Dell Hell

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by Let'sgoflying!, Sep 3, 2019.

  1. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    How did the computer stay awake for so long (the test took a couple of hours) but right now it is sitting there going on and off (while I work from a second laptop, not touching the diseased one)?
     
  2. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Dude you bought a dell...oops
     
  3. MuseChaser

    MuseChaser Line Up and Wait

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    Shot in the dark, but I think when you ran the mem checking program it was running off the CPU's BIOS (the most basic machine-level operating system) and whatever shell program was on the drive you had the mem checking program on. In other words, it was running prior to whatever system level issue that is causing your problem. When you say your computer now is "sitting there going on and off," do you mean it's caught in a boot loop, i.e., you get a screen of some kind that looks like Windows is trying to start, maybe w/ a logo, or at least some basic text scrolling up the screen, then it shuts down sort of with a click and that process starts over? If so, have you tried starting in "Safe Mode?".. Do you know how to do that? If not, we can talk you through that, too.

    Another thing you might try running Linux from a USB drive, or installing Linux on a partition on your hard drive. If that runs, then there very well may not be a problem with your hardware.

    These are all guesses. I've built quite a few computers over the years, but the advice you've already gotten from others already is past my expertise level. Just figured I'd try and help. Good luck. At this point, I'd document your attempts to get satisfaction from the company, send them a written letter that you will be reversing the charges on your credit card unless they warranty your computer, then follow through if they don't. Your credit card company will want to see your efforts to get satisfaction from the company, and they will also want to see Dell's replies, if any. Credit card companies are usually pretty good about helping you out. Heck, you may even have some sort of warranty protection THROUGH your card that you're not even aware of.
     
  4. IK04

    IK04 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I just gave up and put the Dell laptop back in the box...

    It would not update to the latest Insider build, so I gave up after thirty attempts and two weeks of wasted time.

    I heard the same suggestions on the forums a zillion times and it was all a waste of time.

    I had all my radio apps on that laptop and only used it for stuff that required some high security stuff that unfortunately only runs on Windoze...
     
  5. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    That's very strange. Bad Pool Caller errors can be caused by software, driver conflicts, and user tweaks (overclocking and so forth); but those causes are very rare on a stock computer out-of-the-box. If there's a problem with the factory pre-loaded software, it's usually quickly identified and fixed, even if only because the OEM doesn't want the support calls.

    My eyebrows were raised a bit when you mentioned that most of your data seemed to have been preserved after MS's attempt to help you. That would mean that the restore Microsoft helped you through wasn't really a fresh install but some variation of a "repair install" or other attempt to repair the existing system rather than replacing it.

    The different types of reinstallations can be found at

    https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4000735/windows-10-reinstall

    If they did reinstall the system, I have to assume they used one of the first three options.

    The time that they spent with you also suggests that they had you run time-consuming tools like SFC and DISM to try to repair the existing system. A reinstall wouldn't take that long. A recent one I did on an HP with an i7, an SSD, and 32 GB RAM, using a Windows 10 ISO downloaded from Microsoft, took about 12 minutes for the basic Windows installation. Reinstalling all the HP drivers took a lot longer because of the many reboots needed, but the total reinstall still took only about an hour.

    I'm also assuming that the MS tech had you check the events logs to try to determine if a particular piece of software was causing the problem, and couldn't find anything.

    Repair installs, in-place upgrades, and so forth are all attempts to repair rather then replace the operating system to preserve the user's software, data, and settings. When they don't work, the next step is usually to back up the data, completely wipe the system, and reinstall it.

    I like to use the freshest ISO available from Microsoft because it's likely to need the fewest updates, most of which should happen during the install if you allow the installation routine access to the Internet (assuming it recognizes and has drivers for the NIC). The ISO has to match the Windows version for which the product key is valid. The basic sequence is:

    1. Download and "burn" the ISO from MS (or from the manufacturer, although I personally prefer downloading it from MS).
    2. Download the drivers from the manufacturer and save them to another flash drive.
    3. Back up the system as a whole (image or clone the hard drive) and verify the backup.
    4. Back up the user's data as a separate backup and verify the backup.
    5. Reinstall Windows using one of the last two options on the page linked above. The last one will also delete the recovery partition. The next-to-last one might delete the recovery partition, but shouldn't.
    6. When the system is installed, reinstall the drivers, starting with the freshest stable chipset driver. Reboot after installing the chipset driver even if it doesn't ask you to. (It almost certainly will, however.)

