Friday, January 20, 2006

Freeze your hard drive to recover data: Myth or Reality?

I'm so bummed that I didn't try this with one or three of my failed drives. Maybe it would have worked. Ah, well. There's always next time.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Seagate is buying Maxtor for $1.9 Billion

Hmmm. Let's see if Seagate can't do something for the quality issues Maxtor has.

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HP's Horrible, Unhelpful, Incompetent Tech Support and Service

A frustrated customer's experience with HP that is still unresolved.
I feel for this guy. I wonder if I can get him to join me in my fight for a computer lemon law?

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Finally, some good news.

Yesterday, another Gateway Executive Response Team member called in response to the complaint I had filed with Consumer Affairs. She basically said that since the computer was currently operational, there wasn't a lot she could do. She said that if the next hard drive failure happens within a "reasonable amount of time, say within a year" that I should call her directly and that she'd authorize a replacement system. Finally, a solution that is fair and reasonable to both parties.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Update on my Cow.

I haven't posted an update for a while, so I thought I'd better just put it all in writing while things are still fresh. My second letter to Gateway did finally get a response. A woman named Kathy with the Executive Response Team called me to schedule an "advanced tech" phone call. Basically, now that I was demanding a refund or a replacement, Gateway's all gung ho on the troubleshooting thing. I was very interested in how this tech was going to diagnose my hard drive/motherboard problems from 2000 miles away, but I was willing to give it a try.

So, the guy called and agreed that the problem was most likely on the motherboard and asked me how I wanted my situation handled. I told him that I wanted a refund or a new computer. He said that there was no way that I qualified for a refund because I had owned my computer for longer than 15 days. I said that I'd like a new replacement computer then. He put me on hold for a while then came back and said, "your computer doesn't meet the criteria for a replacement." I asked him to explain and he said that for a replacement computer, my computer would have had to be in for service 3 times for the same issue within a 90 day period. I was thinking, "well, I'm in because I went through 3 hard drives within 90 days." He said that that didn't count because Gateway had sent me the parts to replace myself and I never sent it "in for service."

Now, this just burns my biscuits. First of all, whenever I've called Tech Support, they always say, "we'll send you the replacement." They've never said, "and do you know that by us doing this, you basically waive your right to a replacement for your faulty computer?" And they have never asked me if I wanted to send my computer to them so they could crack it open and slide in the hard drive. And even if they had, I'd decline because I really don't want to spend $200 to send my computer on a trip to South Dakota or Arkansas or whatever, for God knows how long until they decide to fix it. No thanks. And I would have had to do that THREE times. I explained the rediculousness of the whole situation and while he agreed with me, there was nothing he could do for me. He said that Kathy had the power to elevate my situation.

The next morning, I was back on the phone with Kathy but she wasn't in the mood to use any of her "power" on me. She suggested that I should send my computer in to them for testing and that the best I could really hope for was that my motherboard would be replaced. I don't have a lot of faith in Gateway's motherboard replacements, (see previous posts.) So, I played along like I was very eager to ship my computer across the U.S. and she told me to call tech support and have them read my file and get the authorization to send the computer in. Upset and tired of arguing the absurdity of my situation, I gave up and said goodbye.

But it wasn't for long because not 10 minutes later, Kathy called back with some "good news." She said, "I did some research and asked someone if there was a batch of bad hard drives out there and they said that there was, and since we sent you a different brand just recently, your problem is probably already fixed." Spiffy.

I decided that I wasn't going to waste my time or money by sending my computer in for testing. When/if the next drive crashes, then I'll send it in. In the mean time, I'd just wait it out and continue my little ritual of backing shit up every two days.

OK. On to the next problem. I had been noticing for a while that my display hasn't been looking that great. I'd get some wierd static on gradient shaded things and just pixelated graphics stuff happening at random times. I had been putting off calling about this issue for a while, but while playing a game, I just couldn't take it anymore.

