Consumer Reports: Laptop Problems

If you have an older laptop, prepare for it to stop working. Consumer Reports' latest survey found that laptops more than three years old are much more likely to break. And once they're five years old, 25 percent have had a serious problem—often catastrophic.

Consumer Reports' survey of more than 58,000 subscribers found that Apple laptops are far less likely to need repairs than other brands. After the third year of ownership, there's just a ten percent chance that Apple laptops will have a problem. That's significantly less than Samsung, Gateway Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba, HP, Dell, and Asus, which range from 16 to 19 percent.

Nonetheless, if you buy an Apple computer, Consumer Reports recommends also getting Apple Care, Apple's service contract. Although Apple laptops are less likely to break, when they do, the problem tends to be more severe. And repairing an Apple laptop is usually more expensive—often costing $300 or more.

Still, Consumer Reports rates Apple's tech support the best in the business based on a separate survey of 3,000 subscribers. With many PC manufacturers, you have about a fifty-fifty chance of actually getting your problem fixed when you call tech support. Dell and Lenovo tend to be a bit better, but even with them, less than 65 percent end up getting fixed. Apple's success rate is much higher—solving problems 83 percent of the time.

If your laptop stops working, Consumer Reports says before you seek help, you may be able to solve the problem yourself. First, close any apps you're not using, which strain resources. Try restarting your computer, which can clear out temporary files and free up the system's memory. And research the problem online. You may find a quick fix at a user forum or on an expert site.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars and trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website.

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