Tech support: look at the pictures if you like, but you really don’t want to read this

HP Instant Support Professional Edition

Reason for contact: Computer blue-screen forced shutdown in the middle of running publishing software, creating invoices. A normal task. Tech support document at Microsoft accessed by a link in the post-recovery report ("from a serious error") suggested a sequence of troubleshooting steps. The first one that yielded potentially useful information was review of hard drive with CHKDSK. At 61% completion, it reported a series of "deleting corrupt attribute record" messages; at 99%, reported multiple "deleting orphan file record segment" messages. In sum: "Errors found. Unable to continue CHKDSK."

I called the best local computer consultant. He said, "Sounds like the hard drive's going, and the machine's under warranty so let me know what you hear from HP."

First contact:

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 9:19 AM] — Automatically generated message:
For reference, your Case ID is 3605025522

Note: I had to leave before support came on the line. Instructions said response would be within 5 minutes. It wasn't.

Second contact:

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 10:34 AM] — Automatically generated message:
For reference, your Case ID is 3605027592

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 10:35 AM] — Wally W says:
According to the computer's serial number . . . it is an (xw4550) Workstation with a valid next business day onsite warranty through until (2011-05-10). Is this information correct?

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 10:36 AM] — Deborah Robson says:

. . .
Note: I spent 3 hours spent running the hard drive through two BIOS-related tests, at 74 minutes each, completed correctly even though the instructions I was given were not entirely correct. Between machine checks, I worked on deadline project on the MacBook.

Third contact:

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 1:52 PM] — Automatically generated message:
This is an automated message. Your request has been received by the Technical Support Center and has been queued until a support analyst is available. Support for HP and Compaq desktops and Workstations is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You will receive a response to your support request in 5 minutes or less.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 1:52 PM] — Automatically generated message:
For reference, your Case ID is 3605032750

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 1:52 PM] — Automatically generated message:
A Support specialist, Rosanna G has been assigned to your case.

Hello Deborah, thank you for contacting HP and for your interest in our Active Chat online support. My name is Rosanna and I see you have a question regarding your Workstation. I'm going to take a few moments to review your information and will message you back very soon.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 1:53 PM] — Deborah Robson says:

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 1:56 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Deborah, completion code = 0 means your hard drive is fine. I would like to confirm that you are getting this blue screen when you are loading windows XP?

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 1:58 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
No. It occurred in the middle of a normal work day process. "A problem has been detected and Windows has shut down to protect …" followed by reboot and "The system has recovered from a serious error." Troubleshooting document led to suggestions to download and install latest updates and drivers (done automatically), remove any new hardware or software (none), scan for viruses (done nightly), check hard disk for error (found with CHKDSK but not BIOS review). Final, restore computer to an earlier state, not tried.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:02 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Have you tried to re image the unit?

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:02 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
I don't know what that means.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:04 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Have you tried a known working hard drive?

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:05 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
I have backed up all of my documents to an external hard drive, if that's what you mean.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:06 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Ok can we format the hard drive and put a new OS on it.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:07 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
If we must. I will, of course, have to reinstall all of the programs, which means at least an hour on the phone with both Microsoft and Adobe convincing them I am not pirating their software.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:08 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
An hour EACH.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:09 PM] — Rosanna G says:
The hard drive has passed the Test, so the next step would be to re image the unit.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:10 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
Can you give me instructions so I can do it later? I have a deadline to meet, and right now every hour counts.

Note: I have been cleaning the office while waiting for responses. There has got to be something to do that is less inappropriately destructive than putting an ax through the hardware, because this is looking like it's a software problem.

Or is it?

I have been down this road before.

Or at least some of the roads have looked a whole lot like this one. That's why in the first three months of 2008 I sent one under-warranty PC back to the factory (after days on the phone with tech support at several hardware and software companies) and acquired two new PCs. . . . And spent more days on the phone with more tech support, during which I reformatted multiple hard drives and reinstalled all the software more times than I can remember. . . .


Note: This is the part you REALLY, REALLY don't want to read, but I thought you might want to see it. . . .

