Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Brand New Computer? Read Me First!

Did you think I was going to start out by telling you all to install WinPatrol as soon as you opened up your new computer? Guess again.  I always try to write my articles from a different point of view and today may not be what you expect.

For the 2nd time I’ve had to return the Dell All-in-One Multi-Touch computer system that I’ve been dreaming about for months. The first unit had to go back because Dell shipped the wrong configuration. The 2nd system had to go back due to internal hardware failure. I should have known something was wrong when I could hear loose parts when I took the computer out of the box.

My point today is take a little time to insure your brand new computer is everything it should be or you may be sorry. Before you install your favorite software on your brand new system I have a few  recommendations.

1) Create a physical folder for documentation.
This folder should include your invoice, Service Tag number, your customer number, Order or Purchase number and any information required to identify your purchase. Keep your original DVD’s in the folder. At some time in the future you will need them and want them handy.

Write these numbers down before your computer goes under the desk or so you don’t have to keep tipping it upside down to find it again.

If you ordered your computer online you probably created an account. Copy down your log in name and account password.

2) Know and understand your Return Policy.
Go online and print out the return policy for your computer.  If you think you have 30 days think again. 

I recently experienced the Dell return policy so I have some specific tips to pass along.

  • “You must contact Customer Service within 21 days of the invoice date.”

    That’s not the date your computer arrived. If the computer is a gift or not planned to be used immediately you should keep reading this article. 

  • “Unless the product is defective or the return is a direct result of a Dell error, a restocking fee may apply of up to 15% of the purchase price paid, plus any applicable sales tax.”

    My inappropriate tip is on your first call tell them there was an error in the system configuration. Imply that you ordered a more expensive configuration and you want to return quickly so you re-order a new system online. If you tell them the computer is broken you’ll be forced through a time consuming series of phone calls with technical support to document your system is really broken.

    Lenovo says “Lenovo will accept the return or exchange of a product in its original, sealed package (except gift cards) for a full refund in cases of Lenovo error. Returns allowed for any other reason will be subject to a restocking fee equal to 15% of the purchase amount. All returns must be initiated within 21 days of the invoice date.“

    Apple requests your attention immediately. “For eligible Mac, iPod, and third-party products, you have up to 14 calendar days from the time you receive your item(s) to initiate a return. A 10% restocking fee will be assessed for opened items. Shipping fees are not refundable.”

    3) Keep all your packing materials.
    Keep all the baggies and even the little twist ties available and pack them in the original box. Keep the original box somewhere safe “just in case”.

    4) Run Available System Tests

    Before installing any new software, including the final installation of the operating system, verify your hardware is working. It should meet the same test requirements it passed before it left factory no matter how many pot holes it hit along the way. 

    I know you’re excited but trust me, you never know what could have happen during shipment. If you know from the start that all your hardware works as expected you’re in a good position. You can probably be confident it will continue to work correctly for many years to come.

    One of the improvements computer OEM’s have made over years has been to include diagnostic tests directly in the firmware. These tests are typically available by pressing one of the function keys while the system boots. Memory and hard drive tests may be time consuming but knowing you don’t have a hardware problem will make you feel better if your system dies after installing your favorite software.

  • memerror

    5) Run all Windows System Updates
    After you complete the installation of the operating system and before you start surfing the net, before you install your favorite programs like WinPatrol, you’ll want to run all available system updates. There are two reasons why this is important.

  • First, until you’ve run all the security updates your system is wide open for possible security breaches. Running updates will be a multi-step process. Once you run your first set of updates, there will be another set that depend on the previous updates before they can run. You should expect multiple re-boots during this process.

  • Secondly, running system updates may result in your system becoming unstable. I’ve written about my hatred of system updates before but on brand new machines updates bring an added dilemma.

    Prior to shipping, your computer company will usually do a good job at testing the configuration you’ve requested. They want to make sure all the default hardware and software work together. That doesn’t mean they’ve tested your system with all the current updates including any new hardware drivers.  This is specially a danger with new Windows 7 systems. I had one company update their drivers and software three times within an eight day period. You’ll want to know if your brand new computer is still like new and compatible after it’s been updated.


    6) Have Fun
    Isn’t it great to know you have a brand new system and everything works perfectly? Now you can follow everyone else’s advice and install all your favorite software like WinPatrol.

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    Blogger Big Geek Daddy said...

    Customer Service shouldn't be difficult but unfortunately it is for so many companies. I recently helped a teenager who was really excited by his new Alienware (Dell) gaming laptop that he got for Christmas. The excitement ended quickly when he discovered he couldn't play COD4 or Crysis on it. The reason: They shipped a computer in December with Windows 7 and nVIDIA graphics drivers from June! How sloppy is that.

    8:34 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Be sure to install your favorite anti-virus and firewall apps before you go on line.

    9:56 AM  
    Anonymous Bill said...

    I went through two of the older Dell All-In-One units having to return both in a similar situation as yours. First one was the wrong configuration and the second the internal tuner wouldn't work. This was back in Dec. 2008 so it is discouraging to hear things haven't changed much.

    I went with HP's TouchSmart All-In-One in February 2009 and love it! It has been a great system and does exactly what I wanted. So if you are not set on having a Dell, I recommend you check them out.

    5:48 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    You should point out also - don't activate ANY software before you know that the computer is not faulty, because some software maker have limited activations that are hardware based, and the hardware IS changed when one must return a computer. This is very important if you buy a OEM-license of Microsoft Windows, especially Windows 2000/XP or later, as they are tied to the motherboard, and Microsoft is never going to accept that you return a motherboard and want a new product-key. Just my little info.

    4:07 AM  
    Blogger Unknown said...

    Thanks Bill. Actually the HP TouchSmart was my first choice. I love my MediaSmart Server.

    Unfortunately, I have a strict 16 inch height limit and the HP is 16.22.


    2:22 PM  
    Blogger bugbytelove said...

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write these tips Bill! I have been using WinPatrol for years and it is always one of the first things I install when getting a new computer along with the other security apps I've come to trust. I'm a grandmother, but both my kids and grandkids often come to me for advice on computer stuff. Wow, what a trip!

    5:30 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Good article Bill, One more thing to cover. Many new systems don't even ship a set of recovery CDs with their system. Make sure that you generate a set before doing something stupid, like I did, and totally trashing your new computer.

    10:46 AM  
    Blogger DTCM said...

    As a small "whitebox" system builder, I continue to find it amusing to hear of the great deals available on-line, then to hear of the horror stories from un-satisfied customers.

    Support your local shop. Sure, my prices might be 10%-15% higher, but, you are buying me, my personal service & integrity, not a box of parts.

    11:12 PM  
    Blogger DHS said...

    In addition to get Windows updates, check the computer make for any system updates. I returned a machine as it wouldn't install some updates from the comupter maked.

    12:27 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The very first thing you should do is make a back up image before doing anything , this way once you do update whatever and maybe later might have a problem with that update or those updates you can always go back to the way it was when it first was turn on , This applies if after you done what ever updates and can't correct the problem by try different options , at least you know you have a back up image you can count on

    5:27 PM  

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