Fear and Loathing in Technical Support

I just had an especially painful experience with Dell Technical Support. The optical drive in my Inspiron 8600 went kaput, and I thought I'd take advantage of an extended warranty I bought along with the system back in 2003. I thought I'd try the technical support chat so I wouldn't have to listen to hold music.

My first chat experience was with ANIRBAN_149447. Here's how it went.

04:19:22PM Session Started with ANIRBAN_149447
04:19:28PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Thank you for contacting Dell Technical Support. My name is Anirban and rep ID is 149447. How may I assist you today?"
04:20:34PM Jason: "Hi there; the DVD+RW drive in my system is bad; it won't boot, so I ran the Dell diagnostics on it several times. Each time, it reported "Error Code 0F00:131D" and "Illegal request – possible use of incorrect media""
04:20:49PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Thank you for the information. I’ll be glad to assist you. Please give me 2 to 3 minutes to pull up your account information."
04:22:23PM ANIRBAN_149447: "In the meantime, may I also have your telephone number, along with the area code to update our records?"
04:22:50PM Jason: "Sure, I don't have a home phone number; the only thing I have is a cell phone. It's XXX-XXX-XXXX"
04:25:04PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Thank you for the information."
04:25:38PM ANIRBAN_149447: "My records show that the system you use an Inspiron 8600 with Windows XP Operating System installed on it. Is this the product you need assistance with?"
04:25:57PM Jason: "That's correct"
04:27:16PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay. Please do not worry; I will do my best to resolve this issue."
04:27:19PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Could you please elaborate the issue so that I can understand it correctly and give you the best resolution?"
04:28:24PM Jason: "I cannot boot off of the CD drive. I ran the Dell diagnostics several times, and it gives me an error on the IDE DVD+RW Confidence test every time; Error Code 0F00:131D, Illegal request – possible use of incorrect media"
04:29:59PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
04:30:03PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Since how long are you facing this issue?"
04:31:06PM Jason: "I've been trying off and on for about a week to boot off the CD drive, and it consistently fails, no matter what CD or DVD I use. I just ran the diagnostics today."
04:32:56PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Thank you for the information."
04:33:14PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason may I please know which CDs you tried to boot from?"
04:34:24PM Jason: "The last CD I tried to boot with was the Dell-branded Windows XP reinstall CD that came packaged with my system. I also tried a couple of Linux boot disks. All of them failed."
04:35:42PM ANIRBAN_149447: "okay. Jason please let me know if the drive can read the CDs."
04:37:45PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Please let me know, if you are receiving my messages?"
04:38:24PM Jason: "The last message I received asked what CDs I tried to boot from"
04:38:39PM Jason: "My response was: The last CD I tried to boot with was the Dell-branded Windows XP reinstall CD that came packaged with my system. I also tried a couple of Linux boot disks. All of them failed."
04:39:38PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason you said that the system cannot boot from the CDs, is the system able to read the content of the CDs?"
04:40:07PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Like if you put any music CD in, can the system play the music from the CD?"
04:42:11PM Jason: "I can't boot using the hard disk right now to test that, unfortunately; I was trying to boot off of the CDs so I could reinstall the operating system, so I could then boot off of the hard drive. The hard disk is fine, though"
04:44:11PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason I will provide you the steps to boot from the CDs."
04:44:20PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Are you using the same system to chat with us, with which you are facing the issue?"
04:45:03PM Jason: "No, I'm using a different system"
04:45:41PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Are you near the system?"
04:46:21PM Jason: "Yes"
04:47:20PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay. Then please restart the system, press F12 as you see the blue dell logo on the screen."
04:47:34PM ANIRBAN_149447: "This will give you option to set the boot sequence."
04:47:57PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Set the boot sequence as DVD drive as No. 1 and then restart the system."
04:48:17PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Please put the windows XP installation CD before restarting the system."
04:49:15PM Jason: "Right. I've done those things, and it starts to boot off of the CD, and then hangs"
04:50:02PM ANIRBAN_149447: "May I please know if the system can boot to Operating System?"
04:52:07PM Jason: "Let me try booting from a different hard drive into the operating system"
04:52:22PM Jason: "But, I cannot boot from the CD at all; that's the reason I'm writing you today"
04:52:57PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason is the system booting from the hard drive?"
04:54:12PM Jason: "Yes, it's booting from the hard drive now"
04:54:19PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
04:54:56PM ANIRBAN_149447: "After the system boots, please put any music or data cd in the drive and check if the system reads it."
04:55:42PM Jason: "OK, still booting up"
04:55:48PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
04:58:28PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Please let me know the result."
04:59:19PM Jason: "OK, I put the Dell-branded Windows reinstall CD in there, and it seems to be reading it OK from the OS"
05:00:06PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
05:00:55PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason as I understand the CD Drive is reading the CDs well. But it is not able to boot from it. Right?"
05:01:43PM Jason: "Right. It can't boot from any CD, and the Dell Diagnostic program returns an error in the drive's confidence test"
05:02:10PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
05:02:23PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason did you try to test the hard drive as well?"
05:02:42PM Jason: "Yes, and the hard drive passed just fine."
05:02:48PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
05:04:52PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason please do the following steps."
05:05:16PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Click the Start button, and then click Run. The Run window appears. Type Regedit in the Open box, and then click OK. The Registry Editor window appears."
05:05:25PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Click the plus (+) next to the following entries: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Services"
05:05:34PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Click to open the registry key Cdrom. In the right pane, double-click the entry named Autorun. Change the Value data to 1 and then click OK."
05:05:48PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Click the X in the upper-right corner to close the Registry Editor window. Click the Start button, click Shut Down, click Restart, and then click OK. After the computer restarts, the Autorun feature is enabled."
05:06:10PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Or else you can this:"
05:06:20PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Double-click the My Computer icon on the desktop (or click the Start button and then click My Computer). The My Computer window appears."
05:06:29PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Right-click the CD or DVD drive and then left-click Properties. The CD Properties window appears."
05:06:43PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Click the Autoplay tab. From the drop-down list, click to select the CD type you want (i.e. music CD, video CD, pictures CD, etc.). Click Prompt me each time to choose an action. Repeat steps 4-5 for any other CD type you prefer. Click OK when finished."
05:07:53PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Please let me know when you are done with the steps."
05:08:44PM Jason: "The registry key was already set as you describe, and the autoplay settings were correct."
05:08:52PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
05:09:16PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason now please insert a bootable CD in the CD drive. Restart the system. The Dell logo screen appears. Press the key to enter the System Setup."
05:09:17PM Jason: "I'm having trouble when I boot up the machine, before Windows even starts"
05:09:23PM Jason: "ok."
05:11:00PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Press the and the

