Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Little Knowledge ...

...Can be a Dangerous Thing, as one of our customers found out recently. The customer in question had a 14-month old Compaq PC that they bought as a display model and, unfortunately, it was not supplied to the customer with a Recovery CD/DVD, as it should have been. When the PC became infected with viruses recently she took up the offer of her sister's boyfriend, who was known as pretty handy around computers, to fix it.

What the boyfriend did was to take a Windows XP OS disc he had lying about and reformat the harddrive and reinstall Windows. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack an egg? The customer's daughter was upset to find out that she had lost all her digital photos which were stored only on the PC and had not been backed up before the re-install. The computer was returned to the customer who paid the sister's boyfriend "€30 and a couple of packs of smokes for his trouble".

A few days later we received a call from the customer complaining that they weren't able to connect to the internet since they got their "repaired" PC back. I called around and it didn't take long to see what she got for her €30. The reason she wasn't able to connect to the internet was that there were no drivers installed for the modem. Neither were there any drivers installed for the video card, sound card or network card - practically all the hardware on the PC was non-functional. As there was no way to download the drivers from the customer's house, we had to bring the system box in to the workshop, install a wireless USB network card and download the drivers from the HP site. It was while doing this that the Windows XP Activation reminder popped up informing me that the OS could be used for just 27 more days before it would self-destruct. At this point I got the feeling that things were worse than I initially thought. We brought Windows XP through the activation process, entering the OEM licence key on the side of the system box and, as I suspected, it wouldn't activate.

Compaqs are not designed to have their Windows OS reinstalled from a generic OS disc - they must be reinstalled either from the supplied recovery disc (missing in this case) or from the Recovery Partition that is found on the hard drive. To bring a Compaq PC back to its original factory settings, it is simply a matter of pressing the F10 key during startup and this will bring up the Recovery Options. From there, it's just a matter of selecting the required options and you have a factory-fresh PC in about 30-60 minutes. Unfortunately, when F10 was pressed on the customer's PC, nothing happened. This is most likely due to the reinstallation of Windows, using the generic OS disc, overwriting the Master Boot Record on the hard disc, thus making the Recovery Partition inaccessible. Solution? The customer had to order a set of Recovery Discs from HP at a cost of €38.50 and, when these arrive, she has booked us to perform the system recovery. I have suggested that she passes on our bill to her sister's boyfriend. She agrees.

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