Toshiba: You Can't Have Repair Manuals Because They're Copyrighted And You're Too Dumb To Fix A Computer

from the buy-elsewhere dept

Many years ago, one of the absolute worst customer experiences I ever had concerned a Toshiba laptop that never worked properly — which was followed by ridiculous and rude service. Eventually, using the famous Consumerist Executive Email Carpet Bomb process, I was able to get things sorted out (and, despite them asking me to sign an NDA, when I sent it back crossed out the exec called me and said it was fine and that I was allowed to talk about the situation). Since then, however, I’ve stayed away from Toshiba laptops entirely. But having had that experience, somehow it doesn’t surprise me that, among the major laptop makers, Toshiba would be the one using copyright law to try to hide its service repair manuals (story found via Slashdot).

The situation involves an Australian site called Tim’s Laptop Service Manuals, which provides exactly what it says it does. Well, until Toshiba’s clueless lawyers got involved. Toshiba gave Tim a list of excuses for why he needed to take their service manuals down — most of which made little sense. At the end of the list was basically “we hold the copyright and thus you need to take them down.” Legally, they’re probably right. But, this is just one of those cases where it’s stupid to apply copyright law. It’s not as though Toshiba needed copyright as the incentive to produce these manuals. No, the only reason to assert copyright here is to try to limit repairs to authorized dealers, which limits the usefulness of their products to the public. In a sane world, this would be a case of copyright misuse. But, when it comes to copyright, we don’t live in a sane world.

The other excuses Toshiba gave are pretty silly and seem to revolve around the idea that ordinary Toshiba customers are complete morons who should never try to repair their own computer because it might blow up in their face or something. Tim’s response is a good one, noting that none of the other major laptop makers seem to have this problem. So, either Toshiba makes crazy-dangerous laptops… or, they’re just trying to protect dealer/repair shop revenue. It’s likely the latter.

My place of employment puts a massive emphasis on health and safety in the workplace, a policy I am 100% in support of. Safety is an incredibly important issue, and I applaud Toshiba for taking it into consideration, but I think they are a little misguided. I have personally never been injured or visibly endangered by working on any kind of computer system, much less a consumer notebook computer. I have also never heard of anybody else being injured by working on one. While I do understand the drive behind any concern for safety, the reality is that there appears to be no risk to the well-being of myself or any of my readers by providing repair manuals free to download, and so I do not understand Toshiba’s cause for concern here.

It is worth noting that Dell, HP and Lenovo provide service manuals for all of their laptop computers for download, free of charge or registration or membership of any kind, on their various support websites, which would indicate that none of these companies share Toshiba’s concern in this regard. I would not seriously take this to mean that Toshiba laptops are inherently more dangerous to service than laptops of other brands, thus causing them to discourage unqualified persons from doing so, but drawing on my own knowledge and experience I cannot see what risk they are attempting to mitigate here.

In the end, it seems like this is the kind of thing some lawyer thought was a good idea… “because copyright.” You get this with copyright maximalists sometimes, where they think that because a copyright exists, you must exclude people — even if it makes little economic sense. While I’m already not interested in buying a Toshiba computer, it would seem that this little stunt should scare many others away from purchasing their laptops.

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Companies: toshiba

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Comments on “Toshiba: You Can't Have Repair Manuals Because They're Copyrighted And You're Too Dumb To Fix A Computer”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If it’s Windows… the Factory’s version of Windows won’t be able to activate unless SLIC chips of corresponding vendor is detected. So in theory, feel free to circulate it.

(Much like the reason that Sun always offer free solaris verion of SunOS on their website. At that time they only charge for x86 version.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Most of the majors stopped providing install discs about 3-4 years ago. Instead they put on that program to burn your own discs which no one ever does despite the constant pop-up warnings telling them to and the fact that it’s about a 3 click process.

So their drive fails or they get viruses and then it’s the repair techs fault they never bothered to burn the god damn discs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I successfully burned those discs via the 3 click process, per instruction, only to find that they were corrupt when I took my computer to the repair tech. Which was just as well, because the tech said they probably had a ton of bloatware on them courtesy of the manufacturer and he was able to do a nice, clean install with his own discs.

That One Guy (profile) says:

I dunno… considering one of their excuses is ‘safety’, and all those other companies provide repair manuals no problem, I’d probably lean towards assuming their products are so shoddy that they are indeed a danger for people to try and fix.

(I’m mostly joking here, but when a company goes out of it’s way to hose their customers like this, they really don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt)

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re: Holy Cow!

It’s not the computer or even the repair-manual if it’s on paper that is dangerous.

It is the Tormenter of Threads, the Harpoon of Hand-tools, the Twister of Torx, the infamous …. Simple Screwdriver.

