I haven’t had the very best run of luck with my desktop computers lately. I chronicled the death throes of my Dell Alienware tower in MORE unfortunate events. By the end of that saga I’d had a gutfull. What’s hard about buying a reliable computer that lasts longer than two minutes after the end of the warranty period? My needs aren’t too difficult. I use Microsoft office, I run Lightroom and Photoshop to process my photos, and that’s about it. I don’t need a gaming machine, but I’d like a pretty good video card for processing graphics, and a big hard disk. (Raw image files are big.) Reliability is the thing. Even if you have a good backup routine, reloading ALL the software onto a machine is a pain in the bum. I’d also reverted back to the concept of the all-in-one (AIO) – no tower, no speakers, just a screen on your desk. It reduces clutter.
Pete does the research for new gadgets. He’s patient, and he does it well. Needless to say, he stuck to the well-known brands – with Dell off the list. We’d had too many dramas with their customer service when we bought my previous machine, and the disk failure was the final straw.
After some research, Pete came up with the Hewlett Packard Envy. It’s a smarter AIO, with the USB ports and so on in the base the screen sits on. I’d had a Mac, and Pete has an AIO, and having to fool around behind the screen to put in cables and SD cards is fiddly, and often requires a torch. The Envy had a 27″ screen, 2TB hard disk with 256GB SSD, NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 950M graphics, 16GB SDRAM, and an i7-7700T processor. It’s the box in the middle.
The trouble is, you can’t buy that machine in Australia.
You CAN buy the same machine with a 34″ curved screen in Australia. Here it is. I didn’t really need a curved screen; sexy as it is it’s surplus to requirements, but I could live with it. The price tag was a bit off-putting, though. But the HP website lists refurbished machines at a reduced price. Pete found a refurbished Envy with a 34″ screen. It seemed safe enough, especially since HP was willing to sell an extended three-year pick up and return service on the machine.
We had the common understanding of ‘refurbished’ – a machine that had been returned to the manufacturer for whatever reason. It would have been tested for functionality, and defects repaired before being resold. HP is a giant, reputable company. It sounded just fine. The deal said the machine would be delivered in around three weeks, which would mean in the New Year, which suited us because we would be overseas during the Christmas period. So we paid our money.
To our surprise the machine arrived two days before we were due to leave on our holiday. I shrugged and set the device up. I’m an old IT pro – these things should be easy.
But it wasn’t.
The machine hung during the setup process, so I rebooted it by holding down the I/O button. I managed to finish the initial setup but I knew I’d have to update Windows, so I tried to get into the Settings screen, but it flashed up for a nanosecond, then disappeared. This turned out to be a known Windows problem, so I tried the work-arounds in the Microsoft support system, but they didn’t work. I figured it shouldn’t be that hard. Surely. Maybe all I really had to do was update Windows. I got into the Microsoft site and updated Windows from there. I also loaded Office. It was looking good, but it’s always wise to check.
I restarted the machine and tried to log in. I got a blue screen with a message that there was no profile.
This machine had been out of the box for no more than a few hours. I shouldn’t have to do this. Not.Happy.Jan.
I rang HP’s support number 131047. The voice-activated system asked me to say which of a list of products I wanted help with and I said, “Desktop”. That got me through to a call centre in India. After explaining events several times, I got the distinct impression the operator knew less about computers than I did. Eventually she asked me to hold while she spoke to her supervisor. When she returned she told me that her group only supported notebooks.
I tried to explain to her that HP’s voice-activated telephone system had sent me to the wrong place and her manager might want to look into that, but without much success. She’d given me a number for what she said was the Singapore help centre that dealt with AIOs, so I moved on to address my own problems.
The number she gave me turned out to be the Philippines help centre. I spoke to Marvin, a pleasant gentleman I’m sure I’d worked with before, resolving some problems with Pete’s AIO. We reset the machine to factory settings and he suggested I run the setup with a local account, not my Microsoft account. Marvin and I agreed he’d ring me back next day to check on what had happened. The setup worked, everything looking good – but I couldn’t connect to the internet. The system said the security code for the router was wrong. It wasn’t, I’d connected to the internet just fine before. So I rebooted and it came up with the Windows “We have a problem” page. Error message was clock_watchdog_timeout.
When Marvin rang back the following day I’d had a good night’s sleep. We’d bought a lemon, no doubt about it. Pete and I do not believe the machine had been refurbished at all, just reset to factory settings, taped up and sent on to the next mug (us). I remembered Marvin’s hesitation when I mentioned the machine was refurbished, and in this later conversation he confirmed that he would never recommend a refurbished machine.
We’re still negotiating with HP on a resolution to this situation – but at least they have agreed to accept the return of the machine since it’s not fit for purpose. That was a real issue for us, since according to the paperwork we had 14 days from receipt to return the machine – but we were going overseas, and the period would have expired before we got back home.
So take care out there, folks. The term ‘refurbished’ doesn’t seem to mean the same to giant corporations that it does to little people like you and me.