Don't Ask Dell To Replace Your Broken DVD Drive Because It's Simply Not Possible

Dell told Arthur to replace his broken DVD drive himself, even after he shipped his laptop to Dell expressly so they could perform the replacement. Arthur tried unsuccessfully to remove the broken drive with the help of Dell phone jockey before returning his unit to the mothership. After weeks of waiting, Dell returned the still-broken laptop with a note explaining that they were out of DVD drives, but that when they arrived in “two or three days,” they’d send one to Arthur so he could install it himself.

As for Dell, I purchased a Dell Vostro 1500 laptop last January. A few weeks ago, the CD/DVD drive stopped working. I called Dell, and spent a long time on the phone with someone who tried to instruct me how to remove the drive. I could not do it, and they sent me a DSL return box to send them the computer back.

On Friday I missed the delivery. Today, though, I stayed home to wait for it till it arrived at 2:30 PM. There was a note with the computer stating that the drive was out of stock, that it would not be in stock for 2 or three days, and that they would be sending me one. I could install it myself, according to the note. Oddly, I’d sent them the computer precisely so I wouldn’t have to do that.

What on earth is going on with a company that accepts returns, doesn’t fix them, and then tells you we’ll send you the parts and you can fix it yourself? Is there anyone I could contact who could actually help me rather than explaining all the things they can’t do for me? It seems to me they broke the contract by failing to honor the warranty, and I’ve wasted a great deal contacting various useless employees who seem to be reading from cue cards. I’m thinking of taking them to small claims court and filing complaints with the BBB, but I don’t even know who to name, and I’d really appreciate your advice. While I really like computers, the most I ever open them up is never.

If Dell won’t replace the drive, ask the higher-ups for an explanation. Alternatively, you can always pay a tech-savvy neighborhood kid with candy to help remove and replace the drive to get around Dell’s apparent incompetence.

(Photo: The Consumerist)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ZaerApollo says:

    Oddly enough I’ve gotten great customer service from Dell, though every time I contacted them it was through email.


  2. admiralguy says:

    I buy and resell 60 to 70 Dell systems a year. I always tell my clients that I’ll handle the warranty for them in case there’s a problem, and kind of consider myself an expert on dealing with Dell.

    E-mail is great if you’re not looking for an immediate solution and don’t want to invest a bunch of time. Chat will get you a solution eventually if you word things right, but it takes forever. Forget about phone support unless you’re a business customer. Consumer support treats you like an idiot and makes you go through steps often totally unrelated to the problem.

  3. DanC922 says:

    Lol You don’t have to take apart or open the laptop to replace the drive. You remove one screw and it slides right out. It takes 10 seconds to replace the drive. Look at the image below. It’s the screw that’s right beside the bottom red box with the padlock symbol above it.


  4. willfromtexas says:

    Dell sucks, Micheal Dell went to my high school, he donated refurbished 3 year old dells to our school, it took about 30 minutes for them to boot up….seriously! Thank Jobs the school had enough money to buy macs for the yearbook team

  5. Dyscord says:

    Not to sound “Blame the victim”ish, but in the future, look up how to do it online. It would save you a lot of time and trouble. Especially if Dell is going to be like that. Replacing Laptop components has gotten a LOT easier compared to a couple of years ago. Usually all you have to do is take out one or two screws, take the old part out, slide the new part in and replace the screws.

    The thing is that the relative ease of this just makes Dell look stupid when they dont do it themselves.

  6. I happen to be that “neighborhood kid” and I like it that Dell is little to no help.

  7. InThrees says:

    Some people are so hopelessly thumbs that having them work on a computer is just a bad idea. Some people are just terrified of breaking something, even though they would do fine.

    Some people just want the level of service specified in their warranty.

  8. coren says:

    Dell’s awesome, when I got my first computer years ago and it wouldn’t boot into Windows anymore (and no amount of reinstalls or repairs would work, short of a format, which I told them I did not want to do under any circumstance), they “helped” me repartion the computer. Remember the part about not wanting to format the computer? Oops.