That and you would be amazed how often people complain that there should have been a warning not to stick the tiny screws up their nose or to not swallow them. *sigh*

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe they fell for an internet hoax.

I remember a few years ago at a gaming forum some people started a hoax to fool a 13 member into thinking that another member died when their computer got a virus that caused the computer to explode.

Maybe Toshiba heard that rumor and their legal department decided to protect themselves from that fictional situation.

G Thompson (profile) says:

To make matters even weirder, under Australian Consumer laws (for Aussies anyway) stating that only an Authorised repairer can repair your product is actually an offence and liable to land the company with huge statutory fines – this law came about due to car manufacturers being complete morons about there warranties and only allowing ‘authorised repairers’ to service the vehicles.. A Big no no now!

As for the service manuals, there are multiple places to now get them, and I myself have a few of the Toshiba ones from PDF files.. Might upload them all over the place now just for the lols

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

in australian law you have to be ‘authorised’ before you are allowed to fix anything that connects to the power or the phone line.

companies usually charge a fee for their service manuals because it cost them money to provide them.

trying to repair your own equipment without being qualified also voids any warantee.

also as anyone who has worked in the computer repair business, if you need a manual to fix a laptop, the problem is too severe and a replacement is probably necessary..

what components do you think you would be able to fix with or without a manual on a laptop ???

and if you need a manual to fix a laptop anyway, you do not have the skills to fix it, with or without the manual..

again, mike, another non-story..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You need to be a licensed sparky to do any power or phone cabling, yes, but since when do you need a license to actually build or fix a computer?

The availability of service manuals comes into it when you keep a laptop past its warranty date – and it’s not a matter of needing it or not, unless you’re some kind of superhuman repairer the proper manual will always make it easier and faster.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Out of curiousity, can you reference the actual law that says that?

I don’t think Toshiba actually say you’re only allowed to get work done at an authorised repairer, only that only authorised repairers can have access to their manuals. In other industries, that might amount to the same thing, but geeks are resourceful and stuff and will try anything undocumented once.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Actual danger

Excuse what could be a stupid question, but would not the best way to handle that problem be to print, on both sides of the battery, a huge freakin’ warning not to attempt to open it?

As well, with a manual you could have an entire page devoted to nothing but a warning not to fiddle with the battery, leading to twice as much darwin award prevention.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Actual danger

“…a fully-charged laptop battery contains about as much energy as a hand grenade, and people who are not aware of this have died from trying to open up laptop batteries before.”

I tried fixing my battery once. After tearing it apart and putting it back together again, several times, turned out it just needed to be charged.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I read some of the comments on the site where this happened, the responses were scary.

– People are to stupid!
– Repair technicians have to sign NDA’s and can’t let these out there.
– It could lead to the collapse of the repair market, if just anyone could fix stuff.
– The files your offering could be edited to make them dangerous!
– They are available on the Toshiba site, you just have to click 14 different things in the perfect order and then you can get them.

Violated (profile) says:


I have seen Acer do this as well. Service manuals are vital when you need to do a repair or upgrade and before I even buy a new laptop I like to find out the service manual so I can truly understand the laptop.

Acer though like to be very active in taking any distributed service manuals off-line only leaving the user guides alone.

I certainly agree that laptop disassembly is a process not for everyone when some people can cause more damage and even fail to understand how to reassemble the parts. For me though I have a history of assembling computers and their step by step guides are easy for follow.

The best part of Acer laptops is that they are designed to be easily assembled and upgraded when other manufacturers can make that impossible. It is just a shame their LCD bezels, or the area around them, tend to be weak as shit when they lack suitable reenforcement to handle daily opening and closing.

Rekrul says:

Re: Acer

I was going to post about Acer! I found an Acer tower system in the trash, that looks brand new. The only thing wrong with it is that someone removed the hard drive before throwing it out. In the process they also removed the HD cage and left it loose inside the case. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how it’s supposed to attach to the chassis. I looked for a service manual, then contacted Acer. Not only was I told that service manuals were only available to Acer techs, they couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me how to re-attach the cage. Instead they suggested that I take it to a local computer shop and have them figure it out.

I then told them that I would never spend a single penny on anything produced by Acer.

DCX2 says:

Just fixed a Dell...

Just swapped out the backlight on a Dell laptop the other day. The service manuals being easily available are one of the biggest reasons I prefer Dell products.

Sure, they don’t tell you how to disassemble an LCD to get at the backlight, but it got me most of the way there. And I’ve had to swap out the power connector and a fan on the same laptop before.

