Every Time Dell Touches My Laptop It Gets A Little More Broken

Reader tking says his laptop started out with a bad power jack — but has slowly escalated in brokenness with each Dell intervention.

tking says:

My problems started when my Dell Vostro 1510 laptop wouldn’t keep the power cord plugged in without extra effort. The first tech support person was more interested in replacing the power supply, I was told not to worry about the plug. The second request got more attention after I also uploaded a picture of the power jack now missing the center plastic part to let them see first hand. They sent a guy to repair it (who didn’t seem to know what kind of computer he was fixing when he came). I wasn’t home at the time and when he was done told my wife he left it in sleep mode. After he left she went to wake it up and start using it to update the budget and do a little online shopping.

That’s when she started to realize that something was wrong. She couldn’t get it to boot up… sometimes the screen would flicker, sometimes nothing at all. I picked up the laptop during my lunch break and took it back to work to look at it. I managed to use a Windows system restore to get booted, but required another service request to figure out all the fun new warning messages I was receiving. That support person was able to get that part straightened out (somewhat, it still seemed a bit off) so I shut the laptop down and took it home with me at the end of the day.

After that, the next fun time started when I wanted to use the laptop to work on some emails… it wouldn’t go more than a few minutes at a time without rebooting, sometimes it would just go black and freeze. So the second support request of the day (and 4th overall) I ended up running diagnostic test after diagnostic test. The next new fun problem came up when during the tests I started getting yellow vertical lines down the display . Now they say I need another new motherboard and now a new video card.

To sum up… 4 tech support requests and 1 on-site visit (so far, plus 1 tomorrow).

The math looks like this:

1 bad motherboard + 1 Dell repair = 1 more bad motherboard + 1 newly created bad video card + 1 more Dell repair

I’m a little afraid the next repair will result in missing the display or keyboard or something altogether.

Oh dear. Well, it seems that you’ve got the situation in hand, despite the tragic results.

We’ve all got our fingers crossed for you. Right guys? Cross your fingers for poor Mr. tking, damn it.

Good luck.


Edit Your Comment

  1. crabbygeek says:

    Hmm… Stop dealing with Dell…

    • failurate says:

      @crabbygeek: Can you recommend a good Ma and Pop hole in the wall computer shop?

      • socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

        I would say just stay away from Dell laptops. I am a former Dell employee, and unless you are buying their higher end laptops, meaning over $1200 at the minimum, you should stay away.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Most laptops – like the Vostro – have the video card soldered directly into the motherboard. Some newer ones have PCI-Express modular cards, but chances are if the video card dies in a given laptop, that’s a mobo replacement.

    *The more you know*

  3. deejaypopnfresh says:

    does the lemon law cover them creating 3 new problems? or only if you have the same problem over and over?

  4. shaunhoffman says:

    maybe its time to search on ebay for another laptop or a part laptop and fix the issue yourself?

    • Ouze says:

      @shaunhoffman: First off, it’s not like Dell is doing him a favor. Either’s it’s under warranty, which means he paid for them to fix it, or it’s not, in which case is his.. paying them to fix it. If I pay someone to do a job, I expect them to do it right, not do it halfass, keep my money, and then have me fix it myself.

      Second, as a help desk technician, what exactly is it he is going to be replacing, here? Is he going to be desoldering the video chip off the motherboard? Replacing the whole motherboard? As helpful as your advice was for him to forgo the warranty service he paid for and is entitled to, void any entitled service he might need in the future by replacing non user replacable parts, and of course spend even more money on ebay parts, hoping to find whatever it is they broke… it seems like the simplest and fairest solution might be to not accept mediocrity, and demand Dell just do their damn job.

  5. AstraBabble says:

    Dell outsources the tech repair to various companies. they hire the people who can’t get real PC tech jobs and pay them about $10/hr. Since the power port is soldered to your motherboard, the MB is probably what they replaced to begin with. He just did a really crappy job and probably fried the new one putting it in. laptops are a pita to work on and I know that I have to watch the Dell guys (Unisys in my area) like a hawk. And chances are the video card is integrated. It’s probably just that he didn’t get the video cable properly connected. Good luck

  6. NoO and A_GitEmSteveDave says:

    Wow, I found a bunch of Dell computers in the trash, and one(a laptop) was even covered in coffee grounds. All worked fine once dried and cleaned off. I guess the moral of the story is Dells are great computer until Dell gets their hands on them.

