Another OEM Horror Story

So, a friend of mine got a Gateway system nearly two years ago. It came with a 900MHz Athlon, 64MB RAM, TNT Vanta, and a 20GB HDD, all running on one of the worst OSes ever, Windows ME. Needless to say, even for a non-gaming system, it was seriously choked by a lack of RAM. Fine, I told her she could get a stick of 128MB for $40 (this was around the time RAM prices spiked for a bit, back in the spring) and she did. Now she had a stick of Crucial PC133 in there. Things were dandy.

Not long after that, something fishy happend. The computer would operate for 20 minutes, and then shut itself off. Upon seeing this, I put my hand on the back of the computer, and noticed that the PSU was really hot. After the computer was off for about 20 minutes, I had her power it back on, and noticed that the PSU fan didn't not spin. So, the PSU would overheat, and shut itself off. 20 min on the phone with Gateway (after they tried to say it was a software problem....) and new PSU was sent. Installed it, and away she went. During this time, I also found out that the CD-ROM drive had gone kaput not 3 months after getting the machine. So, in a 15 month time period, two hardware items had given up the ghost.

Then a couple of weeks ago, the keyboard died. First it would type incorrectly (hitting L would give you a 2, or something like that), then it eventually died. Gateway again sent a replacement. Then, the USB printer that came with the system began to do strange things. Even with correctly installed drivers, any print job would time out, so there was a problem with communication between the printer and computer. I was thinking it might be a bad USB port, since it was also started acting funny the same time the USB keyboard went.

Tech support told her that she might want to try a restore, since kernal errors were happening like mad, even if the computer was just running a screen saver. Well, she came to me, since she had around 6GB of music, movies, and documents that she wanted to save, and she didn't want to use 8-10 CD-Rs to back it all up. I told her that I could partition the HDD, putting all the important stuff on the new partition, and formatting and rebuilding only on the C: drive. This weekend I spent time doing that. First PartitionMagic didn't want to work, which I traced to Roxio GoBack. Disabling that let me partition. I moved all 6GB of data without a problem. Then came the restore part. Now the nightmare begins.

I took out the disc with the OS restore, and looked at the options. One was just an OS restore, while the other was a complete restore to retail condition (meaning all meaningless programs and junkware would be reinstalled). Knowing that Windows just loves to have programs installed then uninstalled, especially the programs that go deep into the registry, I did the basic OS install, since the discs allowed for the individual installation of drivers and software. Things went well, I installed all the drivers, and I downloaded all patches and whatnot from Windows Update. Then trouble. After installing the printer drivers, I was only able to start into safe mode. Trying a normal boot would leave me with a blinking cursor, no matter how long I let it sit. So, I removed the "offending" drivers, but that didn't work. Since I hadn't been able to install and restore programs (one time I wish I had installed GoBack), and completely forgetting that WinME had a built in restore function, I opted for another factory restore.

Followed the same process as before, but this time, I was unable to get past the second reboot of Windows install. Again, I would get a blinking cursor. I had already unplugged the printer and ethernet cords. It just sat there. I said screw it and went to dinner, and told my friend to call tech support, as I was thinking there was something screwy hardware-wise (I could very well have been wrong, but other things happened to make that a moot point for now).

After calling tech support (and being hung up on numerous times on "accident"), my friend informed me that a) The computer had finally finished the install, but the final reboot left the computer unable to load up into anything but safe mode, b) tech support was now blaming me, as I didn't follow the correct procedure for system restore. Forget that the system was working fine for 2 hours, and had been rebooted 10-12 times in the time period due to downloading and installing Critical Updates, DX8, WMP 7.1, IE 5.5, etc. So, they said that she <i>must</i> have a virus, and that WinME hates partitions, and the only way to properly install WinME is on a completely clean, unpartitioned HDD. Now, I would agree with the clean install part, but the unpartitioned part is stupid. I have done it many times with Win95, Win98SE, WinME, and WinXP, all without problems.... but I digress. Of course, Tech Support was unable to help her, saying that the only course she had left was to bring the machine to a Gateway store (45 minutes away) and leave it there for about a week. She'd lose everything on it (though I'm beginning to wonder if those techs would even notice a partition on the drive) and wasn't promised that it would be fixed, even though it was under warrenty (I read that as meaning that they will keep swapping parts till it works, then give her a Frakenstein's monster). When she mentioned that she had numerous GBs of data she wanted to save, she was told that her only option at this point was to remove the HDD physically and put it in another computer to pull off the info (which I had mentioned as an option awhile back), or to take it to a Datasaver company (or something) to have them extract it. Since that cost money, and we are poor college students, she went for the former idea.

