I am not a legal expert, but I am looking to improve my understanding of the subject.

Informally, when purchasing a computer storage device, such as a memory stick or an internal or external hard disk, one expects it to perform its primary function: to store data. This means allowing the user to retrieve data that was successfully written to it at an earlier point in time.

A naive understanding of the term "warranty" for such a device is that it won't fail in performing its main function. If it does fail, the device is considered faulty.

In my experience, this naive understanding of the term was generally supported by sellers, who would allow you to return a faulty device if it failed to retrieve your data and the device’s warranty had not expired.

However, as storage device capacities continue to grow, the chances of encountering a faulty block increase proportionally. Some vendors are now making public statements that effectively change the definition of a disk fault, claiming that a disk device is faulty only if it returns an error when attempting to write data: KB 000219050.

My understanding is that modern disks can auto-detect a faulty block upon a write request and automatically and transparently "hide" and "replace" it with a good one, effectively repairing the device in place. This technique has limited applicability, and frequent use may indicate that the disk will experience further errors in the foreseeable future (Pinheiro et al., Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population, p.7, section 3.5.2). Most importantly, while this may help to "repair" the disk for future use, it does not recover data that was stored earlier, which is effectively lost.

What confuses me is that if I trust a device to store important data, such as for a bitcoin wallet, and it fails to retrieve the data, then the wallet is lost. However, by the vendor's definition, the device is not faulty as long as it can be "repaired."

By analogy, although I understand that any analogy can be a bit of a stretch, if I buy a hammer from a tool shop and find that its handle is cracked, they typically do not tell you to apply some duct tape and superglue to fix it. If the tool is still under warranty, it is replaced.

So, my question is: how should one define the term "warranty" as it applies to computer storage devices? How applicable is common sense ("I trusted it to store my data, so now please give it back to me") in this case? Is there a way to reintroduce common sense into the discussion, so that it can be addressed using existing warranty laws in a particular country?

  • The "warranty" is for the physical device. The data on it is your responsibility. Some storage device faults are totally unrecoverable. Backups are your friend.
    – WPNSGuy
    Commented Jun 11 at 10:45
  • 2
    @WPNSGuy As Steve Lehto likes to say, you are not considering the implied warranty of fitness (UCC§ 2-315). it is often not mentioned as part of the manufacturer's warranty and sometimes even attempted to be waived. Data lost because of a device failure under warranty may be cause for civil damages but that's another Q&A. Commented Jun 11 at 17:00
  • @MindwinRememberMonica - We as humans have not yet designed, built, and sold a device that will "never die". I've had physical drives die to an unrecoverable state. Any warranty that might cover 'data loss' would be totally useless in that circumstance, because the data is quite literally "gone". Even a "warranty of fitness".
    – WPNSGuy
    Commented Jun 11 at 17:09
  • @WPNSGuy * ... cause for civil damages ... I believe one of us is talking about tomatoes, while the other is talking about carrots. Commented Jun 12 at 17:01

1 Answer 1


Warranties and guarantees do not include pure economic loss

Briefly, a guarantee is an obligation imposed by law under the Australian Consumer Law or the state and territory Sale of Goods Acts, while a warranty is a voluntary contractual commitment by the manufacturer or vendor.

Notwithstanding, neither requires compensation for pure economic loss, such as the loss of data from a file storage system. Guarantees require repair, refund, or replacement at the vendor's option, and it would seem that a hard drive that automatically repairs itself satisfies this, assuming that the loss of capacity is not significant. Warranties only do what they say they will do.

  • Thank you @Dale M, very interesting. I am out of my depths here, so I consulted the classic unreliable sources -- the AI; they tend to disagree: (1), (2) Commented Jun 12 at 8:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .