A little less than a year ago I bought a new Dell Vostro laptop. It’s a nice light-weight, yet powerful little laptop that has done me well until now. Actually, to be honest, it’s still doing me well, it’s just the hard drive that’s been giving me problems.
I’ve had intermittent crashing since last year November. So much so that I got fed-up and rebuilt the machine from scratch. Re-installing the OS all my apps and restoring my backed-up data.
Then, about six weeks ago, it started happening again. Fed up with the constant and intermittent crashing (not limited to any particular application) I gave up again – backing up my data but I didn’t do a re-install. Instead, I called Dell.
When I bought the laptop I included an extended warranty (next business day) for a little extra. Now, I know, I don’t normally do the extended warranty thing with appliances as it’s usually over-priced and most of the time not worth it. This time, however, it paid off for itself.
Firstly, Dell call center staff actually are not only helpful but friendly too – something a lot of call centers around the world can learn from. All they needed to look up my details was my laptop service tag number. With that they could tell me what my warranty period was, when it expires and asked me how they could help. I explained that I had been having intermittent crashing and IO read/write failures.
They then asked me if I had any diagnostic error codes – I said I didn’t note down the actual error codes from the blue screens but they all pointed to IO failures. He then asked me if I had the laptop with me and I said no that it was at home. He then proceeded to explain to me that if I power the laptop off and then hold down the function (Fn) key while pressing the power button it would boot up into a built-in Dell Diagnostics mode. Wow, I was impressed, I’d learnt something new about my laptop (apparently this is built-in into all Dell machines).
So when I got home I ran the diagnostics tool (which looks very similar to a BIOS screen) and it let me know that there were indeed errors with the hard drive. I noted the error codes down and continued with the rest of the diagnostics. It even continues into a windows-like interface with nice options where you can either run a quick, full, or specific diagnostic test. It also has a symptom-tree function where you pick from a list of symptoms (like blue-screens, hanging, etc) and it shows you the various tests that can be performed. Let me tell you, it’s exhaustive. I ran all the tests and all of them passed, except for some of the read/write tests on the hard drive.
Obviously, now, the problem actually was the hard-drive. I called them up the next morning, following-up from my previous call and they verified that the drive would need to be replaced. Since this was a Friday and we would be going away for a long weekend I asked if the drive could be delivered to me at my office the following Wednesday (my first day back). They said not a problem, all I had to do was call the business day prior to when I wanted it delivered (before 4pm) and they would ensure next-business day delivery.
Monday morning I gave them a call again to confirm my delivery address and contact number. I was warned however that due to the volcanic ash from the Icelandic volcano that the delivery might be delayed if they did not have enough stock on hand. I understood. Before ending the call the agent asked me if I needed assistance removing the drive, re-installing the new one as well as whether or not I had the operating system to re-install. Oh, they also asked if I needed any data recovered/backed up on the drive once it was delivered to Dell. Is that service, or what? I said that it wasn’t a problem I could remove the drive, re-install the new one and re-install the OS by myself.
When I got home on Tuesday I made sure I had backed up all the files I needed and began shredding various sensitive and personal files before completely uninstalling everything down to just the OS and then removing the drive from the laptop, inserting it into my portable drive enclosure and using my work laptop to format the drive as well as removing the partitions, re-creating a new single partition and formatting it. Yes, I know it’s overkill but I wanted to try and make it as difficult as possible for any data to be recovered from the drive (there shouldn’t be a reason for it).
To my utter amazement, a little less than 20 minutes after I walked into the office at 8:30am on Wednesday morning (today) the courier brought me my new hard drive, sealed (not with a kiss, but with anti-static wrapping in a padded box). I removed my drive from the laptop (I had re-inserted it the night before again after cleaning it) and gave it to the courier, took my new drive from the anti-static enclosure and he left with the faulty drive. I installed the new drive – ran all the diagnostics and all the tests passed – clean as a whistle. I was a happy man – now all I needed was to re-install the OS, my applications and restore my data.
By the way, Windows Easy Transfer (for moving your entire windows profile, application settings, personal files, etc) works like a charm. Less than 12 hours later, I’m fully up and running again.
Dell Customer Service gets an A+ from me – well done!