I was put through to a really nice tech in Canada. She walked me through some basic diagnostic stuff to see exactly what was causing the problem. The graphics card tested out fine. The monitor self test came up and looked fine, too. The tech said that I probably had a software issue. She suggested that I reinstall Windows and update my drivers. I was willing to believe that this was a possiblity since I didn't remember having the problem before the most current hard drive crash. So I reformatted my hard drive and started over fresh. Again. For the billionth time.

And... guess what? I was still having the problem. So, I unplugged my husband's monitor and plugged it into my computer. No problem. ARRGH!! I reformatted my hard drive for no reason! Anyway, I called Gateway back, this time got someone not in Canada, or the US I'm guessing, and after explaining my process finally got him to send me a new monitor. It should be here by Christmas... Maybe.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Another reason I hate Gateway...

Here's the deal. Back when I thought that Gateway was a kind of OK company, despite all of my problems - see the previous post titled Angel of Mercy - I wasn't quite so adamant to my family and friends that they stay away from Gateway. So my mother, who actually works in the IT field, though with mainframe computer which she says are way different, purchased her cow. She bought it from CompUSA and also purchased thier extended warranty. She did this on October 4, 2004.

My mom enters a lot of contests and gets a lot of junkmail. She's also picked up some malware along the line somewhere. We've tried to clean it with spy ware removers and all kinds of anti-virus detection, but there is still something there, deep in the registry that is kind of disabling her virus detections. Every day, she gets a new trojan. Anyway, we decided that she needed a fresh start and that we would format her hard drive and reinstall her operating system.

So, I asked her where her Windows disc was. She said that CompUSA didn't give her any discs and that all of the restore software was on the hard drive. So, I looked at the hard drive. There are no partitions. So I called Gateway. They said that CompUSA should have provided her with a restore DVD. So I asked how I could obtain one. The answer? Well, since the computer was outside it's warranty period BY ONE DAY that she would have to send $20.00. Now, really, this is CompUSA's fault, but you'd think that Gateway could have provided a little customer service and sent out the disc.

Anyway, since mom had purchased an extended warranty through CompUSA - for the bargain price of $369.99, we decided that we should make use of it. Now, we had the original receipt and the brochure that describes the excellent service you'll have when you need your warranty. Do you know what the brocure doesn't supply? The phone number!! So I called the store it was purchased at. There was no answer. I left a message.

Because I was getting more and more agravated, I went to http://www.compusa.com, eager to find someone to vent at. I found a "Dial-a-Tech" and dialed one up. I get this guy who asks a bunch of questions about when I bought the computer. I told him one year and one very important day ago. He tells me that my mom had 90 days from the date of purchase to call and activate her warranty. Excuse me? One would think that the act of paying $369.99 would have activated it. No where on the brochure does it say that there is a 90 day deadline. No where on the web site does it say there is a 90 day deadline. Most importantly, nobody ever said, "thanks for the $369.99, you now have 90 days to activate the service you just payed through the nose for."

The guy went ahead and "activated" the warranty so I stopped some of my underbreath mumblings that sounded a lot like "they're all bastards. All of these computer people are in a league together - bastards!"

We finally get to the real reason I called. I told the guy that I needed to reinstall the OS and didnt' have the software. He asks me why I need to reinstall. I tell him that I need to get some malware off of it. He directs me to a website that will scan the system. Once that is completed 45 minutes later, we should call back and they will tell us how to clean the system. Um, yeah. That isn't why I called. Been there, done that. Need to reinstall. "So, how do I get the software that I was supposed to have been provided?" His answer? "Well, we don't have anything to do with that." Spiffy. Thanks for nuttin'.

Computer lemon law - Let's get one!!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Unhappy Cow

Fast forward to August 2005. It had been a year of trouble free computer usage. During that time, I had kept my cow happy by feeding it a new 250 GB secondary hard drive, as well as an extra gig of RAM. Then, one day, for no reason in particular, the system shut itself down and when it rebooted, it ran a CHKDSK and came up with all kinds of fun error messages about bad sectors. When it rebooted, I ran a couple backups as soon as possible. One week later, I came home to a nice, polite message. Insert cussing and screaming here.

