In general, a computer receipt should be kept for as long as you have the computer. Returning the computer, getting a rebate, or having it repaired under an active warranty might all require the receipt. In addition, it is used by insurance companies as verification of ownership in case of theft, fire, or other disaster. Once you are done with the computer or it no longer works, it is sometimes possible to donate the machine to get a tax deduction, which also requires the original receipt. Only after the computer is gone and there is little chance of tax issues can the receipt be safely thrown away.
Some stores accept product returns without the receipt by using your credit card number, sale date or other factors. For most stores, however, it is best to have the computer receipt in hand to expedite the process and reduce the likelihood of the store refusing to refund or exchange the purchase. In some cases, an electronics store only gives a gift certificate for items returned without a receipt. To avoid these issues, keep the computer receipt at least until the return or exchange policy no longer applies.
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Mail-in rebates and warranty repairs might also require the computer receipt. Rebates generally require a physical copy of the receipt if you do not have an electronic one. Warranty repairs are less likely to need a receipt, but it is prudent to save the receipt just in case. Full warranties usually cannot be transferred from one owner to another, so the manufacturer may ask for proof that you are the original owner of the computer.
Another reason to keep a computer receipt is for home insurance purposes. Insurance agencies are not likely to pay for expensive goods that may not have existed in the first place. Generally, the insured has a chance to note all expensive electronics and other household goods at the beginning of the policy and does not need a receipt afterward. Still, it is usually recommended to keep the original receipt somewhere safe to get the maximum payout for a stolen or damaged computer.
Many people choose to donate their computers once they cannot be inexpensively updated or repaired. Depending on where the donation is made and your jurisdiction, this donation can be deducted from the taxes owed to your local government. Before donating, erase personal information from the computer but keep the operating system intact. Operating system licenses can be expensive, and the nonprofit organization that receives your old computer can usually benefit from having a legal, pre-installed system.