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Dell fix-'em-ups

I bought my Dell Inspiron 6000 and my sister's Inspiron 6000 roughly two weeks apart from each other. My sis' is a basic 6000. It has the lower-end CPU and no wireless. Mine on the other hand is a bit more powerful, with 1GB of RAM, 60GB HDD, BlueTooth, Wireless, better LCD screen and an optical drive that burns both CD's and DVD's.

My Dell has been running very well. The only screw-up is that the "L" key on my keyboard started getting over-sensitive and would do llllllllllll every time I touched it, so I contacted for a replacement 'board and received it without issue. The install was very easy.

My sister's optical drive (which is CD-burn and DVD-ROM) started screwing up. It either had a very difficult time reading DVD's or wouldn't read them at all. It was not a software issue, so I had to call Dell to get a replacement optical drive.

My beef with Dell consumer support is what it's always been: I can't stand talking to (stated politically incorrect to the extreme) "ha-beebs", i.e. Indian folk. Their English is poor and is it so obvious when they're talking from a help desk script.

I literally have to prepare myself to skirt around the help desk script before I call. This is what I have at the ready.

1) Service Tag.

Dell lives and dies by the service tag. No tag = no service. I make sure to have that at the ready.

2) Have computer is in front of me.

Even if it's so obvious you've figured out what the problem is and what to do about it - they will insist that you reboot your computer, every time without fail. Note to Dell: REBOOTING DOES NOT FIX EVERYTHING.

3) Have answers ready for the stupid questions they ask.

Some of this is laptop specific.

Is your computer turned on?


Are you connected to the internet?

NO. Never admit you're connected to the internet even if you are, that is instant "WE DON'T SUPPORT THAT" and they will rapidly close and disconnect the call or "I HAVE TO TRANSFER YOU" and send you elsewhere where they will say "Um.. you have a hardware problem, I'll have to send you back where you were. Please hold for another forty minutes."

Is the battery in the computer?


Is your AC Adapter plugged in?


Are you running a wireless network?

NO. Again, this is instant help desk death. Even if I am on wireless, I don't admit to being on one because that's another "I HAVE TO TRANSFER YOU" thing.


So anyway, I know the optical drive is shot; that much is obvious. Now I have to step up to the challenge of convincing the ha-beeb that it is in fact a hardware failure and that a replacement part is necessary, because if the help desk rep thinks it's a software problem, I'm screwed and the rep will pin the blame on me.

During the call this is what happened (for real). I had already informed the tech that I had tried brand new out-of-box DVD's and none of them would read:

Is your AC adapter plugged in?

(Sigh...) YES.

Could you reboot the computer please?

(See? Told you so.) Okay, hang on.

(reboot commences)

(reboot completes)

Click on the Start button, then "My Computer"

(I already know where he's going with this so I cut him short)

The drive letter shows up and there is no data. The title of the drive won't even show.


Listen, I know you're reading from a script, the drive is shot. I need a new drive, it will not read ANY disc inserted into the unit.

(Rep tells me to hold for a moment. I've officially confused him. He needs to speak to the head cheese ha-beeb there.)

Rep finally comes back on the phone.


After hashing it out with the tech for about ten minutes, I finally convinced him that a new optical drive was necessary. Actually, I tell him "CD/DVD drive" because if I say "optical" they get all confused.

The drive arrived today. I pop the old one out, put the new one in, and WHAD'YA KNOW... the problem is fixed. DUH.

Technical description of problem: From using optical drives for many many years (my first optical drive was a 1x CD-ROM) I know when they decide to die. You hear them spin up, the laser won't read anything even after you clean the lens with a dry cotton swab, and it's time to junk it. The drive tries over and over again to read, then your computer locks up because Windows wants to make a drive letter and can't complete its task - and that's exactly what happened to my sis' Inspiron.

The new drive has completely fixed the problem 100%.

But no thanks to ha-beeb. It's sad when I have to school them as to what the problem is and how to fix it. Very sad.


For those who wonder why tech support is hell on wheels, here's why:

Consumer (meaning not corporate enterprise) tech support is the worst kind on the planet for both the computer company and the consumer.

In the corporate world, all computers are "vanilla", meaning they're all the same. They're very easy to support. All hardware and software is A-1 identical across the board.

In the consumer world there is no such thing as a vanilla computer. All of them are different. People add/remove hardware, people add/remove software and there isn't any consistency at all. When you add to the fray that most consumers don't have the first friggin' clue how computers work, you've got a bad situation all around.

Your best bet when calling Dell support is to give off this impression: "I never ever use my computer. I don't connect to the internet with it. I never install anything. I never delete anything. As a matter of fact, the only time I ever turn it on is when I call you."

Sounds funny, but that's how you make a vanilla computer that they can support.


In the end,

Rich: 1
Ha-beeb: 0

Even though I got the drive and fixed the problem, hopefully I will not have to call them again any time soon. It's just a very painful process.


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