Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dealing With Dell Issues - Some Lessons Learned

So my new monitor has been acting up these last few days. I'd plug it into my Dell Windows Vista laptop and it would do this whole flashing thing - go black, give me a glimpse of the screen - go black again. It would repeat this till I finally yanked the cord.

Sometimes it worked. It always annoyed me.

So I decided to do something about it. I started off by calling Acer - the maker of the monitor. That wasn't very useful - the kid on the phone was nice, but all he basically did was blame Dell.

So I finally called Dell. Tyler, my support rep, couldn't have been nicer and more effective. He did not, as I feared, send me back to Acer. Instead, he got a view into my laptop using dellconnect and troubleshot away.

The solution? Update the NVidia driver and the problem resolved itself.

But, better than a single solution, I learned:

  • Under the start menu there's Problem Reports and Solutions option. And from there, there's a View Problem History. This gave Tyler a general idea of what's been breaking recently on my computer.
  • Under the start menu there's Reliability and Performance Monitor. From there, you can click on Performance Monitor. You'll get a nice graph of issues you've been having. Again, useful to see what's breaking on your system. My favorite message is the pithy OS Stopped Working. That's code for Blue Screen Of Death.
  • On the bottom of my Dell laptop is a short Service Tag. When I want to check for driver updates I just need to visit Dell's Support Site, Drivers and Downloads and click on Enter Tag. I can then enter in this short code and get a full list of drivers that match my specific machine. I find that to be really slick.
  • Dell phone support is a really nice feature - I'm glad I have it, and I'm impressed with the support they offered.


  1. Do you like vista? Personally, my experience with Vista makes me regret not going with an iMac.

  2. I can't say that I mind it all that much. I'm a fan of the Fail Fast approach to error handling - and IE seems to do this exceedingly well. It actually turns out to be quite annoying.

    For example, I guess rather than slowly eating away at the machine's resources, IE will just plain crash. Like it did right before I typed this comment in. Like I said, annoying to say the least.

    But I do most of my work in cygwin type unix tools, so I'm not too bothered by all this.

    And I find the Start Menu + search area (based on a Mac concept, right?) almost as convenient as a Unix Command line. Almost.

    All in all, I guess having the choice between XP and Vista I'd probably still keep Vista.