I got my repaired MacBook back yesterday, and I’m back in business again — one week without the machine, instead of the possible two weeks. That matches the long end of the second-tier IBM service, and isn’t too bad. In the end, the service went well, and the cost was reasonable.
They also did not wipe my hard drive, and that’s as I expected. But they did change some (but not all) of the settings back to factory defaults. I don’t like the illuminated keyboard, for instance, and I have it turned off; it was back on. My alternative keyboard selections had been turned off (I use the US extended keyboard, and also have some other keyboards enabled so that I can occasionally type a word or two in a language such as русский, ελληνική, or עברית. I have the boot-process default set to be verbose, and that had been turned off. On the other hand, the options for things like desktop, exposé, and spaces were as I’d set them.
And, of course, I have no idea whether they might have made a copy of the data on my hard drive, which is the most troublesome aspect, and the reason one should want to avoid sending one’s drive out. I understand that they want my hard drive so that they can make sure the repaired machine works with my drive, and they can update my software if the repair requires a software change (perhaps an updated driver for a newer version of the system board).
So, my two main complaints are still there: I was not offered an overnight replacement option, even for an extra fee, and I wasn’t given any option where I could keep my own hands on my hard drive. Next time, I’ll try Jim’s suggestion of going to an authorized service shop other than the Apple store. And this time, I look forward to being surveyed about it.