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:13 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Step1When you format a computer hard drive you will lose everything that is on the drive. Therefore, it is very important to back up anything you might want later. Additionally, if you are going to be formatting and installing XP you need to make sure you have the discs for any applications or third party hardware you use since you will need to re-install your programs and drivers after re-installing Windows.
Step2Take a moment to think of anything that you have on the computer that you wouldn't want to lose. Generally, you probably want everything in your My Documents folder, and you also want to save things like your favorites or bookmarks from your Web browser. Remember that each user on the computer has his or her own My Documents folder, Desktop items and Favorites/Bookmarks.
Step3Save everything to a CD, DVD or a hard drive that you won't be formatting.
Formatting a Secondary Hard Drive
Step1Right-Click on the “My Computer” icon either on your desktop or in the Start Menu and select “Manage.”
Step2A new window titled “Computer Management” comes up. Select “Storage” from the left hand side by clicking it once, then select “Disk Management(local)” from the right side by double-clicking it.
Step3Now in the lower part of the main frame (right side) of the window you should see a nice visual of all your hard drives. Each line is a different drive. Each box on a line (with a colored bar at the top and a size displayed in MB or GB) is a partition on the drive. Partitions are separations of space on a drive. Unless you are doing something specific that requires multiple partitions, you only want one partition per drive.
Step4First you must delete any existing partitions on the drive you are going to format. Do this by right-clicking on the partition's box and selecting “Delete Partition…” Since you already know that you will be deleting everything on the drive, and have already backed everything up, you can safely say yes to any warning the computer presents you with.
Step5 If there are multiple partitions make sure you have saved everything off them since they might each have different drive letters (i.e. “D:” or “F:”). Then repeat the above step for each of them. If you only want to format one partition that is OK and you can continue to the next step without deleting the other partitions.
Step6The box for the drive to be formatted should now have a black bar at the top of it and should say “Unallocated” under its size (see picture). Right click on it and select “New Partition…” The New Partition Wizard comes up.
Step7In the New Partition Wizard click next. On the next page make sure “Primary Partition” is selected and click next. Now make the size equal to the maximum (it should already be set to it), and click next again. On the next page the computer will automatically choose the first available drive letter for the new drive. However, if you like you can choose another drive letter from the drop-down menu, and then click next.
Step8Finally the New Partition Wizard asks if you would like to format the new partition and if so what format. Choose “NTFS” as it is faster and more secure. Leave the “Allocation unit size” as “Default.” In the “Volume label” field enter whatever name you want the drive to have. Simple is better. Avoid using spaces. Lastly, if the drive is brand new and has never been used before check the “Perform a quick format” box. If the drive has been used before leave this box unchecked. Leave the “Enable file and folder compression” box unchecked and click next. Then on the next page click finish.
Step9The wizard will now spend a little while formatting the drive. On old or large drives this may take a while. Do not close the “Computer Management” window until it finishes. You will know it is done when the word under the size of the drive changes from “Formatting” to “Healthy” and the name and drive letter you chose for the new drive show up. After it is finished you can proceed to use your newly formatted drive.
Formatting and Installing from the Windows XP CD
Step1This section explains how to reformat a drive from the Windows XP installation CD. This can be used when installing a fresh copy of Windows onto a computer. Here it is especially important to backup all of your important information because upon formatting you will lose EVERYTHING that used to be on the drive. This includes all applications and device drivers, so you must back up everything you can.
Step2Insert your Windows XP installation disc into your CD drive (Home or Pro–it does not matter).
Step3Now as you computer boots a little more it will say “Press any key to boot from CD..” press a key to do so.
Step4The CD will load up a blue screen and then spend a while loading files it needs. When it is finished it will list a few options, mainly “Press ENTER to set up Windows XP.” Press Enter or Return.
Step5Now you will be at a screen to select where to install Windows to. This is where you can delete old partitions and format drives. The box in the bottom half of the screen shows all your drives and the partitions that exist on them. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to highlight your “C:” partition and press the 'D' key (if all that shows up is “Unpartitioned space” and you have no C: or D: partitions, skip this step). On the next screen press the 'L' key to finalize deleting the partition.
Step6Now you are back on the screen to choose where to install Windows. The box on the lower half of the screen should no longer show a partition but simply have an entry “Unpartitioned space xxxxxMB.” Select this with the arrow keys and press the 'C' key to create a partition on the drive. The next screen tells you the minimum and maximum sizes the partition can be and lets you pick the size. The default size is the maximum, but double check that the number entered is the maximum and hit enter.
Step7Now you will again be back at the choose where to install Windows screen. But this time you will have a partition that looks something like this “C: Partition1 [New (Raw)]xxxxxxMB.” Highlight this entry and press enter.
Step8The next screen lets you choose which file system to format the drive with. Choose NTFS as it is faster and more secure. If the drive is brand new and has never been used before then use one of the options that ends in “(Quick).” Or, choose one of the lower down options. Use the arrow keys to select the proper one and press Enter or Return.
Step9From here you are all set and the installation of Windows will proceed starting with a format of your drive. This will take a while (over half an hour) so you can take a little break.

Note: My emphasis.

Yes, that's what their instructions look like. "Half an hour" sounds quick to me, but I don't know the meaning of this word "break." Or do I?

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:14 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
Thank you.

Note: Resisting natural impulses and channeling energy into most constructive available activity:


[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:15 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Also are you using HP CDs

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:17 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
I have the original CDs that came with the unit. Unfortunately, what I have for OS says Vista Business DVD. When I bought the machine (less than a year ago), I got it with XP Pro. I do not want to be using Vista.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:18 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Ok if you do not have the restore Plus CD for XP you will need to make the F6 disk for the drivers.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:19 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
I have:
Operating System DVD Windows Vista Business
HP Restore Plus
Supplemental Software, Backup and Recovery Manager
Documentation and Diagnostics
Roxio Easy media creator 9, and WinDVD

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:21 PM] — Rosanna G says:
If you are loading windows XP the restore plus for vista will not work.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:21 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
Then what do I need to do?

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:24 PM] — Rosanna G says:
you will need the Intel Matrix Storage Manager to create the F6 disk, which needs to be put on a floppy disk.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:25 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
I have reformatted hard drives a number of times before (unfortunately). I have not encountered the Intel Matrix Storage Manager or an F6 disk, so I don't know what they are.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:26 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
Um, there is no floppy disk drive on this machine. Neither 5.25 nor 3.5.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:28 PM] — Rosanna G says:

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:33 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Ok can we re image the unit.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:34 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
It sounds like I do not have the OS that I bought in a form that will let us do that.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:35 PM] — Rosanna G says:
I can set you up for the recovery CDs if you like?

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:36 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
Sounds like we'd better. CDs or DVDs? I have both. How many?

Note: Based on my extensive experience, sometimes at this point tech support asks the caller to feed a bunch of CDs or DVDs in and out of the drive while standing on her head reading the cereal number off the bottom of the box . . . oh, can I get a new computer with box-tops, or do they do that any more? What *was* in the bottom of the Cracker Jack?

Uh, sometimes you need more than the dozen or so disks that are within reach. It's good to be prepared.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:36 PM] — Rosanna G says:
I'll need the following Information from your so I can set your order for the CDs.

Unit Serial Number:
Unit Model (i.e. XW9300):
Operating System:
Customer First Name:
Customer Last Name:
Business Name:
Street Address 1:
Street Address 2:
Zip Code:
E-mail Address:
Contact Phone Number:

I'll be a Few moments setting your case up and I'll have your order number for you.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:38 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
[data supplied, not that they don't already have it because they requested and confirmed the serial number before this series of exchanges ever started]

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:39 PM] — Rosanna G says:
I'll be a few moments and I'll have an order number for you.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:44 PM] — Rosanna G says:
Order Number: 8121087

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:45 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
What happens now?

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:45 PM] — Rosanna G says:
You will get CDs in the next day or two

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:48 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
Okay. Then we go back to ground zero, and it sounds like we're done for today. It would be VERY good if the OS that I bought was already here.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:48 PM] — Deborah Robson says:
Thank you for your help.

[Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:48 PM] — Rosanna G says:
You're welcome. Once again, thank you for contacting HP and have a great day!


Note: Based on relatively recent experience, I can attest to the fact that reformatting the hard drive,
reinstalling the OS, and getting all of the programs installed and
through the necessary update cycles takes about two days of full-time work.


Note: Walking back upstairs to the MacBook, about to learn a bunch of new-to-me software with a deadline for completion of the work.


Not quite non sequiturs:

If this is "instant," what is "delayed"?

If this is "support," what does "hunh?" mean?

If this is the "professional" edition, how does the "amateur" one work?

