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Something that im often asked by friends etc is if they are allowed to replace components of their laptop under warranty without invalidating it.

I'm pretty certain that there are laws that states that modifying one component, may only invalidate the warranty on that component, not the product as a whole. Eg if you changed the RAM, then the warranty would not cover the RAM, but it would still by law have to cover everything else.

Is my interpretation correct for the UK, and also for other countries, and that it is therefore safe for people to replace hard drives, RAM, etc themselves, and that doing so will not invalidate there warranty.

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All of this information should be stated in the warranty disclaimer that accompanied the system you purchased. If you don't have this information anymore, you should be able to obtain it again from the manufacturer (or third-party warranty provider).

I'm pretty confident that warranties differ greatly between manufacturers for PCs, just as they do vehicles, TVs, and other products. I only speak from experience in the United States, however.

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Ask them how often how often they have actually tried to get something fixed while it was still under warranty.

There are often so many loop-holes and the service used to be so crap that it wasn't even worth the time nor the trouble.

But as Russ said, it will differ per vendor and country, so it's hard to give you any guidelines

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