Thursday, December 22, 2005

Re: My computer,

I have a Dell Dimension 8100, P4 1.5GHz, 768Meg memory which has had continuous problems since the day I received it in April, 2001. Dell has never been able to stop the problem of it crashing every 2-6 weeks. Dell did a good job of honoring my extended warranty, but never was able to solve the constant crashing of the OS, Windows ME. The advice they offered during countless calls to the customer support were useless. I had the usual customer support problems of having to wait for unblievably long periods of time, usually 1-2hrs. When I got the customer support agent I usually had difficulty understanding them when they outsourced. Although the agents were difficult to understand they were very polite and tried their best to be helpful.

Before Dell outsourced customer support the american support was equally unable to solve the problem so outsourced support was really not the problem. I finally figured out what the problems were.

The problems were due to Dell's poor case design, it could not get rid of heat. The multiple, strange, seemingly unrelated problems were all due to heat and a bad hard drive. The heat problem may even have caused the hard drive problem, although I think the hard drive was defective from the beginning. After I had the computer for two weeks the hard drive began to make intermittent rattling noises, probably marginally bad bearings or warped platters.

For the first 4 and 1/2 years I thought the problem was due to my Microsoft OS being windows ME. So I bought a lot of software probably spending $1000.00 on a great variety of cleaning and repair software. When none of that worked I purchased Windows 2000Pro for $300.00 but it crashed just as often as ME.

When none of the software programs solved my problems I finally started reading up on hardware related computer problems, which eventually led me to the solution. My hardware modifications were as follows:

1. I installed a Seagate Barracuda 80gig hard drive which has fluid dynamic bearings and what a difference. All the intermittent rattling noises stopped and the computer became more stable and consistent in it's performance. The wonderful Seagate drive is extremely quiet and I will be a Seagate customer forever. As a result of the HD change the computer though being more stable and much more consistent in it's operations would still crash, but far less often. So, I decided to try to give my disastrous Dell more hardware modifications.

2. I installed a 220.00 dollar video card with more memory on it since I had read that computers could crash due to insufficient memory. I added an additional 400.00 dollars worth of very expensive memory and that 'seemed' to help a bit. I added a program called "Memory Boost Pro" from Tenebril and that seemed to help. This program does a better job of memory management than Windows 2000Pro.

3. Next I installed a 220.00 dollar CD/DVD drive made by TDK and though it did more things than the straight CD drive that came with the computer my computer did not work any better.

4. Finally, I made improvements in the cooling of the computer and it has run non-stop for 6 and 1/2 months. I think the new Seagate HD might have helped because having fluid dynamic 'bearings' it probably generates less heat. The lousy Dell case design allows for only one 80mm. fan for the case cooling and it's noisy. I have cleaned it, and the power supply fan once a year but this did no good and I did not think it would do any good since these fans were never really dirty. But having worked in the electronics world for 17 years I cleaned the fans just as a preventive measure. Being an amateur radio operator for most of my life I have always followed this fan cleaning procedure with my radio equipment. With the older tube radios that I owned in my earlier years as an amateur radio operator I always ran an extra fan on my transmitter and on my amplifier.

However since the Dell case design does not permit running extra fans without modifications I decided to do mods. only as a last resort. My only other alternative fan strategy would have been to run a larger fan, 90 or even better a 120mm. fan would have been ideal. A 120mm fan would have provided both greater cooling and a much quieter computer, this alternative would have been ideal. Unfortunately the Dell case design would not permit this modification. Damn Dell and their idiot cost cutting and corner cutting ways of doing things. I was once again boxed into a corner by Dell's computer design.

This brought me to another strategy, I removed all the flat cables and installed round cables. This strategy definitely helped and was fairly inexpensive. Thank goodness I had the technical and electronics skills to do these mods. I had built a previous computer myself and as a result learned quite a bit. I am sure I would not have attempted this had I not been involved in electronics since the age of seven, had been an amateur radio operator beginning at the age of 16 and had the help of some friends who were more knowledgeable about computers than myself. Thanks Pete W. John S. and Tom F.

