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  Debbie's Story  
     
Debbie bought a Dell XPS laptop and after a few months found that strange things started happening such as it locking up.  The only thing she could do when it froze was to turn the power off abruptly, but then it started again with no apparent problem so she carried on using it.  However after abruptly powering off and restarting a few times it was not possible to start at all so she then called on me to investigate.

After running a few tests I found that one of the supplied memory sticks had failed.  This is what caused the original lock ups.  By turning the power off abruptly it was just chance whether a critical Windows file was corrupted by not being flushed out of volatile memory to the hard disk drive - eventually it had to happen.  Part of a normal Windows shut down routine is to ensure that all open files are properly closed and any data written out.

We contacted Dell as the PC was still in warranty and after some discussions they were prepared to accept the failed memory stick back for testing and possible replacement; but they required the entire laptop to be sent to them for an indefinite period.  Debbie needed the laptop more urgently than this would allow so she decided to buy replacement memory and have me fit it.

With the replacement memory fitted the computer hardware was now working but the damage caused by abruptly powering off still had to be repaired.  The 'recovery disk' that Dell provided with the laptop could be used to install Windows again but only by wiping out all the previously installed programs and documents (photos, music, letters etc.) 

After reinstalling Windows and updating it, reinstalling the most important programs and recovering all the documents the problem remained:  Windows was periodically hanging.  I called Dell to discuss this and they had me run the Dell provided hardware diagnostic tests - all passed.  I explained that I had just restored from the Dell provided copy of Windows but was told that as the hardware passed all their tests (which are so scant as to check ALL components of the PC within 10 minutes), no warranty support was available.

As the 'recovery disk' could not be used to install a copy of Windows without Dell's modifications, the only options Debbie had were to accept a PC that sometimes hangs, send the whole laptop off to Dell for a time or buy a new copy of Windows for about 140.

Debbie resolved to avoid mass produced computers and just buy custom built ones in the future as an unadulterated copy of Windows is provided.  Also, to check the small print of any warranties carefully, and when a problem does crop up requiring power to be abruptly removed from the PC, to run a Windows repair immediately before the cumulative effects of repeated power losses causes substantial damage.