Anonymous Coward says:

Toshibas have a tendency to overheat it seems

I’ve known five people over the last ten years with Toshiba laptops. All of them told me that they had regular overheating issues with Toshiba laptops. I’m talking about stock, off the shelf laptops with no user modifications. And those five people had everything from the cheapest laptop model available to a high-powered laptop that could handle current games fairly well.

I had classes with two of them. They’d bring their laptops (two different models–at least one was a Toshiba Satellite I remember) and a cooling pad with them to class, and even then, at least once every 2 or 3 weeks the one or both of the Toshiba laptops would overheat during the class period to the point of automatically shutting itself off.

I can’t ever recommend anyone to buy Toshiba laptops after what I’ve seen from Toshiba owners. (All five of those people replaced their laptops with a different model within a year) Stick with Lenovo, Dell, HP, Asus, etc. Just anything but Toshiba.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Toshibas have a tendency to overheat it seems

See, I’m going to have to say that I’ve had nothing but the best experience with Toshiba laptops. Along with all the friends I have who switched to Toshiba from all the other manufacturers. Not a single problem whatsoever, and no overheating ever experienced. And I’m saying that from my own ownership and the experiences my friends have had, all of us buying Toshiba exclusively for over 5 years now.

And, due to the fact that I’m the IT person for my company, I’ve switched us from buying HP and Dell laptops to ONLY Toshiba laptops due to their reliability in my experience.

In point of fact, I’ve NEVER had a problem with a Toshiba laptop but have had nothing but problems with HP, Compaq, Dell, etc laptops since I first started buying laptops and working on them in general.

As for manuals and customer experience, Toshiba has gone above and beyond for me personally. Of course, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

But seriously, experiences differ. You and your friends have had overheating issues, at work I’ve had to recommend cooling pads for all the laptops made by every other vendor except Toshiba and ASUS. To each their own I say.

Ophelia Millais says:

Re: Re: Toshibas have a tendency to overheat it seems

Yeah, my Toshiba laptop didn’t have an overheating problem…because it came with a firmware problem that caused the CPU to be “stuck” at its slowest setting! I wonder how many never realized their laptop was running slow. Affected models include M200, M15-S405, M35-S359, Qosmio F10 & F10, Tecra M1, SPM-30, probably more.

Toshiba never acknowledged the problem nor offered a fix for it publicly. Their low-level repair techs didn’t know about it, and the phone support people just read from a script that, naturally, never acknowledged that Toshiba was shipping computers with crippled CPUs. But their upper-level repair techs knew about it and could use special software to change the settings to allow the CPU speed to change. Eventually this software made it into public notebook forums, where it was aggressively taken down by Toshiba, citing copyright and the other ridiculous excuses outlined by That Anonymous Coward, above.

After using the Toshiba CPU utility to get my system to dynamically adjust the CPU speed, guess what happened… overheating!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Toshibas have a tendency to overheat it seems

With such a small sample size (everyone’s going on the two or three laptops they’ve ever owned, and how long they lasted for them), experiences will vary wildly. Actual hardware failures aside, it comes down to end user support.

You say you’ve had excellent support from Toshiba – am I right in assuming this is for your business? I’ve seen companies bend over backwards to help a business customer while blithely ignoring the little guys, because who pays more money, right?

There are way more variables to the overall qualify of a laptop than “it’s a Toshiba” or “it’s an ASUS”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Toshibas have a tendency to overheat it seems

“You say you’ve had excellent support from Toshiba – am I right in assuming this is for your business? I’ve seen companies bend over backwards to help a business customer while blithely ignoring the little guys, because who pays more money, right?”

No, it has nothing to do with my business. All the Toshibas I bought up until literally this past January were for personal use by myself, family and friends. Only this past January did I start buying for the company I work for, and I register them as personal laptops. Same as I always have.

But like I said, never had a bad experience with a Toshiba laptop. And I’m not basing that on the 2-3 I’ve personally owned but the 20+ or so my family/friends have owned (combined).

Richard Hack (profile) says:

Their real reason

is indeed revenue.

Back in the mid-80’s, I was employed by an IBM Series 1 VAR (Value-Added Reseller). They were planning to become an IBM PC VAR, so they sent me to IBM PC Repair school (a week-long course on basic PC repair.) There I was told that PC repair was a profit center for any VAR.

So clearly Toshiba is greedier than those companies who release their manuals as they don’t want independent PC techs and repair shops fixing their computers when their authorized dealers and the main company itself can profit from repair revenue.

I’ve noticed that Toshiba machines tend to be more expensive than others and with less support for some time. I’d never recommend a Toshiba laptop to a client. Go for Acer or Asus or Lenovo or Dell.