After dealing with this (or not: nothing has really changed), my two remaining brain cells understand the appeal of "reality" TV.


The computer consultant says that with some adapters I should be able to plug the MacBook into the larger monitor and hook it up to the Wacom tablet, and there MUST be a way to help it access a printer without going through the HP, which is currently the central network machine. . . .


15 thoughts on “Tech support: look at the pictures if you like, but you really don’t want to read this”

  1. It does have a USB connection. I have to rearrange the office (by climbing under and behind the desk) to hook/rehook. It’s amenable to a PERMANENT solution, but not quick temporary fixes.

  2. Hi, Ted:

    Yes, thank heaven I have a Mac. It is *WORKING*. That’s why I have not pulled out all my hair (situation can’t turn my hair gray: previous events already did). I just need either a way to dock the laptop at the main workstation (coming, but $$) *or* another Mac to replace the main workstation ($$$$).

    I have defined which “other” Mac I need down there in the main office: iMac, bumped up to 4GB RAM. 320GB standard hard drive is fine, and no need for mega-big monitor.

  3. I got the MacBook as an experiment, and out of desperation, in November: there has GOT to be a better way. There is. The challenge is *how much* software and other materials I need to replace, and the logistics of transferring all aspects of the business to a different platform. It’s a big deal.

    And I am so grateful that there is an option, and I have this small but pleasantly functional tool (MacBook) to fill in some of the gaps while I’m thinking through the transition and making it, gradually, happen.

    I got Creative Suite for the Mac last week and have loaded half of it onto the laptop. There’s not enough power here to run the whole thing well, but I have a toehold.

  4. Dear me. I don’t know if you read my blog on a similar craziness —
    Less detail, but no less frustration. End result — eventually Dell sent me a human, who fixed the input jack (physically broken into 2 pieces) by replacing the mother board and undercasing (mother board necessary… human fixer-person wondered why they sent the undercasing but dutifully installed it). Things have been working since. Good luck!

  5. In the past 23 years we have had (among 3 family members) 5 Dell computers and one HP. The HP was always a nightmare. The dells have never been a problem.

    I do know people who have had dell problems, but nothing like the hell we had with the hp. shrug

  6. One brownie point for HP: A few minutes ago, FedEx delivered the OS installation disks. Now all I need is two days. . . .

    I have had Dells that have been fine and Dells that required CPR. Also Gateways. I *still* have an old Dell as a backup machine (it could no longer haul the load I asked it to bear, though, on a regular basis).

  7. After reading this bizarre saga, I now have a burning need to go knit.

    Maybe next time you go through this sort of misadventure, you could make origami cranes out of the pages instead of just ripping them to shreds?

    It’s a thought…. : – )

  8. Oh, Deb! I’m sorry to hear this is happening again! I prescribe a visit to your nearest fiber producing animal. (therapy by way of petting) Then, lots of knitting.

    (my brain hurts after reading this post!)

  9. Just dialing the phone to call tech support makes me cry. Any tech support anywhere. I know what’s coming…

    Try to find a balance between taking deep breaths and hyperventilating.
    Good luck!

  10. Everybody hates Vista. Microsoft doesn’t want to support XP. Therefore XP attempts suicide annually at Christmas time, so you will buy yourself a Vista box.

    I’m not girly enough for a Mac and no longer geek enough for Unix, so this year I gave in.

    There *is* a way around it, and that is to use XP *Professional*. Microsoft *has* to continue to support that because nobody will use Vista in their offices.

  11. I’m on XP Pro, for sure. On all the machines. . . . Except the Mac. I was running Fedora on my old laptop (replaced by the MacBook experiment).

    Friends are coming over tomorrow (serious geek friends) to try things involving virtual machines and partitions and tracking down DLL conflicts, with the intent of possibly sidestepping the brain-wipe.

  12. Honey, you’re snake-bit with those Windows computers, aren’t you??? Much sympathy.

    FTR, we’ve had good luck with our HP devices (printer, computer, camera), and had such a bad experience with Dell that I’d think long and hard before EVER buying another. But the plural of anecdotes is not data. 🙂

    I’m still trying to get up enough nerve to put Linux on something.

  13. You have earned several stars in heaven for not taking it down the road and exploding it in front of HP, as some of would have That said, if there’s anything, including loaning you my desktop Mac, I can do, let me know..

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