This computer is not even two years old yet, and it has corrupted four hard drives. Yet, Gateway sees nothing wrong with this. They insist that I’ve just had a bad run of luck with my hard drives. Whatever. Truthfully, I don’t care if I’ve just had bad luck or if there is a bad controller, or cable or demon living inside that case. I just don’t care. This thing has been cursed from day one and I just want to return it to the company that spawned it. I wish I could just sprinkle holy water on it and be done with it.

On September 20th, I sent Gateway a letter basically demanding that they issue me a full refund or provide me with a new (not refurbished) computer of value equal to the original purchase price of mine. So far, they haven’t responded.

On September 28th, I filed a formal complaint with the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair. I will have retribution. Some way, some how, I will have it.

Angel of Mercy?

So, about two weeks after sending the letter, I received a call from a very nice young woman who told me that she had read my letter and was very sorry for the trouble I had experienced. She said that Gateway would send out a new, not refurbished, hard drive, SATA cable, and power supply, as well as a technician to install them. She told me that the parts I had been getting to this point had been refurbished. I wanted to call Blah Blah back and tell him that. She gave me her direct extension number and told me to call if I ever had any more trouble with my computer. I took back half the bad things I had ever said about Gateway.

Techie guy came out and he put all the new guts into my computer. He told me that the new SATA cable would probably fix all my issues. He said that he had done a lot of work on Dell computers and that there had been a bad batch of cables out there causing hard drive failures. I felt a little better about things and since I was armed with a new phone number that went to a real live sympathetic person, I was feeling pretty good about my Gateway computer for the first time in months.

Deja Vu all over again

In May of 2004, my husband and I took a 7 day cruise. When we left our house, our computers were off and everything had been in fine working order. When we came back from the cruise, I was very anxious to get my digital photos organized so the first thing I did was turn on my computer. “We apologize for the inconvenience, blah, blah, blah.” Fantastic! What a welcome home. I needed a drink to stop myself from throwing my computer out of the nearest window. The 1-800 person that picked up my call was about to have a very bad day.

“Thank you for calling Gateway Technical Support, this is Blah Blah, Badge number blah, blah, blah. How may I assist you today.”

I took a sip of my rum and tried to compose myself. Threw clenched teeth I said, “my hard drive crashed.”

“OK, ma’am. Tell me what kind of error message you’re getting.”

Me: “We apologize for the inconvenience….”
Blah Blah: OK. Do you have your red drivers disk?
Me: I already ran GWSCAN. Too many errors. I just went through this not 2 months ago.
Blah Blah: OK, ma’am. I see that you had a hard drive failure in March and that a replacement part was sent. Have you installed that?
Me, again threw clenched teeth: “Yes, this is the replacement. I need a replacement for the replacement. If you could please send me one that works for longer than 2 months, that would be great.”
Blah Blah: I see that your computer is within the warranty period. I’d be happy to send out that new hard drive for you. I’ll just need a credit card number.”
Me: Why?
Blah Blah: If you don’t return the old hard drive within two weeks, you will be charged the price of the part.
Me: I paid $2,000 for a computer that has never worked right, and Gateway is afraid I’m going to cheat them out of a $200 hard drive?
Blah Blah: I can send out the part without a credit card, however, if you don’t return it within a week, you will void your warranty.
Me: My warranty isn’t really helping me very much.
Blah Blah: You’re getting a free hard drive.
Me: No, I paid $2000 for that hard drive. It’s not free.
Blah Blah: You can expect your part in three to five days.
Me: Since I just went without my computer for over a week the last time this happened, do you think you could possibly send it next day air?
Blah Blah: Of course, ma’am. I’ll just need a credit card number.
Me: *click*

I was seriously going to lose it if I didn’t hang up right then. Actually, there was a lot of conversation with a few different techs, but I can’t remember it all. I remember the part where one tech told me that they only send out new hardware, not refurbished. That, I remember vividly. Three to five days later, my “new” hard drive arrived. And I installed it. And I started loading up my files again. Actually, the first thing I did, was write a two page letter to Gateway’s senior vice president in charge of customer service and quality assurance.