    • heltoupee says:

      @NoO and A_GitEmSteveDave: Or that the owner of said trash can has learned that it is easier to throw them away and buy new than call up Dell for “help” (quoted to denote sarcasm)

    • coren says:

      @NoO&A_GitEmSteveDave: Hey, where is this trash and how often is there a computer in it?

      • NoO&A_GitEmSteveDave says:

        @coren: At the high school across the street from me, and not since last summer. BTW, the laptop I found was an Inspirion 2500. 800 resolution MAX. She’s a little work horse though, and does the VNC for my entire setup. 800 resolution is bad when it comes to my 1368 resolution desktop. Luckily the password was on a label on the wristrest.

  7. Nitrokart knows CPR and took that guy's wallet says:

    Ugh, and I was about to contact Dell about fixing a key on my keyboard. Do you think they’ll just take all the keys off?

    My question is, why can’t the keys go back on easily like Apple’s??!?!

    And I’ve had a similar problem with the power cord not staying in. It needed to be pushed up against something so it’d work. Same laptop with the missing key in fact. Though it still falls out, but only with one certain charger….

    • Donathius says:

      @Nitrokart: It depends on how it broke off. Dell has a weird method of making the keys pop back up. Usually when the keys pop off it breaks the little plastic piece that pushes the key up. I had one of those recently at work and they had to replace the whole keyboard.

    • gaya2081 says:

      @Nitrokart: They will send you a new keyboard…very easy to replace, just have to take out the right screws. My computer-illiterate sister figured it out on her own.

    • NoO and A_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @Nitrokart: If you do send it back….TAKE OUT THE HARD DRIVE!!! I will repeat.


      Even if it’s for a key. I’m just saving you what will eventually be a consumerist story.

    • p75hmsa says:

      @Nitrokart: It is possible to replace the keys on dell laptops, it’s just a HUGE pain in the ass. Takes me about 20 minutes on each one. The trick is to get both levers back in, then make sure they’re both standing completely up while still in there X configuration, then the key attaches to the top first then the bottom.

      • Woofer00 says:

        @p75hmsa: Uh, it takes about 5 seconds on each key, just hook in the top end, then scrunch it down til the bottom end clicks in. I pop keys off all the time to clean thoroughly every so often. if you manage to release the scissor switch, the first time may take 5 mins to figure out, but afterwards its a piece of cake.

  8. Donathius says:

    We’ve never had any issues with Dell at my work. Of course we have a corporate account. But I’ve gotten to know the local Dell techs quite well and we’ve always gotten great service.

    Good luck getting that taken care of!

  9. mmmsoap says:

    I had excellent service from Dell, the two times I had to use it. Granted, I had to mail it in instead of having an onsite technician, but the turnaround was super quick and they fixed the problem exactly.

    I think part of the problem is that Dell subcontracts out their on-site technicians, so you never necessarily know who you’re going to get showing up at your house. It could be the Geek Squad. When you send it out, you get guys whose only job is to repair Dell stuff.

  10. Its_Miller_Time says:

    I have had excellent service from my local “Dell Authorized” repair technician.

    He actually came out to my house last night. It is sad though because it is the same tech that has been out to my house at least five times (Unfortunately, all the items wrong with my Dell were not his fault). He recognizes coming out to my house and always says, I’ve been here before to work on this computer. He always accomodates my schedule and comes around 7:30 at night…heck, last night he helped my with my wife’s VISTA POS Inspiron without charging us anything.

    I have only had one bad experience like this with Dell – and it was when I lived in a different region with a different company. Came to replace the motherboard due to power supply fan failure and ended up having my touchbad/buttons no longer function (which really sucked at the time).

  11. sassenach says:

    My last computer was a Dell. It was also my last Dell. I’m quite happy with my <$500 HP laptop.