Patrick Lynch (profile) says:

A much bigger problem in Medical Device Industry

As a biomedical engineer, I have been repairing medical equipment for 37 years. In the past 20 years, companies have decided that they can only make their enormous profits if they withhold service literature and password protect medical devices. We, in hospitals can repair these items for about $60.00 per hour (salary and overhead), but the manufacturers can charge as much as $800.00 per hour to do the same job. The only way they can thwart us is by not training us and not providing passwords or service manuals. It’s a huge cost to healthcare, when we should be reducing costs. If service literature were not copyrighted, we could save healthcare at least $600,000,000 per year.

Toptone says:

Toshiba is always the same stingy company it has always be.

In 1998 I found in a trashcan a cute 20yo portable cassette-recorder which looked like a gem. Problem is, it was faulty with burnt PCB tracks and dead caps.

I asked the UK subsidiary for a service manual (at Toshiba Italia they were and still are as nasty as they can be), just to get a stern denial: “confidential material reserved to the Service Centres”. For a 1970 cassette recorder? Huge loss of profit, indeed…

So it’s the same old story, covered with pathetic twaddle about ‘copyright’ and other prattle about ‘safety’.

The truth is that they DON’T want their older products to be easily fixed, but rather chucked in the bin to sell you a new one.

In fact, in no way the famous Service Centres will repair your old gear at a decent price. Certainly not with Toshiba’s outrageous spare part price lists.

Hence, do retaliate and don’t buy Toshiba.


Jeyaram Srinivasan says:

Same here

I too have been facing severe problem with Toshiba laptop Model No : PT331G-01U00Y. I did a lot of research for longer battery service, light weight and maximum ram space. I also wonder, at times, whether buying a Norton internet security was a foolish idea. Toshiba and Norton have made my life miserable. I hate every minute I spend on my laptop. It kills my creativity and drains my positive energy.

Glenn Martin (profile) says:

Toshiba junk

I made the mistake of buying this Satellite junk. By the time I had it 2 weeks I contacted the USA site and told them that the hinge adjustments were too tight and it was twisting the case so much it was about to tear it apart and they replied there is no warrenty for abuse and if I wanted it repaired it would be $250 which is the minimum charge for repair and they do not sell parts. I waited about 2 more weeks and the case was cracking anf starting to break apart from being over stressed each time I raised the screen.I opened it up and found all the brass threaded nuts that were imbedded in the bottom of the case were ripped out of the case bottom. To make this shorter I lustened the hinge tention bolts to make it open easier and epoxyed it cack together. one year later the keyboard had 3 keys not working and I contacted them again and they said $250 for them to replace the keyboard and they do not sell parts. I had a keyboard replaced on an ASUS by a shop and it cost me $25 for parts and labor. This cannot be right as it takes about 30 seconds to remove the keyboard and anothe minute to install another one. So maybe someone here can tell me where to get a new Toshiba compatable keyboard?

DJDarkGIft (profile) says:

Just When I Thought Apple Was Bad Enough

I’ve become more disgusted lately with all of these Fortune 500 companies that attempt to push their overly priced tech upon us, as they are trying to knock down the Right To Repair Movement and this evening just surpassed a new high, or more like low, trying to diagnose and repair my main Windows Laptop produced by you can only guess who, Toshiba. With a $16.00 keyboard found on Amazon, which in itself would be a 10 minute swap, something is keeping the unit from powering up and since Toshiba will not allow anyone to reprint or post their coveted “Copywritten” Service Docs online, found this article and just thought that I would put my three cents in the comments section.

Normally I wouldn’t have purchased a Toshiba product, as they are mostly plastic garbage, like My Satellite C75D-A7114, but it was given to me as a gift from my father, so I enjoy using it when I can, or more like, was able to. I actually loaned it to my brother, as he’s not tech savvy and didn’t own his own computer, and managed to get some very sticky cola all over the keyboard, LOL. I did replace it once and it was working great till the OEM replacement I had started falling apart. I’ve since found a better designed replacement on Amazon and after putting it in, isn’t powering up. Seeing I had to use 3M Double Sided tape affix the wrist rest back to the frame because all of the small cheap plastic connectors snapped when gingerly taking it apart, some of that aluminum or tin tape came up with the double sided stuff so I don’t know if that might have had something to do with it. Go Figure Eh? Well, I guess I’ll have to see what I can find online, although not too optimistic because Google loves to filter their results and give me tons of links with all of my search terms removed from the results.

What the hell is this world coming to? Between me giving up on Apple as a long time customer and some of the other crappy companies out there I need to find a better laptop manufacturer. Any Suggestions?

Hope you all are having a great evening/weekend and have a Happy & Safe Holiday Season.

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