  9. ogman says:

    Dell support sucks and it has for several years now. Between Bangalore Babble on the phone and nonsense answers to email questions, they frustrated me to the point that I buy nothing from them. Heck, they couldn’t even keep the billing on my credit account straight. Avoid the pain, buy from anyone but Dell!

  10. NilocZero says:

    I work for one of Dell’s outsourcers, here’s how the policy works;

    Dell has “CRU” parts – customer replacable – things that are easy to install like hard drives, optical drives, RAM, etc.

    On the other hand there are “FRU” parts – “field replacable” – more complicated parts like LCD kits, motherboards, etc.

    This customer has a depot contract rather than on-site service, which means for any FRU part they send the notebook in. For a CRU part they have to replace it themselves, or hire someone to do it for them – that’s why the depot contract is cheaper.

    The depot doesn’t stock CRU parts, doesn’t have them to install, and that’s why they didn’t replace it despite the customer’s note – the customer didn’t pay for and is not entitled to that service, and the depot isn’t setup for it.

    As others have mentioned replacing the optical drive is VERY simple. Some models you remove one screw and slide it out, other models you don’t even have to do that, it’s just a latch, and Dell tech support will walk you through installing any CRU part over the phone.

    Spring for the on-site service if you’re that uncomfortable with working on the computer, you can request an on-site tech to replace any part under warranty.

    There are even (more expensive) “no-touch” contracts, where you don’t even have to troubleshoot over the phone, they just send a tech with lots of parts out for any problem.

  11. TheDoomer says:

    What? I’ve only had fantastic help from Dell support. Actually, I got this laptop back in December. The DVD drive stopped working, I called them, and within a few days a had a new DVD drive, which was actually a better one. The new drive had Dual Layer burning, the previous drive didn’t. So I guess maybe they changed their policy recently, but I had no problem with this same issue.

  12. TechnoDestructo says:

    @willfromtexas: How’s that gift horse’s mouth lookin’?

  13. number01 says:

    I have had a ton of trouble with Dell. Despite the fact that I have a 4 year on site warranty, they often try to get me to send my laptop into the depot. When I finally did send it in they forgot to fix my LCD screen and now a tech is coming next week. I am never going to buy anything from them again. The couple of hundred bucks I saved isn’t worth the many many hours I’ve spent online/ on the phone with them.

  14. 0chilly says:

    Arthur, surf on over to [] – it’s very easy to do yourself, don’t worry! You flip the laptop over, remove one screw, press the release button and slide out the drive.
    I would first remove the battery as well, but that’s optional.
    I agree they should have held the laptop until the parts were in stock, and replaced it themselves, but at least now you have a nice picture to help guide you through the few steps. Good luck!

  15. Stavro Mueller says:

    I’ve wasted a great deal contacting various useless employees who seem to be reading from cue cards.

    I used to work in tech support for a large computer company (starts with “A” and named after a fruit). I can say with certainty that the level 1 representative you speak to are reading from scripts, because typically that is the entire extent of their computer training (in cases where a representative does have knowledge beyond the script, he can be reprimanded for refusing to follow proper procedures).

    Do not ask for a “manager”, because the “manager” is literally always the rep sitting in the opposite cubicle. The only true “manager” on the floor is the team lead, whose job is to listen in on the reps and keep call times down. Instead ask to speak to a level 2 representative. The level 2 rep is free to use his own brain and has access to technical manuals beyond what is provided on the scripts.

    If the problem is still not fixed, ask for an RMA, and ask for a direct number to the repair facility where your computer is going, so that you can speak directly to the tech who is touching your PC. It’ll probably take a few calls to corporate to get that number, but short of complete incompetence on the part of the tech, your computer WILL be fixed before it leaves the building.

  16. ichibanjay says:

    The Vostro line of laptop is a business oriented laptop. You get a different line of tech support from their business sector than you would from their home line of products. For business, they generally prefer to just send you the part and have you replace it yourself, as that model works best for businesses with their own IT support.

    It is pretty easy to replace an optical drive on laptops these days, it usually entails taking out 1 screw and sliding out the drive. This guy should have looked at the replacement diagrams that come with the part or go to Dell’s support site. Dell’s website has the instructions, I found it within 2 minutes:

    In the future, I might recommend that Authur purchase from the Home and Home Office section of Dell’s website, as their phone support is more tailored towards dealing with customers that aren’t comfortable with removing screws from their laptop.