  12. crunkbear says:

    I know Dell’s policy used to be that if they attempted a repair on the SAME issue three times and the problem still occurred they would replace the laptop. I had a problem with my motherboard and after three repairs the problem still existed so they sent me a new computer. Not sure if this is still their policy but keep it in mind if the laptop keeps coming back broken.

  13. GretaDandradeine says:

    If it’s dealing with dell, i will say this * never again * will i deal with hell. Lesson learned here. Unfortunately no positive advise I can give you but if somehow you can get your moneyback ,get your laptop somewhere else that includes PROPER TECH SUPPORT and CUSTOMER CARE (do you hear that DELL?)

  14. PittDragon says:

    I was considering getting an Alienware laptop, but since they’re owned by Dell I’d rather not risk having to go through support hell. Best of luck getting it fixed.

  15. edwardso says:

    I bought a dell in 2002, which I am still using and haven’t had a single problem with. I’m considering replacing it and wonder, has the quality gone down?

    • Corporate-Shill says:


      Not at all. Dell has the same failure rates as HP, Sony etc.

      The issue is repairs, which sux for all of the companies because they subcontract out to the same off site independent vendors.

      Yes, the same independent vendors. So when the guy finishes fixing my Dells he goes to work on the HPs.

      The parts are the same. Motherboard=Motherboard, RAM=RAM etc. Just the name on the part or on the computer’s case.

  16. nakedscience says:

    @shaunhoffman, why in the world is that an option? He was supposed to get his laptop fixed. “Der, der, just sell it for parts!” is not a good suggestion.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’ve worked repairing dell laptops in the past, I can tell you firsthand it probably wasn’t the tech’s fault. Any time you get a motherboard or other laptop part replaced under warranty, 99% of the time you are getting a refurbished replacement part. The problem is, Dell, HP, etc all use 3rd party companies to break down leased machines to the smallest component. Half the people doing this stuff aren’t even A+ certified, and either way really don’t seem to care if a part is good or not.

    In the past, I’ve had to order the same motherboard FOUR TIMES before I got one that would even begin to work. Leads, and jacks are often broken or missing entirely, and it’s the sort of thing if anyone that actually CARED looked at the motherboard, they couldn’t miss.

    Like most of the tech support industury these days, everything is farmed out, farmed out again, and then farmed out overseas. Being the onsite tech, it baffles me how each hand a trouble ticket passes though, more information about the case is lost. Of course it’s us end users that lose the most.

  18. Cocoa Vanilla says:

    Is the reply button not working for anyone else? (Safari 4 beta on OS X)

  19. ryatziv says:

    I’ve had nothing but great service from Dell. Two laptops and great customer service (after I keep a paper trail and insist on it, but still).

  20. Maous says:

    Wow, spooky. I had the same issue with my Dell. The power wouldn’t hold unless I precariously held the laptop in a certain way, and didn’t bump it. Eventually got tired of it, got it ‘repaired’, and all the sudden – Major motherboard failage. Fun times.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I did warranty field repair work for Dell for 3 months before getting a more stable job. You are probably right that the tech had never seen that model before, though most Dell models are so similar that an intelligent tech should be able to handle it.

    That being said, I’ve noticed that certain models tend to have the same defect over and over again. It tends to stem from two things – poor quality control in components and substandard testing in new laptops. In this case I’d venture to guess that the motherboard has a design flaw or is the victim of bad manufacturing process. In short – I’m not surprised you’re seeing the same thing over and over again. In theory the refurbished parts they use for warranty repair undergo more rigorous testing before they’re used, but that may not always be the case.

    Oh, and if you didn’t know this already – buy your Dell equipment through an employee purchase program if possible. I know the savings are minimal over the price you can get direct through Dell, but the critical difference is the warranty. Dell warranties come in two basic flavors – business and residential. If you buy through your EPP you’ll get the warranty as if you were a business, and you should get priority service over residential clients.

  22. Anonymous says:

    In talking to the repair shops I find that Dell & HP are semi-notorious for their power pin failures. Every laptop computer should com equipped with a power cable retention device … Something that keeps the strain off the fragile, poorly designed pitiful little power connectors. I won’t plug my product but it is the only thing on the market that does just that.

