a M$ OS to be installed at some point it wouldn't be an issue would it? Though to be fair M$ does produce second rate software that has no right to be used in any business.

it is a crime, at least on a federal level, to alter or destroy data without authorization

It's also a crime to be in possession of Kiddy Porn and HP in this case are not wanting to be in a position of being forced to report you and then being sued for following the Law. While you may not personally be interested in this many are so HP has to cover themselves in every eventuality.

the HP tech notes state that the issue was reproducible in bios. Therefore, no reimaging was required.

I had exactly the same comments made to me with a NB that was recently returned but it was still a Software Related issue. So what why should any System Builder spend their money finding out that they have been provided wrong advice and then need to fix the system to the standard that they require? After all if you didn't want the system fixed you would never have returned it would you?

HP offered to purchase the machine back. Of course, they wont pay what I paid

Sounds like a great idea as you will not be happy with this machine and they will never repair it so you will be happy so you are better off without it.

after a week and a half setting the computer back up, I took two backups. One was with the backup software I use and the other with the Vista Business/Ultimate backup. I tested both, they are good

Why spend so long setting up a Appliance? After all those is what these are sold as and are specifically sold as turn on and go now without any need to setup. If you want something different you need to come to someone like me who will custom build a machine for you and not give you an off the shelf machine that you need to constantly change to suit your needs.

the post itself indicates that it is possible and feasible, at a minimal cost, to recover the data without spending more time than it takes to reimage the hard disk. The program I use can do a bare metal restore in about an hour for 30+ gigs of data and programs

Yes it's possible but then again it's possible to recover every bit of Data that has ever been recorded to any Magnetic Storage Device but who's going to pay for this? I get $160.00 per hour base line so who pays my Labour? I would guess that you wouldn't be happy doing this particularly on a new machine that has just broken as you expect it to work right?

The bottom line was that you agreed to purchase a machine with a suspect OS installed and accept any short comings of that OS so you need to live with it. If you want something reliable you would never consider a Experimental OS and Software Load. Remember that Vista was only released on January 30 so it's only seven months old and still way too new to be considered as Reliable.

When you agree to get onto the Bleeding Edge you should expect to carry the can for poorly developed software and expect it to break. If you don't accept this you would never have bought a computer loaded with Vista of any form.

Col

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Am I the only person who read that the repair was for dead pixels????

by crap In reply to OK then lets take a look ...

And HP told him that it was reproducible in the bios screen?
Which says that the screen had dead pixels.
So you don't need to power the machine into the os.

Why would HP even bother taking the extra
time to re-image if they knew the os install had nothing to do with the problem?

The only reason I can think of is that HP did to spite the guy because he specifically asked them not to re-image the drive.

As for the backups, he never would have had to resort to the backups (one of which failed because of a Vista bug) if HP had listened to his request and not wated their own time (because they knew from the problem showing bios that a re-image was not neccessary)

So again, I ask, "What am I missing?".

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No, we read it.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Am I the only person who ...

You're not missing anything. As to why they'd image it for that problem, I don't know. But the point is they are within their legal rights under the warranty to do so, and he was warned they might do it. He has no legal recourse. All he can do is take his business elsewhere and try to convince others to do the same.

The tech who worked on the system is not the one who took the call, so I doubt he was acting spitefully. He probably works from a series of checklists configured for each specific problem, and the first item on the list is "Image the drive".

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Checklist.

by normhaga In reply to No, we read it.

I can scan and post the checklist. I promise you, the firs item is "failure could be duplicated" followed by "System board", CPU link", "DISPLAY", etc. Reimage hard disk does not come until item 13.

I would agree that it was not done out of spite except that I had had HP support personnel inform me in the past that if the machine had any other OS on it than the factory configured one that they would reinstall the OS. I typically tri-boot with Vista, XP, and OpenSuse.

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I only theoretically aggree with you

by normhaga In reply to OK then lets take a look ...

Hal, we recently had a discussion about the issue of recovery of data, especially illegal data. I stand by my previous position. Unless the customer is paying for data recovery, the tech has no business mucking around in it.

To cover another members response, I purchased the machine for the hardware, not the OS. In fact the first thing I did was departition the HD and reinstall Vista from an MSDN download. Why? To get rid of the crapware and spyware that the firms are so fond of installing. Then I spent considerable time configuring the system the way I wanted and the way I use it. I did this four months ago because the project the machine was purchased for starts Monday and I expected some problems. I placed Vista on the machine because HP informed me that if I removed it they would void the warranty.

You ask why spend so long setting up and appliance? From my recent experience I found that even when you follow exact written procedures Vista does not seem to install the same way twice. I was trying to restore the system exactly the way I had it set up. I also spent some time trying to recover my backups. Funny too, they would test good, but when used they would report that they were unfit. When I forced a restore, much of the data was garbled.

I have forensic programs that can recover data. I have always found them to be suspect and would not use them to recover past work.

Hal, the offer of custom built machine is nice, my desktops I custom build to my spec. A laptop is another matter entirely, don't you agree. For the most part, the hardware is not configurable.

Finally, Vista is not bleeding edge; for every step forward, three steps are taken backwards.

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Actually I would question the Legality of this statement

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to I only theoretically aggr ...

I placed Vista on the machine because HP informed me that if I removed it they would void the warranty

It's not legal in the slightest bit or under any definition. If HP US is pushing this they need to be taken to court and loose.

I have forensic programs that can recover data. I have always found them to be suspect and would not use them to recover past work.

After working for many years with Federal Police I would have to question your Forensic Recovery Tools as I have been working this area since 1974 and never had a problem in recovering data that was latter used in Courts as Evidence.

A laptop is another matter entirely, don't you agree.

No I actually disagree here as that is incorrect. While you are more limited in some hardware it's still better building your own than going to a place like HP and buying what they are willing to sell you. Now granted I only work with the better stuff but I've yet to have a problem with either the Clevo or MSI Chassis that I use. While the Clevo are my preferred option they are also more expensive as they have TFT Monitors as apposed to the LCD monitors that come with the MSI units. But even then I don't see any difference between these M'Boards and an all in 1 M'Board except the NB are better and have their own RAM for Video.

Col

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Thanks for the info HAL

by normhaga In reply to Actually I would question ...

I have been looking for a while for MBs for laptops and have been having to settle for something close to what I want rather than what I want.

On the forensic tools, I can't speak for the AU court system or the quality of evidence they have to have. Over here it is a joke. There are convictions based on the testimony of an eyewitness who could not identify that the accused had a cast on his leg at the time of a burglary (yes the doctor and the hospital staff testified that they put the cast on the day before the crime) and in which the court excluded evidence that the eyewitness had a blown up poster of the accused posted in his business for six months before the preliminary hearing.

But on the issue of forensic tools, you may have better tools or may be more trusting than I am when it comes to my own data.

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