    On the other hand, if you are comfortable with replacing simple parts on your own computer and are purchasing from Dell. I highly recommend that you purchase from Dell’s Small Business and Medium Business portion of the website. Although they generally send out parts to you to replace yourself, it gives you the convenience of not having to be without your laptop for a week or two. Plus, their phone support is based in Austin, TX.

  17. billco says:

    I briefly worked for Dell, and I can tell you that probably all the L1 techs in residential support are clueless. Dell has an extensive knowledge base, and believe it or not it was occasionally helpful even to a PC guru like me, but the problem is that it becomes a crutch for the poor techs, and an obstacle for the good ones.

    Luckily for me, I was in the business support group, so not only were the techs more knowledgeable (on average), but we were accorded much more freedom to solve the customer’s problem in just about any way needed. Part of that came from the fact that a large number of business callers are techies themselves. If a smart-sounding guy tells me his hard drive is dead, I don’t need to make him unplug the mouse, I just ship him a new hard drive.

    In any case, what “Arthur” needs to do is call back and escalate immediately. Give them hell! Don’t even waste time with the L1 guy, ask for an L2 or “resolution expert” right away. They will try to “de-escalate”, but don’t let them, because they will make you dick around with the screwdriver for another hour. Demand they send you a technician, even though it’s not in your contract in most cases they will do it anyway, just to make the problem go away.

    Frankly, if companies insist on staffing their support lines with useless robots, we all need to bark louder and let them know we’re not satisfied.

  18. ronocdh says:

    Wtf? I think it’s pretty obvious that they sent it back because they’re more likely to piss off consumers by depriving them of their computers for too long. At least they admitted to an error in their supply chain and gave the computer back, so as not to waste the customer’s time!

    All this anti-Dell bullshit is getting pretty dated. They’re definitely top of the heap when it comes to PC manufacturers, what with their Linux options and all. Why all the hate?

  19. Triborough says:

    After having problems with Dell tech support based in India which resulted in frying a motherboard, I’d never make that mistake again.

  20. mythago says:

    @Dyscord: And then the next time something goes wrong, they screw you over because you voided the warranty.

  21. Lucky225 says:

    HP tried to do this to me as well, I remember arguing with the rep who kept asking about a screw driver. When I finally got them to let me send the laptop in, they replaced the dvd-rom w/ a subpar one, for which I settled =(

  22. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    @Dyscord: Agreed. If it’s a massive fix you couldn’t even begin to understand without technical experience, ship it back, but sending the laptop in for this kind of repair seems like more of a headache than it’s worth. A week each way to ship, fixing, etc. Yeah, it may be covered by warranty, but I’d just bite the bullet

  23. Stavro Mueller says:

    @ronocdh: It’s not a 2-3 month delay, it was a 2-3 day delay. As the drives are being delivered to the repair center, the laptop would still be on the back of a tractor trailer somewhere out in the middle of the desert.

    Considering that the weekend itself incurs a 48 hour delay, a 72 hour delay to guarantee the system comes back in working condition is not unreasonable.

    The only headline I can foresee arising from that situation would be “Dell told me my system would be back in 14 days but it came back in 16 days”. And being that tech support reps rarely offer any sort of timeframe aside from ‘two to four weeks’, even that situation would be a non-issue.

  24. GamblesAC2 says:

    Dell gave me a Lemon my computer is only a year old and is having trobble proforming even the simplest tasks. and when i called dell for coustomer support thay said that my computer was “out of warentee ” (despite having bought a an extended warentee on it ) and they would not help me. even after sevral calls to coustomer support they refused to do anything and gave me the lamest excuse on the planet: Sorry sir I dont see your purchase extended coverage on my computer.

    Well needless to say I’m never gonna buy from dell again!