    About the only advantage to using the ISO provided by the manufacturer used to be that it might include the OEM drivers and might re-create the recovery partition as part of the reinstall routine. On the down side, I've found that they're usually less-current than the official MS version and usually include at least some OEM crapware. But I haven't reinstalled on a Dell in many years, so I don't know if that's still true. I usually use the MS versions and install nothing but the drivers from the manufacturer's site.

    The only exception is that I usually install the manufacturer's update utility if they have one. For example, I do install the HP Support Assistant on an HP computer because it actually does a decent job of monitoring for BIOS and driver updates with only a minimum of sales pitches for extended warranties and the like. I don't know what the Dell equivalent is (nor if they even have one). If they do, it might be worth installing.

    The other option you have is to demand a refund. If they won't give you one, call the credit card issuer and tell them the whole story, providing whatever documentation you have of all the failed attempts to fix it, and telling them that you're so disgusted with Dell that you don't want a replacement. You want your money back.

    Most issuers will approve such a well-documented request because frankly, they don't give a **** one way or the other. You're their customer, not Dell, and it's you they want to keep happy. Even if Dell protests the chargeback, the overwhelming documentation you provided should prevail. (You would, of course, have to return the machine using insured certified mail or some other method that proves that they received it.)

    Rich
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
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  6. Stephen Poole

    Stephen Poole Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    @RJM62, thou hast nailed it. I missed the fact that the Microsoft "reinstall" left the data intact. Very good catch.

    By the way, the newest Dell laptops don't come with a CD/DVD unless you request it (if it's even available), and they do make you jump through hoops to boot from USB. Dell apparently replaces some of the drivers with its own stuff. Example: on my new Latitude, Dell has their own build of the Intel video drivers and OpenGL is broken. Lots of complainin' in the support forums from people who need 3D graphics that rely on OpenGL.

    Also FYI, if @Let'sgoflying! wants to try a live Linux distro, it may not work for whatever reason. I use OpenSuse, and neither it nor Fedora would boot the Live kit. I was able to get the full distro DVD ISO to load, and was able to get it installed in a dual-boot arrangement, but I did have to work at it.
     
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  7. Stephen Poole

    Stephen Poole Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    @Let'sgoflying!, keep us posted. Our company uses a lot of Dell equipment. That may change.
     
  8. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    As I think I said earlier, the miserable support was why I gave up recommending and using Dell when I had my business downstate. Getting them to respond to obvious defects was like pulling teeth. I can't tell you how many times clients paid me to fix stuff that Dell should have fixed because it was under warranty, just because Dell wouldn't do it. They used DecisionOne back then, who weren't horrid; but getting Dell to authorize the service calls became nearly impossible toward the end.

    I started suggesting PowerSpec first. There was a very good Micro Center with a very customer-focused manager in my service area, and no one who took my advice ever complained. Tom teaches his techs to bend over backward to keep customers happy because he knows that happy customers become loyal customers. It's been my experience that this is policy throughout the company, though. I've never had a bad experience with any Micro Center location.

    If the client insisted on a "mainstream" brand, I recommended HP (business-class). HP's support was out of India, but they were good. There are plenty of smart techs in India. They just don't work for Dell. My last experience with HP support was a few years ago, and they were still good. I can't say whether that's still true today.

    Rich
     
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  9. IK04

    IK04 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I ended up nuking my entire drive and attempted a clean install. Nope.

    I am going to re-image the drive back to where it was a few months ago before all this started. If that doesn't work, the SSD is going in the trash...
     
  10. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Does the SSD pass read/write tests?

    Rich
     
  11. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Going to try this. (thanks Rich for the investment in time and thought)
    I want to do a clean install, overwrite everything possible. (the last option in your link)
    There is no data on the computer I need so I am going to skip the backups.

    (I do not recall a check of Events Log btw - but there was a lot of tech time flipping from place to place without discussion so I could have missed it.

     
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  12. Skyrys62

    Skyrys62 En-Route PoA Supporter

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    If you don't have it, you may want to get/document your Windows registration key. Might not need it now, but if the drive fails completely sometime, you'll wish you had it.

    There is a small program to download called Keyfinder that may make it easy for you.
     
  13. IK04

    IK04 Cleared for Takeoff

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    It didn't survive the re-image. Failed on the second partition.

    I now have the old original spinny drive running, but it has not yet been through the update debacle...
     
  14. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    That is not the MS Service tag on the bottom?
     