I wrote about my experience with this computer and my frustration that I’ve had two bad hard drives and the computer was only 6 months old. I told them that I thought that the hard drive controller needed to be looked at and that at the very least, they should send out a technician to troubleshoot my computer free of charge to me. And wouldn’t you know that as soon as I sent the letter, the new hard drive started to fail. I say “started” because I had a sudden surge of corrupted files and settings and got a message about bad sectors. I know enough to know that this is the precursor to something very, very bad.

Deja Vu

I was so happy. It was mid-October, 2003, the weather was beautiful and my new computer was awesome! It was a 700 XL with all the bells and whistles, among them, a humongous 160 GB SATA hard drive. I could now edit video and pictures and not worry a lick about running out of space. Life was good.

One spring morning back in March, 2004, I woke up to a frozen computer. I wasn’t terribly concerned and restarted the computer. That’s when I got polite little message that said “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but Windows failed to start properly…” Now, isn’t that lovely? I tried every option they gave me for a restart in safe mode with and without networking, but I kept seeing the same message over and over. So I called the 1-800 people for the very first time in 6 months. They made me run a little program called GWSCAN to see how the hard drive checked out. It checked out, OK. It was down for the count. “Too many errors, call Technical Support.” Grrr. So, the 1-800 people said they would send me a new hard drive. Spiffy. Everything was gone. Three to five business days later, my new hard drive arrived.

So, my husband and I replaced the hard drive and I went about reloading all of my programs. It was déjà vu all over again. I swear, I have nightmares about polite messages and installing Windows. Anyway, eventually, I had a working computer again.
This was short lived.

One step forward, two back

Against my better judgment, I took my busted-ass computer back to the Gateway Country store. By this time, I was just tired of it. I wanted a new computer in a bad way. I wanted something new and shiny and plastic smelling that I could plug things into and that would work like it’s supposed to. This is why, against my husband’s wishes, I opened the little door that separates “tech support” from “sales” and walked through.

I walked in a trance towards the biggest, fastest looking, most expensive computer in the room and just stood there. It didn’t take long for me to attract a salesman. They’re like moths to a flame. Anyway, we introduced ourselves and he asked me what I was looking for in a computer. I told him the truth, “a working motherboard.” I told him a little about my problems and he was very sympathetic seeing as how he was going through something similar with his own computer. Anyway, I gave him some specs on what I wanted and he told me about a system that had everything and then some. And he said that he would upgrade the one-year warranty to a four-year warranty. Woo hoo! I had me a shiny new computer. Not only that, but a couple days later Gateway finally managed to put a working motherboard in my old computer, which then became my sister-in-laws new computer.

Thus ends one saga and begins another.

More Mobo Mojo

I was pretty upset when I got home with my computer. I vowed that there was no way they were going to make me pay for a bad mobo because of an operating system upgrade. I got on my husband’s computer (which coincidently is a Dell and has never had a problem in the 4 years he’s owned it,) and wrote an email to Gateway asking them about the status of my warranty. While I waited for an answer, I installed XP again to see if doing that could solve the USB issue. What do you know? The USB ports still don’t work. Looks like it really is a bad mobo. Luckily, the 1-800 people had already shipped the replacement, so it looked like I was going to be up and running again soon.

I was leery of ever returning to a Gateway Country store again, so I had the geekiest of my techie friends come over to help me with the new motherboard. We put Humpty Dumpty back together again, pressed the button and… cue dramatic music… nothing. In fact, I have a theory that Gateway just sent my original bad motherboard back to me. After a lot of cursing and tantrum throwing, I called the 1-800 people again. They never apologized, but they did assure me that mobo number 3 would be sent. In the mean time, I did receive an email back from Gateway assuring me that I had not voided my warranty by installing XP and that the motherboards were most assuredly covered under my warranty. Yippee. I could now take my computer back to Gateway to fix. Joy.

This is when I made a decision that I would later learn to regret.