  23. Dan Rogers says:

    OK so dell didnt really break your computer every time they tried to fix it. They had you do software troubleshooting and the refurbished board they put in your machine died. Consumerist do me a favor and go off a cliff and die for giving idiots that write these stories an outlet to unrightfully whine.

  24. Cyberxion101 says:

    @ Dan Rogers

    Hrmn. Maybe I’m missing something, but it would appear that they haven’t yet replaced the board.

    Whatever. Even if you’re right, I can’t say that it’s something that ought to lead any normal, well-adjusted person to wish death on a blog. Anger management kiddo, get in touch with it.

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    The suspense is killing the poor guy. Maybe Dell should just cut to the chase and next time deliver a melted ball of plastic with keyboard pieces sprinkled over it.

  26. Zeke_D says:

    Wow, almost identical to my Gateway issue that the consumerist won’t post. I sure wish I could get the exposure that the consumerist offers. Good luck working with Dell though.

  27. Peter_Betts says:

    That is a bit extreme Mr. Rogers. Although I believe the site encourages suggestions. I doubt going off a cliff and dying would be a viable one. Perhaps a short walk on a long pier? The fact that you are being overly sensitive about something that in no way should affect Dan Rogers leads my brain to think that perhaps you may have some connection with Dell?

  28. haoshufu says:

    You get what you paid for with a Dell.

  29. NotYou007 says:


    I do Dell warranty repairs and I make a lot more money than 10 dollars an hour. I am paid a flat rate per job and I’m never on site more than an hour. I make more money in 2hrs than some people make working an 8hr day as most of dells laptops can be stripped down and rebuilt in 40 mins or less and when I have to replace a keyboard that takes a whopping 5 mins.

    I have also worked in the real IT world and became burnt out. I’ve been working on computers professinally since 1989 in various roles from a bench tech to a system admin and I have no desire at all to go back into the corporate IT world. Not all of us Dell techs are complete idiots and I enjoy setting my own hours, working from home and not having a boss looking over my shoulder and I spend about a total of 15hrs a week doing real work, if that and I make more money then a lot of people who work 40hrs.

    As for the article. This is what you get for buying a Vostro. The Vostro line sucks monkey butt. There are techs out there that have no clue as well but the new Vostro line is just terrible. BTW, if problems arise after the 2nd service it will be sent in for depot service.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I’m a former on-site Dell tech and could perhaps clear the air here.

    First, Dell does indeed contract these services out to places like QualXserv and another that slips my mind right now. We also don’t get paid by the hour, we get paid by how many on-site repairs we do. When I did it back in ’05 we were getting from $25 to $35 per repair.

    In just like any other occupation, you’re going to have winners and slackers. I would bet that this guy had the same tech (or perhaps two different techs) work on his machine. I guess they were probably new or didn’t know what they were doing.

    In order to do this job, one must hold a DCSE (Dell Certified System Engineer) in whatever models they repair. In order to acquire this cert, one takes the test online where it’s dead simple to have another window open with the repair manuals. So the DCSE is something anyone can get with little effort.

    As far as the job only being done by people who can’t real PC tech jobs, I should point out that this isn’t bottom of the barrel losers doing this job. It’s advertised like any other job with a much higher rate of pay than for PC tech support or repair. I could easily make $1000 a week doing this job. Find that in the PC tech support arena.

    Personally, I took the job because it afford a great amount of autonomy and the interactions with my supervisor occurred about once a month and that’s only because there would be an issue with pay.

    Matter of fact, I felt very badly for my cubicle-bound brothers with their headsets, going through a script on the phone. At no point did I ever want to be one of those cubicle warriors and the Dell job paid well and let me handle my own business in my own way.

    Considering this, it isn’t surprising that if one doesn’t have discipline that the level of autonomy could easily equate to suboptimal performance.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that we were often hamstrung by the Dell phone support people. We didn’t get to decide what the problem was. We’d get service calls in the morning, pick up parts from the local DHL warehouse and hit the site.

