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February 12, 2006

Dead computer walking!

Living in Trondheim

It's aliiive!

My laptop computer Mars died on saturday the 28th of January. It was partly my own fault becuase I bluntly ignored the big warning bells in my head and tried to perform a flash-upgrade of the bios of my video card. The flashing failed however, so after the next reboot my computer was dead as a brick, and as this was a saturday morning I also discovered that Dell customer support is not open during the weekends so I had to wait until monday morning to report the problem.

On monday morning I then called technical support, and not surprisingly Dell told me it was all my fault, and since the computer were out of warranty and I did not have CompleteCare anymore I would have to cover it myself, meaning 1200NOK for a new card or 3-4000 NOK if I wanted Dell to install it for me.
Beeing a poor student I wasn't quite ready to accept such expenses at face value, so I sat down and wrote a long email to Dell explaining how I had simply followed the instructions they provided on their website, and that there weren't any warnings to be found anywhere mentioning that this might actually wreck my computer. As an IT-specialist I am of course aware that flash-upgrades may be hazardous, but I have never upgraded a video-card before so I didn't expect it to be as critical as a mainboard, and as it was Dell's upgrade application that crashed for no apparent reason during the upgrade I have no fault in the matter anyhow.

Fortunately for me Dells complaint-department agreed with me that since there were no warnings and it was a reccommended upgrade then it was their fault, so on Thursday last week they shipped me a replacement card for free. I'm very impressed that they just needed two days to make their decision and send me a new card, and with such great customer service I'll definitively go with Dell for my next computer too!
Dell originally wanted me to ship my computer to them for the upgrade, but since that would take ages and I wanted my computer fixed as soon as possible, I convinced them that I could replace the card myself and save them the trouble. I was told that I could expect the new card as soon as the next day, but this of course didn't happen and the delivery guy didn't reach me until wednesday this week, but I'm still impressed with how fast the matter was resolved and the helpfulness of the Dell customer reps.

Since I had to return my old video card with the delivery guy I had already removed it from the computer when he showed up, so installing the new card and putting the laptop together was done in a matter of minutes. Booting up for the first time in weeks, the screen came to life and everything worked again! YAY!
However this wasn't the end of all the troubles. The video-drivers I had installed didn't work with the new card, and since I expected them to give me a identical replacement I didn't ask and Dell didn't tell which card they were going to send me. However after some experimenting I found it to be a GeForce FX Go5200, one generation up from my old Geforce 4200Go! Wooho! :-)

But there was still one more thing to do before everything were in perfect working order. I have had some stability problems with Phobos and Deimos, my two Mag Icecube harddrive enclosures, and I wanted to fix them as well. After talking to Macpower support they provided me with a flash upgrade to fix the problems. Naturally I was a bit skeptical to perform another one just after the previous one killed my computer for two weeks, but I held my breath and went through with it, taking every possible precaution to be on the safe side. Afterwards the first enclosure seemed to still work, so I did the other one as well and everything turned out fine with the problems gone.

With these new upgrades and my other recent additions of 1GB RAM and a 100GB 7200rpm harddrive, my old Dell Inspiron 8500 is performing near what I'd expect of a brand new laptop! This has probably saved me quite a bit of cash as I probably won't have to get a new computer for yet another year, or even two perhaps!

Update @ 3rd of March 20:35:
I just noticed that with the new video-card that is not recognized by the system BIOS, the computer will not reenable the monitor after going into Standby-mode. Since this can be quite a bit annoying I once again went and downloaded a BIOS-upgrade....
Luckily this one rebooted the computer to flash the bios outsisde of Windows, so everything turned out fine on the first attempt as I moved from version A02 to A08, which recognized the new card and once again allowed me to wake the computer up from standby. *puh!*

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