  15. IK04

    IK04 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Update:

    Man, I am sold on GPT partitioning! I plugged the SSD into my Linux workstation and after deleting the the primary MBR header, the secondary header was able to recover the original partitioning scheme!

    I was able to mount all my partitions except the one that was corrupted and I repaired that one. I should be able to once again boot that drive...

    Of course, the Windows data is all gone. Good riddance! :p
     
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  16. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I don't know what's on the labels on Dell computers anymore. They used to include a product key that could be used for reinstallation, which was not the same as the Dell Service Tag number (which was on a different label). Nowadays, Dell hard-codes the key into UEFI/ BIOS (on the motherboard), so you really shouldn't need it. Just click "I don't have a product key" or whatever variant of that appears during the installation.

    That being said, I like to have the key handy anyway (or verify that it's in UEFI/BIOS) before reinstalling. Because typically the Windows system isn't running at all if I choose to reinstall it, I boot the machine into whatever bootable Linux I happen to have handy and run

    Code:
    strings /sys/firmware/acpi/tables/MSDM | tail -1
    in a terminal as root. If it returns a product key, the key is in UEFI/ BIOS and the reinstall should be successful. The installer will still ask for the key, but you can skip entering it. If necessary, you can do so after installation if the machine refuses to activate.

    If you used a Microsoft login (or at least registered the machine with Microsoft), the digital license should be stored in your Microsoft account; so that's another option if the new install doesn't automatically activate.

    Unless there's a hardware problem, these reinstalls are usually uneventful. The speed of your computer and Internet connection is a big factor in how long it will take. Even the freshest ISO's usually need some updates, most of which can be done during the installation itself if the machine has a usable Internet connection during installation. Unless you have an obscure NIC, it usually will.

    One occasional glitch is that the Windows installation routine may recognize your NIC during, but not after, installation. I haven't had that happen in a while, but once in a while it does. That's one reason I like downloading all the drivers and saving them to a flash drive before reinstalling.

    Rich
     
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  17. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    That often happens to flash drives in general if they were ever formatted in Linux. Windows DISKPART won't clean them, either. I suspect a lot of perfectly-good flash storage devices are thrown away because of that.

    Clearing the partitions and partition table in Linux, however, usually allows Windows to partition, format, and use the drives again, either from Disk Management or by using DISKPART.

    Rich
     
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  18. Skyrys62

    Skyrys62 En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Here is a string you can run to check the BIOS for the key:
    Run this in a command prompt: wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey

    If it returns a key, snap a pic, or write it down. If it doesn't, then I'd definitely find the key somehow before reinstall.
     
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  19. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Am I the only one reading all this and thinking why don't you just swap the memory sticks before you go d*cking around with anything else? If its only got one memory stick, get on Amazon and buy another and swap it in and try it. If it works, then you're out the cost of a memory stick which likely way cheaper than what your time and angst would be worth if you kept trying to chase it down with Dell support. If it doesn't work, you box up the memory stick and send it back no muss no fuss.

    If the machine has two memory sticks you don't even need to buy one first. Just pull one of them and try it. If you get it to work with just one memory stick in, the one that's out is bad. Replace it and get your life back.
     
  20. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It passed a pretty tough memory test with no errors. That doesn't mean it's impossible that the memory is bad, but it's unlikely enough that I'd try a reinstall before buying new memory.

    Rich
     
  21. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yeah, I forgot about that one. Usually when I reinstall Windows, it's because it won't run at all; so I use Linux to verify that there's a key in UEFI/BIOS.

    Rich
     
  22. Stephen Poole

    Stephen Poole Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Heh. Remember Knoppix Linux? I used that all the time when it first came out. One of the first live bootable distros.

    Parted Magic is another very useful tool to keep handy.
     
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  23. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    I thought I read where reinstalls were failing. If a known good OS image fails to install, I usually cut bait and start swapping out memory before I look any deeper regardless of what the hardware tests say. I've just found it saves a lot of time and angst that way.
     
  24. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Two different computers and situations. Sometimes you have thread drift, and sometimes you have thread merge. This is a case of the latter. The situation with Dave's computer (Dave being the OP and the member attempting the clean install) is that various repair attempts by both Dell and MS have failed, but a clean install hasn't been tried yet.

    The machine spit up an unspecified error with no code using Dell's tester, which the Dell tech said wasn't a hardware error. But it passed a Passmark bootable RAM test, so the odds of the RAM being bad are fairly low. That doesn't mean that some other hardware isn't misbehaving, but it's probably not the RAM.

