Could Time Machine Make Loaner Machines a Reality for AppleCare?

My Intel Mac mini—which was originally a refurbished model, so please don’t let my apparent lemon overly color your opinion of the model—needs to go back to the shop. The random shutdown issue that I took it in for back in early February has come back with a vengeance, and the machine is largely unusable. This is sad for me, because this new machine has become my primary Mac—it’s my only Intel-based Mac, and it has the most horsepower of any of my machines. [I said I’d be getting a MacBook Pro in March, but I’ve held off for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here. And besides, the longer I wait, the more likely I am to go with a MacBook Air. That’s another post entirely.]

I did get it to stay up and running for a bit earlier this evening, so I forced a Time Machine backup. As I did so, I considered this: what if, when I took my mini in to my local Apple reseller tomorrow, they handed me back an equal or lesser mini to replace it? I could take it, load my Leopard DVD, and restore from my most recent Time Machine backup. BOOM! I’d be up and running while my other machine was in the shop.

Consider this: I’d not have any downtime while I worked on a loaner. I’m at no more risk of data privacy with the loaner than I am with the machine being in the shop in the first place. If someone at my Apple reseller wants to fuck with my personal data, he can do it with the loaner that I return just as easily as he could with the machine I’ve given him. There’s nothing that says they can’t power up the in-for-repair machine, clone the HDD, and then try to buy some sweet rims for their souped-up Chevy Cavalier.

I was inspired for this concept by two things: 1) Time Machine, with regular full backups, makes this a feasible option in my mind, and 2) this is functionally what Apple does with AppleCare fixes for iPhones. Have an iPhone problem? They loan you a spare handset while they fix yours. After the repair’s complete, you return the loaner, which they wipe in preparation for handing it to the next guy.

Think about the win that Apple [and its resellers; my nearest Apple store is almost two hours away, either north or south] gets from this:

  1. Customers don’t have downtime. If your PC is in the shop, do you have that option? No, you’re up a creek without a paddle.
  2. The repair folks don’t have to work as tight of a schedule. Just ask the repair guys at Mac Resource about how much I was up their ass about the AppleCare repair they did of this last time. [I’m giving them one more shot in doing this, and I will be paying their reasonable expediting fee to get it back if they tell me how deep their queue is tomorrow. If they burn me this time, I’m never using them again.] This is a win for resellers as much as it is for Apple, because they look like heroes.
  3. You’re validating the strength of your Time Machine platform, which is a big selling point over Windows these days.

Seems like a no-brainer to me, but you may disagree. I’d love to hear what you have to think in the comments.