    In this case, it appears that the Dell tech from India heard the word ‘power’ and figured it was the power supply, so he sent that. Of course, that’s not going to fix the problem. So, when we show up onsite and find out that it’s something else, we have to call and order the proper parts which we replace the following day. It appears that here the Dell tech didn’t know what the hell he was doing and screwed up the job. Don’t play like you haven’t seen the same thing happen in any other job or profession you’ve been involved in.

    Astrababble has a pretty good idea of what happens when you pull a laptop apart. If you’re not paying attention, there are a number of mistakes than can be made in the process resulting in a mishaps like this. However, this can be avoided by powering up the machine afterward and running diags (or even looking for something amiss during usage). It appears that this wasn’t done.

    I’ve since moved on from that job to get a CCNA, MCP and am now working on my MCITP. So, this isn’t a job that’s done by someone who can’t get a job anywhere else. The company that hired me after that job flirted with me for months before I gave in.

    All in all, it’s a pretty good gig, but just like all gigs, you’re going to have people that know what they’re doing and you’re going to have slackers.

  31. 3drage says:

    After my experiences with the XPS machine I recently purchased I’d never recommend anyone going with Dell.

  32. batsy says:

    This is what happened with my HP laptop a few years ago. The headphone jack was broken so I sent it in to be fixed, got it back and the headphone jack was still broken, but then the CD drive was broken as well. And I couldn’t send it in again because the warranty had just expired.

  33. coren says:

    I’ve had such mixed luck with Dell – I had them be great when I got a bad component in a new computer – I forget if the mobo or the vidcard was bad, but it would end up going out and then breaking the other, so that it would be this never ending cycle of part replacement. It took two weeks and four in home visits plus three personal replacements to get it square, but it got square.

    Then like a year later, a somewhat computer illiterate person (me) was told to repartition my harddrive without being warned what would happen. Thanks Dell!

  34. GoodBytes says:

    If you have Dell Next Business Day onSite service, Dell will send you a technician (contracted firm), to your place, at the time you want and when you want (starting at the next business day), for free. And you can sit next to the guy and see what he does. If the Technician even scratch your machine… accident or not, Dell will covers it. I know I was (he drop the screw driver my accident onto the machine screen lid… Dell send me a new machine for this) :)

    I got a superb service. And if you don’t want the tech guy, no problem! Dell provides a fully documented service manual on their website (like you have everything to assemble and disassemble your laptop completely with diagrams), and you can do it yourself (you can always call or chat for assistance), and shipping is always paid both ways by Dell :)

    Oh and the only outsource person I ever talked to or waited more than 2min on the line and not get a straightly to a person was the sale rep. The rest.. instant… or max 1min wait time.

    In your case you should request the supervisor of the tech support and explain your situation and possible compensation. If that fails, well Micheal Dell is the guy the contact.

    P.S: I am with Dell Canada.

  35. NotYou007 says:

    @LeonardPatroclus I make a lot more than 35 bucks per job but I won’t say how much but it’s a lot more. As you stated the basic requirements are you must be A+ cert and you must go threw Dells testing to get your DCSE but as you said, these test are easy.

    @3drage if you purchased an XPS 1330 and had video issues it was not Dells fault. It is Nvidias and they refused for a very long time to admit this. People forget that Dell is the name on the computer. Dell does not produce the the motherboards, chipsets, CPU’s, HDD’s, optical drives, LCD’s, keyboards, Video cards, Sound cards, Modems and a host of other things that go into their computer.

  36. flyromeo3 says:

    NotYou007: thats a pretty dumb statement. If the video card is the problem you still have to go through Dell since the video cards are soldered onto the motherboard ( foxxcon p.o.s m/b ) Dell uses cheap parts for its computers/ laptops.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Those Foxconn power connectors are challenging to get, made almost exclusively for Dell. You could get them for about $1.20 in lots of 1,000. It took the purchasing deparment of my electronics assembly employer three weeks to get 10 “engineering samples”, just so I could swap one out on an older laptop
    On a plus note: Dell does have possibly the clearest online instructions I have ever seen on how to open up and repair some of their older laptops.