The summer before I first went off to college, I went laptop-shopping. Now, I was on a budget, and my aunt said she got an employee discount from Dell (she works for GE, thankfully, not Dell). So I bought a computer from them. Really, my first clue should've been the absurd amount of time they took to just order the damned thing, or the fact that, when I ordered a RAM expansion with the computer, they sent it to me in an envelope and made me install it myself.
But things went fine for a few months. I was off at college, enjoying being free and having all sorts of roommate woes. In November 2004, right when I was working on my first set of papers for finals, my computer shut down, and it kept doing it. Strangely, this problem stopped while I was at home over break (probably because the computer was overheating and my parents keep our house freezing), but then it started up again around midterm of the next term (February 2005). Thankfully (or maybe not, heh), my mom had made me buy the four-year in-home service plan, so I finally sucked it up and called Dell tech support. After two hours on the phone (which had made me miss a meeting for a group project), the technician finally came to the conclusion that the cooling fan wasn't working (something I'd told her when I first called).
They sent a technician out a few days later, and everything appeared to be going fine at first. He installed a new motherboard, too (I have no idea whether or not I actually needed one), so my Windows settings were erased, but luckily, I'd backed everything up recently. Of course, with the erasing of my settings, I lost the ability to access my network drive at school, but that still didn't make things overly difficult. My speakers started making a strange unbearable staticky noise - when I called the repairman, he insisted it was because I had a CD in the CD-ROM drive that was screwing up, even though I told him that the sound was clearly coming from the speakers. I lost my ability to access any wireless network - the school's tech people told me that it was a hardware issue, not a software issue.
Other than that, though, my computer was useable (the speaker thing cleared up after a few days), and I went on my happy way till December 2005. When I was at home for winter break, my LCD screen suddenly went extremely dim. I called Dell right away this time, and I got to spend an hour on the phone trying to run diagnostic tests when I couldn't see a damn thing (and I told the person on the phone I didn't have a spare monitor to hook it up to). The Dell technician for the STL area came out and was, overall, more efficient than the one I'd previously encountered, so it made sense that, when my cooling fan died again in February, I waited till I got home to call it in.
For once, I'd thought I was having good Dell karma. My initial service call took less than twenty minutes, and about half of that was hold time and navigating their silly voice-recognition menus. I didn't have to run a single test, and they told me that they could get the technician out the next day. He came yesterday and replaced the fan in a good five minutes (as opposed to the hour or so it had taken previously - which, incidentally, caused me to miss class, especially after I had to reinstall Windows). He booted it up and said "Oh, Windows can't load your local profile" (the error message that had popped up) and went on his merry way. I didn't know what this meant till I looked at my computer and started screaming in horror because all of my personal files and settings were gone. I spent the rest of the day recovering things, and figured that everything would be fine.
Fast-forward to this morning. I booted up the computer...and got the same error message. Everything that I'd worked so hard to restore was gone again, some of it irretrievably so.
Now my mom wants to call Dell and yell at them - I tried to tell her how much good it would do, but she didn't listen, which means that I'm going to be the one talking to them as I try to describe what I think is a software problem caused by a hardware problem.
The thought of spending more time dealing with this shit literally makes me sick to my stomach. I cried after she said she wanted to call them, because I know how futile it's going to be. Really, I just want to buy a new laptop and never want to deal with Dell again as long as I live.
Any suggestions for a good, sturdy, high-performance brand of laptop? I'm NOT buying a service plan, as I have no intention of dealing with anybody else's "award-winning" technical support.