Friday, October 16, 2020

No, that's not how warrantee expiration works

The NYPost Hunter Biden story has triggered a lot of sleuths obsessing on technical details trying to prove it's a hoax. So far, these claims are wrong. The story is certainly bad journalism aiming to misinform readers, but it has not yet been shown to be a hoax.

In this post, we look at claim the timelines don't match up with the manufacturing dates of the drives. Sleuths claim to prove the drives were manufactured after the events in question, based on serial numbers.

What this post will show is that the theory is wrong. Manufacturers pad warrantee periods. Thus, you can't assume a date of manufacture based upon the end of a warrantee period.

The story starts with Hunter Biden (or associates) dropping off a laptop at a repair shop because of water damage. The repair shop made a copy of the laptop's hard drive, stored on an external drive. Later, the FBI swooped in and confiscated both the laptop and that external drive.

The serial numbers of both devices are listed in the subpoena published by the NYPost:

You can enter these serial numbers in the support pages at Apple (FVFXC2MMHV29) and Western Digital (WX21A19ATFF3) to discover precisely what hardware this is, and when the warrantee periods expire -- and presumably, when they started.

In the case of that external drive, the 3-year warrantee expires May 17, 2022 -- meaning the drive was manufactured on May 17, 2019 (or so they claim). This is a full month after the claimed date of April 12, 2019, when the laptop was dropped off at the repair shop.

There are lots of explanations for this. One of which is that the drive subpoenaed by the government (on Dec 9, 2019) was a copy of the original drive.

But a simpler explanation is this: warrant periods are padded by the manufacturer by several months. In other words, if the warrantee ends May 17, it means the drive was probably manufactured in February.

I can prove this. Coincidentally, I purchased a Western Digital drive a few days ago. If we used the same logic as above to work backward from warrantee expiration, then it means the drive was manufactured 7 days in the future.

Here is a screenshot from showing I purchased the drive Oct 12.

Here is a picture of the drive itself, from which you can read the serial number:

The Date of Manufacture (DOM) is printed right on the device as July 31, 2020.

But let's see what Western Digital reports as the end of warrantee period:

We can see that the warrantee ends on Oct 25, 2025. According to Amazon where I purchased the drive, the warrantee period is 5 years:

Thus, if we were to insist on working back from the expiration date precisely 5 years, then that means this drive was manufactured 7 days in the future. Today's date is Oct 16, the warrantee starts Oct 23. 

The reality is that Western Digital has no idea when the drive arrives, and hence when I (as the consumer) expect the warrantee period to start. Thus, they pad the period by a few months to account for how long they expect the device to be in the sales channel, the period between manufacture and when they are likely to arrive at the customer. Computer devices rapidly depreciate so are unlikely to be in the channel more than a few months.

Thus, instead of proving the timeline wrong, the serial number and warrantee expiration shows the timeline right. This is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect if the repair shop recovered the files onto a new external drive.

Another issue in the thread is about the "recovery" of files, which the author claims is improbable. In Apple's latest MacBooks, if the motherboard is damaged, then it's impractical to recover the data from the drive. These days, in the year 2020, the SSD drive inside notebooks are soldered right on the motherboard, and besides, encrypted with a TPM chip on the motherboard.

But here we are talking about a 2017 MacBook Pro which apparently had a removeable SSD. Other notebooks by Apple have had special connectors for reading SSDs from dead motherboards. Thus, recovery of files for notebooks of that era is not as impossible as a it sounds.

Moreover, maybe the repair shop fixed the notebook. "Water damage" varies in extent. It may have been possible to repair the damage and boot the device, at least in some sort of recovery mode.


Grabbing serial numbers and looking them is exactly what hackers should be doing in stories like this. Challenging the narrative is great -- especially with regards to the NYPost story, which is clearly bad journalism.

On the other hand, it goes both ways. We should be even more concerned about challenging those things that agree with us. This is a great example -- it appears we've found conclusive evidence that the NYPost story was a hoax. We need to carefully challenge that, too.


Unknown said...

Here's what's odd that has not been explained. All the articles I've seen refer to one water damaged macbook pro and an external hard drive. Yet, the quote the store issued states recover data from 3 macbook pros. In addition, there are no serial numbers recorded on the quote. What computer repair service doesn't list the serial number of a computer taken in for repair on the quote?

Josiesdog said...

I've asked about that external drive too. It's not listed on the Biden receipt but it's on the GJ summons subpoena that allegedly was the request for the Biden laptop. So, where did the external hard drive come from?

I'm not a computer person so I don't know if an external hard drive could be used to make a copy of the laptop's hard drive. But, if so how would the feds know a copy was made??? Remember trumper techie's claim was that he made the copy AFTER he was asked for the laptop. How would the FBI know that if it was AFTER he was asked?

Then there's those 3 other computers.... According to the story and that alleged Biden puter subpoena, the agent would had to view the computer before he obtained the warrant. Is he really going to believe the word of some stranger calling or emailing him pictures? No. He's going to go view the computer and what's on it. Then he's going to ask about how the item was obtained. What are the chances the alleged Biden receipt would not had been shared with the agent as proof who provided the alleged laptop? How likeky is it in such a scenario the other 2 alleged laptops would not had been made known to the agent? So, why are they not included in the warrant so the fed techie's can inspect?

And, why would an surrender order be needed at all? Per the story, it was 8 months.... the items were abandoned and the store owner willing to give them up. So, why an order? And why a Grand Jury summons subpoena? Doesn't that indicate a GJ was called BEFORE the feds had the computer? Why not a judge-signed search and seizure warrant that would allow the fed IT guy to investigate the computer. Would they really rely on some random computer tech they didn't know? And one biased for trump/ against Biden at that?

And... speaking of Grand Jury subpoena.... the fact that no indictments of Joe or Hunter resulted does that mean the subpoena wasn't for them or that there was no probable cause to believe a crime was committed? I suspect the former. I do not believe that the subpoena is related to Hunter Biden in any way and that's why so much is redacted, including the case number. Actually, since the trumper techie was made, there should be NO reason to unredact the name on the subpoena and the case number now. My bet is if researched, that subpoena will lead to a case not related to Hunter.

Unknown said...

It would help credibility to use the right word -- warranty (a thing) and not warrantee (a person).
The words warrantee and warranty may be a bit confusing to some since they may associate the spelling of warranty with the term guarantee. This would lead to some writers using warrantee in place of the term warranty. Despite sharing the same root word, warrant, and having similar sounds, these two actually have different meanings. ...
On the other hand, the term warrantee is used as a noun referring to “the person to whom a warranty is made.” It is often interchanged with warranty as a misspelling.

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