  25. GamblesAC2 says:

    @GamblesAC2: they**

  26. prinado says:

    The DVD drive on my laptop failed. I called Dell support and stated the problem. The Dell rep apologized for the inconvenience and offered to send a drive immediately. The guy wasn’t joking: I called in the late afternoon and was stunned when UPS delivered a box from Dell at 10am the next morning. The box included instructions, but I didn’t need to refer to them: it took 30 seconds to swap the drives. Quick fox, great support, case closed.

  27. Fly Girl says:

    I’ll take everyone’s word that it’s simple enough to change your own drive out but… If it was my laptop, I’d be worried that if I did it myself and the drive broke again, Dell would find some way to make it my fault… And then they’d claim that I somehow voided the warranty by opening up the back of my case… Perhaps accusing me of dumping water inside of my computer, too. (We’ve seen that one a time or two before, haven’t we?…) Maybe I’m just paranoid but… It seems like a pretty legit concern.

  28. MrEvil says:

    Replacing the Optical drive is rediculously easy on this machine. You need a #1 Phillips screw driver and a couple minutes. Here’s a link to Dell’s service guide that ANYBODY can view:


  29. velocium says:

    The same thing happened to me. My hard disk started failing and I managed to back it up before it went dead. I have an xps m1330 and the hard drive died 3 days before the warranty was up. I sent dell my laptop and they sent it back unfixed saying the part was out of stock.

    4 days later they send me a refurbished drive, not a brand new one like I expected. Well by then my warranty was out and I did not want to go through the whole process again and the refurb seems to work fine. Installing it was not as hard as the optical drive but I went through the same ordeal as Arthur

  30. ShadowFalls says:


    Yeah… That sounds like a complete exaggeration…

    As for putting the drive in yourself, it really isn’t hard, but not something an end-user should be expected to do with warranty. You could always contact Dell and insist that they send someone out on their dime to take care of it, seeing that they didn’t install it like expected.

    To be honest though, how can a large company that deals with a vast number of laptops compatible with the same drive type run out? Doesn’t seem believable. If somehow you didn’t have the lower model drive, I would expect a company to step up with an upgrade. That isn’t exactly unreasonable. I would expect them to have far more DVD burners in stock than anything.

  31. NotYou007 says:

    I do warranty repairs for Dell and I’m surprised they would ask him to send it to Texas to replace just the optical drive. As other have said, it is a single screw on the bottom and the drive will pull out of the system. It takes a whole 2 mins to complete the task.

    As for replacing the motherboard on the Vostro it’s a pain in the butt, they stuck a lot of screws in it and it’s not for the faint of heart but removing the optical drive is about as simple as it comes.

    Also Dell will always send refurbished parts unless the system is brand new. If it’s two months old and something needs to be replaced, it will be refurbished. This is industry standard and has been for a very very very long time. All computer companies for the most part send out refurbished parts. That is why phone reps and even onsite techs will use the word “replacement” and never the word “new” because it’s not a new part.

    I rely on computers to break to make my living but why they said they wanted to send it to Texas for depot service is beyond me. Even if Dell sends me a bad replacement part, which happens at least twice a month they will send out another part and they won’t even think about depot service till the second part they sent did not resolve the issue.

  32. STrRedWolf says:

    Definitely check Dell’s website first for the Hardware Manual for the laptop. That will describe how to actually take apart and put back together the laptop to put in the new DVD drive. Usually, though it’s two screws at most.

    If your system’s past the warranty, though, I’d go Ebay to pick up a better compatible drive and plug it in. I’ve swapped out my video card, hard drive, and DVD drive on my Inspirion E1505 to keep it running.

  33. coren says:

    @Stavro Mueller: You’d think so, but Dell has interesting “issues” with shipping, and rarely gets parts and products in a reasonable time frame, let alone getting them to the end user…it takes at least two hands to count the orders canceled for “my convenience” when they were delayed into perpetuity

  34. Kevino says:

    Take out the one screw under the laptop holding the drive in if there is even one. Then slide the other out by using either the push button that pops out on the front of the drive (side of the laptop) or use the small switch under the laptop.

    It’s so simple a caveman can do it and if you can change the battery you can change the drive. The laptop does also come with a manual that shows how to do this.