So tonight, I went over there, pop off the cover, find the HDD, remove the power supply, and go to remove the IDE cable. I barely even jiggle the cable before the clamp holding the female connector on snaps off and the cable is no longer attactched to the female connector, which is now essensially stuck in the HDD. I try for 30 minutes to remove the connector, if for no other reason than to be able to do it, and still get the data off on my computer. Instead, I end up making a mess of the plug (did I mention that the whole setup was made of crumbling, poorly manufactured plastic?) So now, she has a broken IDE cable (well the Master plug is shot) and a HDD that she can't get any data off. The fact that I have taken off and put on hundreds of IDE cables, many times on the same cable, tells me that this was a POS job by Gateway. So now, in the two years this system has be "living," a CDROM, PSU, Keyboard, IDE Cable (which didn't look too healthy even before I "broke" it) and some other mysterious bit of hardware (RAM, HDD itself (Scandisk showed no bad sectors, though), short in the board, etc.) has died. Best Buy, in it's infinite wisdom, would have replaced the whole thing after the Keyboard (would have been a Lemon under it's warrenty plan), yet Gateway still wants to fix it. So now, the tower is going 45 minutes north, won't be seen until at least next Tuesday, and there is no promise, especially after tonight, that it will ever come back. I'm tempted to tell her the demand a refund ($1200 for that thing two years ago), but I know that they'd rather keep throwing new parts at it until it works in their "lab." I mean, for $1200, I could build her a machine that rivaled mine, and all she would use it for is music, movies, and Word. She could get a nice LCD monitor and still have money to burn on a mainstream, built by me, computer.

Needless to say, I'm a little ticked about this whole experience, and gives me even more reason to question the sanity behind purchasing OEM systems. At least I know that the parts I am getting are good, since I only get them from reputable places. Ah well... life goes on. I just wish I had been able to save the data, but there was no way that IDE plug was coming out of the HDD.


Some day, THG-willing, I shall obtain the coveted "Old Hand" title.
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  1. Hey man, that really s*cks!

    If she is going to demand the 1200$, ask also for the time and the patience you have spend! At least, is she concious of OEM = horrible?

    DIY: read, buy, test, learn, reward yourself!
  2. Sorry for your troubles but I'm LMAO! Some things never change.

    About 10 years ago, the company for which I was contracting had been approached by Gateway (Gateway 2000 at the time) to strike deal. The company was planning on buying several hundred PCs but wanted a trial order of only 18 PCs from Gateway. The hard drives kept loosing files mostly in the Windows\System directory. Turned out that the motherboards had faulty IDE connectors. Cables were so loose they would wiggle themselves free with time.

    The problems were resolved. I replaced the cables, which seemed to be a better fit. I thought this was only a temporary fix but the manager had other plans. I think he got a partial credit for machines. Anyway, he kept them in service rather than obtaining replacements. (The PC users used duct tape to make sure the new IDE cables didn't come loose).

    The company placed a second order for computers. These machines were the same model but had different motherboards. I think only six were ordered. The IDE connectors were no longer a problem but these systems developed another problem. The fans failed on two of the power supplies. There was much confusion with customer support so I just bought off-the-shelf AT power supplies and was done with the problem.

    The company never did buy any more Gateway 2000 computers.

    They bought Compaqs instead. That's a whole different story!

    <b>I type sixty words per minute. Ten are spelled correctly.</b>
  3. I think with such story, she clearly has an idea!

    But man, talk about an interesting story, Sammyboy should use it as an demonstrative argument to show how OEM comps are never top quality even when using the best of the best of Intel motherboards and chipsets.

    I guess I just see the world from a fisheye. -Eden
  4. I hope you at least got a BJ after all that work.

  5. Dirty dirty dirty... you should watch your language around this forum, there are young'uns about :wink: . But alas, there was no reward, sexual or otherwise. :frown:


    Some day, THG-willing, I shall obtain the coveted "Old Hand" title.
  6. Oh, how I agree with you there. The only time I think one can be sure that the parts are at least passable for the retail market are when they are stuck in the bleeding edge machines. Since there are much less of those, and the profit margin is so low (or doesn't exist... called "loss leaders" I think, selling limited quanity, lowest priced possible, products for a loss... idea is to get you in the store. You see that a lot during the day after Thanksgiving sales *remembers working at Target that day, and the 5 disc CD player being sold for $55, and having had only 5 instock before opening*), I would think that the top machines get the top parts. All the other crap gets pushed into the mainstream systems. I might be wrong, but it still bothers me that I couldn't even apply enough pressure to wiggle the IDE connector before it broke. Makes me wonder if that was the problem in the first place.


    Some day, THG-willing, I shall obtain the coveted "Old Hand" title.
  7. Dude... You got Delled.
    Thats all there is to say.

    (i would like to also think that 'to be delled' is a generic phrase now)

    <b>Is that a Sidetracked Thread I see before me? - <i>William Shakespeare, Macbeth</i></b>
    Officially Certified <font color=green>Hooter Inspector.</font color=green>
  8. No wonder my ass hurts.


    Some day, THG-willing, I shall obtain the coveted "Old Hand" title.
  9. ahahah thats so funny WD dude!
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