I bought a low end Dell PC late last year for my six year old daughter and, about 1-2 months later, it stopped working. You could try to power it up and the power button would light up (solid amber), the fans would spin on, the harddrive would spin up, the DVD player would eject, but the system wouldn’t do anything. No BIOS beeps, no signal to the monitor, nothing. It was just dead. Seemed like an obvious failure in the motherboard to me.

So I tried to contact Dell Support. I have used their phone support before and been disappointed so I decided to just use the chat support so that my frustration wouldn’t come through to clearly. The first time I contacted them they barely were able to help because I wasn’t sitting at the broken computer. The second time I made sure I had the broken machine with me and the ensuing process illustrated to me a huge gaping hole in the logic of their support system.

As I stated the system wouldn’t boot. I explained all of the symptoms to the tech in chat and he of course entered straight into his script. Unplug, replug, disconnect external peripherals, unplug, replug, try again. etc. None of that worked of course so then he had me open the machine and remove all of the internal peripherals including the IDE modem, the RAM, the hard drive, the DVD drive, the fans, and to reseat all of the cables between the power supply and the mother board. The only thing he didn’t have me do is remove the CPU and reseat it. As you might have guessed that didn’t fix the problem either.

Now, remember, the power supply could power up everything in the system except the motherboard. However, after all of this invasive troubleshooting the tech declared the power supply was bad. He said that is what the solid amber light indicated and, since we removed everything else and the mother board still wouldn’t power up it had to be the power supply! WTF? It struck me that more than likely we had confirmed the motherboard had a problem not the power supply but I figured, who knows maybe I’ll be surprised - it wouldn’t be the first time. So he tells me he will ship out a powersupply. I said, “Cool, I’ll just install it when it arrives. But, what if the system still doesn’t work with the new power supply?”

His response, “Oh, you can’t install the power supply. If you break something in the system while installing it your warranty will be voided.” What the hell was I going to break that he hadn’t already authorized me to manually remove from the system? I was sitting there with all of my computers innards layout in neat little clusters on my desk but I couldn’t remove the power supply? What? Are they serious?

Clearly I was getting annoyed so I just said, “OK, so this guy will come out, replace the power supply. Then what if it doesn’t fix it.” The tech’s response? Pure, unadulterated optimism, “It will fix the problem.” I laughed and told him I appreciated his positive outlook and looked forward to my computer being fixed.

Today marked the day the tech showed up to replace the power supply and, unsurprisingly, the system still doesn’t work so now they are going to send me an entirely new computer. All of the components in the old one work (with the exception of the motherboard) but they are going to ship out an entirely new system. Great, now I only have to strip off windows and re-install Linux. What a freaking waste of time and money. They couldn’t just send the tech back with the correct part. What a joke (maybe he isn’t allowed to change that part?)



I have to agree that Dell has a quarky support scheme.

It seems that the Dell corp. is strategically breaking itself in places to pull more dollars from the market…in many facets.

I would like to add a short story:
I recently ordered a system from Dell & their website promoted free shipping for ALL Inspirons over $X. My order was $150 over the free shipping marker but the order was refused free shipping(yes I read the fine-print)…the Dell website simply breaks in places.

Well, I decided I would rather pay the extra $110 than spend X minutes dealing with any Dell reps(Sorry Larry) but some of them are horrid for support.

If you want an order number Larry, I would gladly give it to you…to prove my point & accept the refund ;) hehe .

Dell Customer Advocate

The warranty would still cover damage done while replacing a part if you were a Dell Certified Technician because it is assumed that a certified tech would not, through lack of knowledge, intentionally to do things that would damage the computer. For the same reason, if you are working with and following the instructions of a Dell technician then any damage due to those instructions would be covered.

If you are not a Dell Certified Technician and replace parts with no problems the warranty is not voided because Dell understands that a large number of people know how to do work on computers, regardless of whether they are “certified” or not. This is why the technician should have informed you that if you damaged the hardware installing it yourself it would not be covered, but that if you still wanted to do the work yourself he could send the parts directly to you (and his informing you, and your understanding would be documented in our notes). In my experience some people who originally ask for Parts Only Service change there mind when given this information and request a tech come out to work on the system (or have the system sent to our repair depot) while others accept it and do the work themselves.

As for the use of a grounding strap, as long as the person working on the computer takes a few simple precautions there should be no problem at all. The biggest step, and also the easiest, is to touch a bare metal portion of the chassis of the computer before removing any components from the system as this grounds you to the case thus greatly reducing the risk of an electrostatic discharge (ESD). Personally, I tend to rest one hand or arm on the chassis to ground myself while installing or removing a component. Wearing a grounding strap is a good way to make sure you are grounded and is quite useful when it is not convenient or easy to just touch the chassis while working on the system. The other safety steps are to hold cards by the edges and not touch any components directly if you can help it. From my experience (20 years working on computers) most ESD issues are caused when a person directly touches a component on a board and has a static discharge through that component.

If you have any other questions on this I will be happy to answer them. As I mentioned in my post, if you have any problems or questions with the system exchange I’ll be happy to look into that as well. If it does come up I would need either a case number, the service tag of the system (original or replacement) or the reference number for the exchange. Any one of those would allow me to pull up the information in our system.

Dell Customer Advocate


Larry the Dell Advocate,

I think you might be over reacting to my criticism a little. I really don’t mind the fact that he picked a power supply (though the troubleshooting should have shown it wasn’t) and I don’t mind that a tech had to install the power supply.

What I don’t understand is how it is OK for me to disassemble the computer; including man handling the modem, the RAM, and the hard drive - all without any kind of static strap - and it doesn’t have any effect on the warranty.

However, the simple act of replacing the hard drive puts my warranty at risk. How does that make sense?

If Dell trusts me enough to disassemble the machine shouldn’t they trust me enough (and not threaten me with a voided warranty) if I replace it myself?

Whats to say I wouldn’t damage the delicate components while troubleshooting? Why am I permitted to do all of that but not replace the power supply?

This to me seems highly illogical. I’m sorry if that didn’t come through clearly in the initial post.

The tech in the chat did his job well. I don’t begrudge him his decision - he has a script to follow and he did it to the tee. I don’t fault the guy today - heck I’m glad he was here to order the system replacement so I didn’t have to do it myself (who knows how many more steps I would have had to go through, and how many wasted days would have added up, had I had to recontact tech support).

Dell Customer Advocate

Usually, the amber power light indicates either a failure with the power supply or the processor. Occasionally it is something with the motherboard or a connected component. From what you describe, I’m inclined to go with the CPU or motherboard in this case (since removing the components didn’t change things, and everything appeared to be powering up correctly).

The reason the tech had you pull all the other components is that it is the easiest way to rule them out as the cause of the problem. I’ve learned the hard way that it is a required step and would have suggested it as well. If you skip it, it always seems like it would have saved hours of work.

I am not sure why the tech decided to go with a power supply replacement first, and I would like to apologize for the additional trouble that has put you through in order to get the system working. I am glad to see he took appropriate steps, however, once the replacement failed to fix the problem.

Dell policy is that if you do a replacement yourself and damage something but are not a Dell Certified Technician then the warranty would not cover that damage. However, normal policy is to ship the parts to the customer if they still request it after explaining that policy. I’d like to apologize for the fact you were not given that option in this case.

If you have any problems or questions with the system exchange that was set up, or if you have any additional feedback you would like to provide, feel free to contact me at customer_advocate@dell.com (with ‘ATTN: Larry (amber light)’ in the subject to ensure it gets to me).

Dell Customer Advocate