  35. Reeve says:

    I agree with everyone above. Escalate etc. Given your situation though use the consumerist dell higher ups link they gave you – whenever I use that within a day or two I get someone to call and actually fix the problem. Those contacts are an easy way to escalate.

    If you are going to file a claim in small claims court depending on your state you probably would just name Dell Inc. with a lot of states allowing small claims service by mail.

  36. Baka-no-Kami says:

    Dells don’t come with a printed manual anymore, they sometimes will have a service manual with the other documentation pre installed on the HDD, but not always and it may be deleted by someone who didn’t know what it was for. All Dells do still have service manuals on though.

    It’s not surprising that the repair depot didn’t have a DVD drive. Typically they don’t keep parts on hand that are considered “customer replaceable units”. They only stock things like screens, motherboards, and CPUs that are classified to be tech replaceable.

  37. mikells43 says:


    its 2 screws and push in the pin to relese the drive theres a slot in the front of it u can fit a paper clip in to open it without power. its so simple theres the service diagram. its idiot proof. dont waste ur time do it urself. its easy man

  38. MrEvil says:

    I still don’t understand how someone would be willing to part with their laptop for five days to have someone else replace a part that takes one screw and 2 minutes at most to replace yourself.

  39. ChelseaCosta says:

    Lmao that is some funny shit.

    If the drives would be “in stock” in 2-3 days then why didn’t they
    just hold onto the computer and ask the customer what he wanted to do
    (i.e. – leave it with Dell until a HD is available to have it
    installed OR offer to send the computer back and a HD at a later date
    for self installation.)

    Regardless if it is “simple” to do yourself, that was not the issue.
    The computer was sent in BECAUSE he was not able to do it himself.

    Dell should be ashamed at their lack of ownership. Get it together
    I had a Dell laptop for a few years before it crapped out on me, and
    now I’m an Apple fan for life.

  40. josephbloseph says:

    I like the consumerist and all, but I’m going to have to side against the people suggesting to escalate this, and side with the people who are saying “do it yourself”. The only computers I’ve ever seen that weren’t user serviceable in this manner were fitted with security bolts (public library) or Macs.

    I have had excellent experiences with Dell service; I’d always contact them through email, and they would ship my replacement part out that day. Only twice have I had any problem with that; the first time I needed a part replaced, they had me go down their little troubleshooting checklist (I had already taken the steps, and in subsequent requests I included that information up front), and another time they sent me a replacement for my CD burner instead of my DVD-ROM (I swapped the burner out anyway, because it was probably going to fail anyway).

  41. sleze69 says:

    @NilocZero: Gotta agree. You should always spring for the onsite warranty. It is worth the investment.

  42. zonk7ate9 says:

    I actually prefer to replace the parts myself instead of being with a laptop for 2 weeks or taking time off work to wait for a tech who will be there between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM. This is one of the major reasons I like Dell, and I’ve never had problems getting them to replace any hardware that has failed. Like some other commenters have said it litterally will take 2 minutes to replace this; it’s probably only 1 or 2 screws. Then all you have to do is slide the old drive out, put the new one in, and replace the screws. They design their computers like this on purpose. Have you ever looked into one of the newer cases? I can’t even imagine. My current PC is 3 years old and it’s completely tool-less it’s ridiculous.

  43. madfrog says:

    I have had nothing but problems with Dell customer support. Half of the time, they have no clue, and on top of that, it takes them 2 weeks to post a payment to your account. I think I will go with HP next time.

  44. lalaland13 says:

    What is up with Dell’s DVD/CD drives? Mine will play DVDs but not CDs and it likes to crap out every now and again. Been looking for a solution or something online, but not found one yet.

    Don’t want to go to Dell because of stories like this, and because when I first got it as a graduation present, it was going nuts, and Dell wanted me to pay them money for help over the phone. Yeah, right. I know they can do that sort of thing, but it doesn’t mean they should.

  45. quagmire0 says:

    The drive is ridiculously easy to install. Yes, Dell maybe could have explained it a little better, but I bet the drive came with instructions on how to install. If it didn’t, I’m sure the laptop has a connection to the Interwebs.

