Scary noises

01.31.07

Last week I came home one day and turned on my trusty computer, only to discover that it was making a noise. A very loud noise. A very loud and scary noise, considering I had committed the cardinal sin of failing to back up my essential data.

In a panic, I shut down the computer, and the scary noise stopped. Okay, now what?

With a sinking feeling in my stomach, and feeling somewhat like Carrie Bradshaw, I began phoning friends with more computer knowledge than I.

“It’s probably the fan,” they assured me.

“Probably? What if it’s not?”

“Well, there’s a small chance your hard drive is failing.”

Needless to say, that didn’t make me feel any better. “What should I do?” I asked with trepidation.

“Whatever you do, don’t turn the computer on again. It may already be too late, but if it’s not, you don’t want to make it worse. Keep it off, take it in for service.”

Visions of important documents, irreplaceable digital photos, programs with original install CDs buried in the abyss of old junk, all ran through my head. I didn’t get much sleep that night.

The next day, I had the presence of mind to dig up the invoice for the computer, only to discover – joy of joys – that it was still covered under an extended service warranty. Oh, the relief!

Except that it’s never quite so simple. I phoned up Dell and was pleasantly surprised to see that my call was no longer directed to India. But my pleasant surprise ran out when I realized that they don’t train their local technicians much better than they trained their overseas ones. After sitting for 45 minutes on hold listening to the ever-present “your call is important to us” recording, I got through to a chipper tech support agent and described the problem. He then had me wait for another 10 minutes while he searched for his protocol for dealing with scary noises, and finally came back to me and asked me to turn on the computer to run through some diagnostics.

Swallowing my trepidation – after all, everyone had told me not to turn on the computer – I went down the list of things he asked me to do, which, even with my limited computer knowledge, I recognized had nothing to do with the problem, such as checking the configuration of the graphics card. Yes, I was confused, too. And I was starting to suspect that the chipper Dell technician was just walking me through the motions.

All the diagnostics completed, he told me that since I had failed to isolate the problem, his system indicated that nothing was wrong, so he couldn’t help me.

“What???” I asked, incredulous.

“Sorry, those are our procedures, thank you for calling Dell.”

Hmmph.

I had the bright idea to phone back an hour later in hopes that I would get a different guy on the phone. Maybe even one who knew what he was talking about. Dare to dream, right? Because when I called back, I was greeted with a recording about how Dell’s computer systems were down. Oh, the delicious irony.

To make a long story short, I ended up enlisting some help and finally getting the computer fixed. It was the fan, after all. One of them, anyway. We got them to replace both, just in case. The scary noise is now gone.

And I’ve learned my lesson and acquired a backup drive.

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