    Also, the machine has nothing of value on it anyway in terms of data, and there may have been some iatrogenic damage from the combined attempts of eight Dell techs' and however many of Microsoft's techs' attempts to fix the OS rather than wiping and reinstalling it.

    All of those things considered, I agree with Dave that a wipe and reinstall is a sensible next step. At this point the problem seems to be either with the software or with some hardware issue other than RAM. A clean install costs nothing to try and is the one thing that hasn't been tried. If Dave happened to have some spare RAM laying around, then I'd say sure, give it a shot. But he doesn't, and the RAM passed the Passmark test.

    Rich
     
  25. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    i have a spare ram that fits
     
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  26. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Roger that. I think I would've been doing a back & whack on it after Dell tech #3 but that's me.
     
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  27. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Well, then it can't hurt to try it. It's a long shot, but there's nothing to lose, either.

    Rich
     
  28. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Playa fo real
    Dell went to hell around the mid 2000's. We used to order Dell desktops, and then quality went TU. Flimsy cases, machines would arrive with hard drive cables not connected, and finally they became so non-responsive with orders and shipping we finally gave up on them. Haven't gone back.
     
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  29. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I got 5 sets of 5 figures each, all separated by spaces.
    Thanks
     
  30. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Sounds violent, involving Dell - so I am interested.
    What is it?
     
  31. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I have the command prompt open, in order to retrieve the product key and it is no longer crashing*.
    A diagnostic aid?

    *edit. Less often. Ignore.
    Definitely less often....but only if the command prompt window is not minimized.
    May not mean anything.

    Oh, and the original problem of the stuck cursor? It still does that, the times when the computer is not recycling....and I notice I can free it by pressing the Shift key!
    WTH does that mean??
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019 at 5:08 PM
  32. alfadog

    alfadog En-Route

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    If it is "bricked" then that is a hardware issue. Corrupt BIOS or hardware failure
     
  33. alfadog

    alfadog En-Route

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    But it looks like it was not bricked. Armchair diagnosis but I would look at the CPU fan (of course can be memory, CPU, or anything else, just that CPU fans are often the culprit). Run a temp tracking utility.
     
  34. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    All kinds of things can cause cursor problems in Windows 8 and 10. I suggest getting the more serious problem fixed first (or returning the machine) before worrying about the cursor. (I will say that the most common culprit is the "hide cursor while typing" option.)

    Rich
     
  35. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Ah sometimes I forget and use terms that only I know the meaning of. A back and whack is what I used to call a backup/format/clean install when I would talk with colleagues. "Why are you putting all that time into troubleshooting this? Why don't you just back it and whack it and be done with it?"
     
  36. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Dell’s own BIOS update tool bricked a machine at the office.

    We pay out the Aux Port for on-site service and all that.

    They told us to pound sand.

    I told our account rep “Lenovo”.

    He didn’t care.

    They have no margin even with support paid for in advance. They’re going to crap.
     
  37. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    We don’t even back anymore. If it’s not in the network drive, it’s gone.

    Laptop not behaving? It’s getting flattened. PC or Mac. Nobody has time for it anymore.
     
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  38. IK04

    IK04 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I was one of the very first Knoppix Remaster publishers. That was so much fun!

    Me and Klaus were best buds! I adopted Puppy Linux shortly afterward and have used it ever since...
     
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  39. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    We carried Knoppix, SimplyMEPIS, Hiran's, ERD, WinPE... Probably others, as well. It's been a while.

    The Linux-based tools were especially useful for fixing malware-infected Windows machines that would crash the Windows-based recovery utilities. Knoppix (and I think SimplyMEPIS) supported writing to NTFS and were immune to Windows viruses, which enabled us both to back up the data on infected machines and to easily remove the malware in most cases.

    They also dramatically reduced the number of Windows reinstallations. Because the overwhelming number of onsite calls during that era were malware-related, most of the systems were fixable if the tools you were using were resistant to the malware. Even non-malware-related problems became easily fixable if you had some idea which files were misbehaving.

    That was a real help to users whose systems would error out on boot and who didn't have backups. In most cases, it made reinstallation an option rather than the only solution; and even if reinstallation was the only or best solution, it make backing up the user's data easy, even if the Windows system was completely hosed.

    Rich
     
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  40. IK04

    IK04 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Strange coincidence... i just had to use one of those "super repair disk" thingies to rebuild the EFI partition on this damn Dell...