  46. CameronCook says:

    I have had pretty positive results from Dell service.

    Even when all I need is the part to repair they have set me up with a tech (which seems over the top and wasteful for me but could be great for the less tech savy!)

    It seems they are faced with inter-departmental communication / systems problems like being unable to find an order in the system and entering another one… or not being able to find the proper part….
    They are all minor annoyances as I have never lost money nor had to wait too long for a solution to the problem.

    I would rate them 8/10 maybe even a 9 based on how big they are and still manage to keep the wheels on the bus.

  47. Phreggs says:

    Are you freaking kidding me?

    The DVD Drive is a CRU – Customer replaceble unit. If the customer cannot remove one screw from the bottom of the notebook, then the customer probably shouldnt even own the laptop.

    I worked for Dell before my current job. I’ve walked countless people through replacing and troubleshooting such devices. Even when customers were having difficulty removing it (normally a stripped screw), dell is more than happy to replace it for them. If the part is out of stock, its out of stock. How are they supposed to fix your notebook with something they dont even have stock of? Shall they pull the dvd drive from thin air?

    I hope he does go to small claims court over the matter and gets humiliated over the matter.


  48. 3drage says:

    It’d a drive on a laptop, should just slide out and slide the new one in, after you push the release lever on the bottom. Not rocket science.

  49. FrankenPC says:

    I purchased a lemon laptop from Dell once. After 10 repeated repair attempts I offered to buy a new one at their cost to resolve the problem. They refused.

    Since then, I have convinced at LEAST 5 companies to buy only HP/Compaq servers instead of Dell. I’m sure I made Dell loose well over a quarter million dollars in sales.

    One laptop at THEIR cost was all it would have taken. Needless to say, I will NEVER purchase another product from Hell.

  50. redsox says:

    As a former employee of the former Dell Edmonton center, I can tell you that the above comments wont help you in the slightest.

    1. Asking for a manager will not work as the manager will just explain that they are there to support the team, not diagnose problems. They do not troubleshoot.

    2. Asking for a L2 will not work as they will not come on the phone unless the L1 technician has exhausted all options, including those given by the L2 as they are in constant contact during difficult calls.

    And I can’t stress this enough, when you purchase your Dell ASK to see what exactly the warranty covers and what it comes with. On site warranty rarely means that they will come to your home. Purchase the warranty service that you need, not what you think it is.

    Also buy computers from the small business section. Better support then the consumer side.

  51. create says:

    if you lived near by, i’d swap it for you for free, lol

  52. avconsumer2 says:

    I waited 4 months for a replacement video card – not one week without myself initiating contact/update/reconfirm/repetition. (After a call to the WONDERFUL Texas Attorney General – I was finally contacted by someone with a little pull/clout.)

  53. Tmacfan4321 says:

    I have a Vostro 1500 as well, and I have disassembled it multiple times. The Optical Drive is, by far, the easiest thing to remove from the laptop.

    The battery is more complicated because it has two latches. The Optical Drive has ONE screw holding it in. A screwdriver and some replacement parts will solve the majority of your problems with Dell laptops.

    On to Customer Support, I had a broken AC adapter after around 6 months of wear and tear. The cable immediately behind the connector was completely worn out; the white wire underneath both the black covering and the wire strands were showing.

    I didn’t even have to call support to get the problem fixed. I used the online chat to express my problem and they fixed it right away. I gave them the problem, they didn’t ask any stupid questions (because they are the business division, they are used to dealing with people who are pretty technologically proficient) they just sent the part (AC Adapter) over Next-Day Air and told me to have a good day. The part was on my doorstep at 12:00 the next day, I pulled out the AC Adapter, put the broken one in, sealed it, put the return shipping label on the package, and called DHL for a pickup.

    This was probably the most amazing thing of the day. I had arranged a pickup with DHL at around 2:00 PM and they had asked me when the latest time they could pick it up was. I said 5:00 PM. They were there just an hour later, to pick up the package. In a total of 20 hours, I had contacted support, had the part sent to me, and had shipped it back to Dell.

    Great Customer Support Dell, this was probably the best overall experience I have ever had with a Laptop.