Dell Support Again

The Dell support time sink

It is a process filled with a myriad of time consuming hoops an IT professional must jump through before finally receiving the support they need


January 2, 2001

by Eric Svetcov


Last week I once again needed to call Dell support for a problem with a computer. Needless to say, I wasnít eager to spend time with Dell on their support line. Actually, I had already put off the necessary call for two days, but finally I could put it off no longer.


The problem was that a Dell dimension desktop (L433c if you are interested in the model - a system with an i810 motherboard with everything integrated except memory and CPU) was having display problems on an end userís desk. I applied all new patches and driver updates I could find and was still not having success in resolving the issue.


So, I replaced the userís system with one of our spares and took the bad computer down to my work area. I went ahead and reformatted the drive and did a clean install of Windows 2000. I then attempted to install the Windows 2000 SP1 update. Unfortunately, midway through the install, the computer began to slow down and then freeze. I rebooted the system and tried again with the same results.


So, what did I do? I reformatted the drive and reinstalled Windows 2000 a second time and then applied the Windows 2000 SP1 update a third time. Same results.


Now you have to understand, I have about a half-dozen of these L433c systems and none of them exhibited this type of behavior. I had even just rebuilt one a few hours before with complete success. I knew that there was a problem here and that it appeared that the problem was hardware related and probably would be solved by a simple motherboard replacement.


So, what do I do? I call up Dellís tech support.


Lucky me, I get through in 20 minutes and chat with a gentleman who asks me a number of questions after I related the story indicated above. He then asks me if I ran the special Dell hardware diagnostics program. I indicate that I have not. He says that I need to run that program. A little warning signal suddenly went off, so I asked him what happens if the diagnostics fail? He indicated that Dell would then need to replace the problem part. OK, I could live with that.


Then I asked him what would happen if the system passed the diagnostics. He began to hem and haw. He indicated that if the system did pass, it was likely that they would still need to replace the motherboard since it was unlikely that there was any other cause for the problem I had; however, I needed to test the system anyway.


Very annoying, but I tested the system. Nearly 3 hours later, the system had finished the testing process and passed.


I then called Dell back, waited 35 minutes in their queue and then tried to get the same technician. Unfortunately, he had gone home. So I had a new technician and I had to once again explain the problem. I indicated that it had passed the system test, but that it still had a problem installing Windows 2000 SP1 plus had video display problems prior to the rebuild. He said that it obviously wasnít a hardware problem and that I needed to speak with Windows 2000 support.


I disagreed with him and indicated all the reasons why I didnít think it was a 2000 problem (most of them noted above). He then indicated he wanted to speak with someone else and would get right back with me. I was on hold for about five minutes and then was transferred to another call queue without the technician ever speaking with me again.


I waited in the new queue for 70 minutes before I hung up the phone and called back.


I spent another 25 minutes waiting for the third technician of the day to answer the phone. I related everything that I had done and my thought process. He also said that it could not be a hardware problem since the system passed all of the tests. He also said that he wasnít a Windows 2000 expert and couldnít explain why Windows 2000 SP1 couldnít install. We went around and around the different problems that could exist for another 30 minutes or so before he finally relented and said he needed to talk to someone else.


I waited on hold for about 10 more minutes before he came back on the line. He indicated that at this point he would ask for a motherboard to be sent to us for replacement.


Is it just me, or did I really need to go through the hours of aggravation in order to get to the same place I was at the beginning of the process. Before I called Dell, all I wanted was a motherboard. After spending nearly a day working on the problem with Dell, they finally decided to send me a motherboard. If you tallied up the hours I spent on the problem, you would probably come to the same conclusion I did at the end of the line. Assuming my time is worth $125/hour, it was probably just as cost effective to throw away the computer as it was to spend all that time working on the problem with Dell.


And people wonder why I like smaller computer manufacturers who actually trust the people they sell to.


If you have comments or would like to relate your own story about vendor shortcomings, please e-mail us at