Mobo Mojo

Back to the store my little CPU went. Mc Tech number 2 looked surprised to see me.

Them: Back again so soon?
Me: Well, yeah. The motherboard is bad.
Them: The one we just put in? Can’t be. We tested it.
Me: None of the USB ports work.
Them: *Joking* Well, who uses them anyway?
Me: *not laughing* The 1-800 people are sending another motherboard.
Them: OK. We’ll call you when the work is completed.
Me: Pfft!

The next day, the phone rings. It’s McTech number 3 and my jaw hits the floor. They finally realized what those seven numbers next to the word “phone” are for. This would not be the first time during the course of our conversation that my jaw would hit the floor. Basically, they guy was calling to tell me that they had decided to reinstall my operating system to see if that would fix my USB issue. The thing was, when I bought the computer, it had come with Windows ME – what has to be the worst excuse for an operating system in the history of the world. I hated ME. <-- that looks funny. So I had upgraded to Microsoft XP. But XP formats in NTFS and ME in Fat. When they put ME in, it reformatted the hard drive. Once upon a time, I had also paid Gateway to install a second hard drive that was also formatted in NTFS so now, it was unreadable (but only temporarily.)

Now, here’s the real kicker. McTech number 3 told me that because I had installed XP without purchasing it from Gateway and having a McTech install it, I had voided my warranty and would be charged for the re-installation of my operating system. As you can imagine, I was a little miffed. I headed down there to pick up my busted-ass computer that was sans an operating system.

Of McTechs and motherboards

My Performance 1000 had a failed motherboard. Fantastic. Now, I’m not a techie geek, but I have friends who are. I asked what this meant for me and everyone said that once the motherboard was replaced, Everything would go back to the way it was – no reformatting of the hard drive, which I was glad of since my computer died without warning and I didn’t have time to back stuff up.

So, I bundled up the CPU and took it to my local Gateway Country store’s tech service department. I briefly explained the issue and gave them the work order number that I had been assigned by the 1-800 people. They had already ordered the motherboard and it was being sent to the store, so all I needed for them to do was install it. The McTech told me that it would take about 3 days for the part to get there and that they would call me as soon as my computer was ready. He gave me a form where I filled out all of my various contact numbers. This form also said that Gateway wasn’t responsible for lost data and that I could pay Gateway a humongous amount of money to back up the hard drive if the hard drive was reformatted. I asked the McTech for confirmation that the hard drive would be untouched. He assured me that it would be fine and all they had to do was reconnect the hard drive. I declined the back up service and went on my merry way.

After about 5 days with no phone call, I decided to drop by the store to check the status of the work. Another McTech told me that it had been ready for pick up for 3 days. This was so not cool. I wrote down 3 phone numbers for them to call, yet no one ever called them. I tried not to let my anger show to McTech 2 since it wasn’t her fault. She could tell that I was angry though and quickly changed the subject to the work that was completed. “We installed the new motherboard and it tested fine.” Groovy.

I took it home and went about hooking up my peripheral stuff, like my scanner and camera and stuff. Instantly, I knew there was a problem. None of the devices on my USB ports were being recognized. The device manager said the ports were functioning correctly, but… nada.

So I called the 1-800 people again. Wouldncha know, there was something wrong with the motherboard. Gateway had sent and installed (and tested, by the way) a defective motherboard.

Why I hate Gateway

I hate Gateway with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. The reasons are many and varied. I guess it all started back in 2000. I ordered a new computer to replace my aging Compaq. I had been served well by that computer, but it was not really upgradable and I was getting into digital photography which demands a lot more storage than the little Compaq could provide. So I ordered a Performace 1000 from Gateway. The order went smoothly and I didn't have a problem with the computer until after 3 years of ownership. That's when things really headed down hill.

One morning, I woke up to find my computer totally frozen. I had to do a hard reset, and when it came back... actually, it never came back. It was deader than a doornail. So I called Gateway's crack support team. They had me try somethings, and in the end diagnosed that the motherboard had failed. And so the saga began.