Thursday, May 3, 2007

I love Alienware technical customer service

Somebody buying a standard Dell computer is not necessarily an idiot. I should know, I already bought three, although you might not accept that as proof. :) But the range of computer expertise of Dell customers spans such a wide range that the Dell technical customer service has to *assume* that all callers are idiots. And as Dell needs to save money, and assumes that the people calling the technical service are idiots anyway, it is sufficient for them to man their call centers with people that only have a basic knowledge of computers. That makes calling Dell with a technical problem a pain, because sometimes you know more about the problem than the technician, and he *still* treats you like an idiot. "Is your computer connected to the power outlet, sir?".

Alienware, although owned by Dell, has a completely different type of customer. Their computers are way too expensive and powerful to be bought by laymen, most customers are gamers with quite a decent knowledge of computers. So Alienware assumes that people that call them are not idiots, and lets them talk with technicians that really know their stuff. And that makes talking to the Alienware technical customer service a *lot* more pleasant than talking to Dell.

My Alienware computer has a blue screen of death random crash problem. It was pretty bad at the start, crashing several times per day. I assumed that Vista was somehow involved with it, and as I was also otherwise unhappy with Vista, I formated the hard drive and installed Windows XP Pro instead. Still the PC crashed with a BSOD at least once a day, hard to say whether it was less than before. So I called Alienware, and first got the advice to open the computer, remove the SATA cable from the motherboard, and put it back into one of the other SATA connecters on the motherboard. That was already a lot more than a Dell customer representative would have possibly asked from a customer, opening up the computer. No problem for me, although I did have to cut one cable binder to do so, the Alienware machines run a tight ship in the interior. I'm not expert enough to know why that should help, but it did help. The computer isn't crashing that often any more.

Nevertheless it still crashed once in a while, not more than once a week, and of course I would have liked to get it to run perfectly. So yesterday I called the Alienware technical customer service again, and the technician helped me flash my BIOS to the newest version. He also helped me to create a Memtest bootable CD, in case the BIOS upgrade doesn't work, and the problem is somewhere with the memory. As I have 4 sticks of 1 GB each, and Windows XP (just like the 32-bit Vista) can only use less than 3 of it, we discussed how I could first test all the memory, and if that shows any errors remove one memory stick at a time to find the culprit, without even noticing the missing RAM. The technician was very friendly, very knowledgeable, and gave me advice adequate to my own level of competence with computers. Now I have the latest BIOS, too early to tell whether I'll never have BSODs again, but nevertheless something that is always good to have. And with BIOS flashing being one of the more dangerous operations, which can leave your computer dead if you do it wrong, I'd assume that Dell would have me send back my computer to do it, and not let me do it myself. I already ran Memtest all night, and the memory seems fine, no errors found after 10 hours, which is good to know.

So the Alienware computer might have a slight flaw, not sure if its fixed now. But the Alienware technical customer service is a pleasure to work with, very cooperative, and that alone makes me think that my next computer will be an Alienware again. Meanwhile my Dell desktop PC still has the problem that once in a while it doesn't boot when I turn it on, and I need to turn it off and on again to make it work. And Dell has been no help at all on that problem, except for offering to come and take the computer with them, leaving me for weeks without it, and sending it back with the hard drive reformated and the problem probably still not solved. The holding company might be the same, but I really prefer Alienware.

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