Thanks to Dell's stupid computer design and choice of some components I can not install
heatsink coolers on the the cpu or the chipset or the memory without modifications which I do not care to do. Butchering what I paid $2500.00 dollars for is not my idea of the proper way things should be designed by the computer manufacturer. The last modification I did was not very elegant and makes my overpriced Dell nightmare computer look ugly but it helped.
The Dell 8100 has an extra external drive bay so I have removed the cover allowing more air flow which is directed at the cpu and chipset. This will probably cause more dust to enter the computer but I really do not have a choice.

The Dell power supply is only 330 watts and may be running at it's upper limits which would cause it to generate more heat. Also it is the typical inefficient computer power supply piece of junk so I finally found a replacement from a company that makes an excellent power supply which I had used in a previous computer. 'PC Power and Cooling' is a company that makes really excellent computer power supplies. They are far more efficient so they run cooler and produce more power as well. My computer has never run better, in fact as I said previously it has not crashed in 6 and 1/2 months so I think the problem is solved.

My Dell has been a 4 and 1/2 year nightmare. I will never buy another Dell computer. I bought the Dell because it had a good reputation and I stupidly thought that Dell was a premium computer that would give me premium service. I was so wrong.

For my next computer I will go back to building my own as they never failed me in any way. I always used a full tower case and ran three case fans, which sounds like overkill but then I never had any problems. I have never been a 'gamer' or 'overclocker' so my Dell has not seen that kind of usage yet due to it's very poor design, component arrangement and component selection I suffered through all those years and all that huge expense to correct problems that should have never occured in the first place.

I hope all of this information helps some Dell owners who are having multiple and/or seemingly unsolveable problems. Hopefully other Dell owners will not have to go through the terrible anxiety and frustration that I endured for so long. Hopefully other Dell owners will not have to go through the huge expenses that I incurred in order to solve my problems. If just one Dell owner is spared what I went through then I will have done some good.

Michael Dell is an extraordinarly rich man, I am sure, but he has acquired his wealth at the expense of his customers. I can guarantee to all who read this he has lost me as a customer and all of my friends who know of my terrible experiences with Dell computers.

For years I could not even find out what components were in this computer because there was nothing on the bill/invoice I received with the computer. Eventually I discovered two free programs that told me about most of the components in my computer but was unable to discover that my computer has a Planar motherboard in it until a year ago. This particular motherboard seems to be largely unknown in the computer world possibly another poor component choice by Dell.

The two free programs that were so helpful were from Lavaly's and Belarc. These programs work very well, I recommend them. These companies are to be applauded for their service to the computer community and they both make programs for commercial computer users as well as the free programs for the home pc user. They both deserve the recognition I have just given them.

Through my on going struggle I found other extraordinarily helpful sources. Kim Komando is a source I have been using for five years and still get her four very helpful e-mail newsletters every day. Kim is a resource that any computer user can trust, whether a home user or a commercial user such as a small business that does not have it's own IT department. She explains things in a very down to earth and understandable way. I have known Kim to make only one mistake in the last five years and she corrected it the next day because I and probably hundreds of her 4 million readers let her know about it. So if Kim says it, you can believe it, as she is totally trustworthy and honest. Her website does not put any spyware or malware on your computer and her privacy policy is the best. She offers information about how parents can protect their children while they are on-line.

Another great resource for the home or commercial computer users is Fred Langa of Langalist fame. I have been receiving his free e-mail newsletter for three years and now subscribe to his very inexpensive newsletter. I subscribe to his non-free but very inexpensive newsletter because it helps Fred pay for some of his costs as his site carries no advertising. Fred's website puts no spyware or malware on your computer and his privacy policy is the best.

Additionally, Fred uses the money he receives for his not-free newsletter to support 13 children in the poorest nations of the world. Buying Fred's not-free newsletter helps straving, sick, and otherwise uneducated children. Fred is a good christian but does not brag or talk about it.
Skip one stop at a fast food restaurant, save your health, subscribe to Fred's newsletter for great computer advice and help starving children all at the same time. What more could a computer user ask for? Fred also uses the money he gets from his subscription newsletter to cover his expenses when he goes to someones home to help them with a computer problem. In this crazy world it just doesn't get any better than that. Start with Fred's free newsletter and as soon as you see how good it is just subscribe to his other newsletter.

t bob

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