key to navigate to the Boot Order screen. Press the key or the key to highlight CD-ROM Drive. Press the key or the key to move CD-ROM Drive to the top of the list"
05:11:20PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Press the key. Press the space bar to select Yes. Press the key to Save changes and exit now."
05:12:00PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Please then check if it boots from the CD."
05:13:12PM Jason: "Done, and it still hangs."
05:14:00PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
05:14:17PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason do you want to install Operating System all over?"
05:15:47PM Jason: "No. Since the Dell Diagnostic tool is reporting an error, I just want the DVD drive to be replaced."
05:16:10PM Jason: "I'm quite confident that the operating system is just fine."
05:16:27PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Jason please let me know if the drive has been replaced before."
05:16:52PM Jason: "No, the DVD is the original that came with the system"
05:18:40PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay. Jason please do the next steps. If this fails then I will replace the drive for you."
05:19:10PM Jason: "okay"
05:19:18PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Thank you for your co-operation."
05:20:04PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Click the Start button, click Run. In the Open box, type Regedit, and then click OK. Click the plus sign (+) next to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. NOTE: When you click the plus sign (+) next to a folder, it will expand displaying the folders it contains in the left-hand pane of the Registry Editor. When a folder is highlighted, its contents will be displayed in the Click the plus sign (+) next to SYSTEM"
05:20:16PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Click the plus sign (+) next to CurrentControlSet. Click the plus sign (+) next to Control. Click the plus sign (+) next to Class. Click {4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}. On the right side of the window, click UpperFilters."
05:20:32PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Click Edit on the menu bar. Click the plus sign (+) next to Class. Click {4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}. On the right side of the window, click UpperFilters. Click Edit on the menu bar. Click Delete, and then click OK."
05:20:42PM ANIRBAN_149447: "On the right side of the window, click LowerFilters. Click Edit on the menu bar. Click Delete, and then click OK."
05:21:28PM ANIRBAN_149447: "After this please check if the issue is resolved."
05:23:16PM Jason: "OK, I edited the registry and I'm getting ready to reboot"
05:23:22PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Okay."
05:23:25PM ANIRBAN_149447: "Thank you."
05:23:34PM Session Ended

OK, first of all, how can I elaborate? The very first thing I mentioned was an error code and message from their diagnostic program. That seems pretty specific to me.

Next, why the heck are we fiddling around with settings in the Windows registry? I can't boot off of the disk. I had a hard drive in there that wouldn't boot either, and I was trying to boot using the optical drive so I could restore the system on it, but I knew if I mentioned that, all hope would be lost. So, I just switched in a different hard drive real quick while we were in the chat so I could boot into Windows and humor him.

Also, note the timestamps; I was chatting with ANIRBAN_149447 for over an hour, and then he left the session! (It doesn't say that from this transcript that was helpfully e-mailed to me, but that's what it said in the chat window.)

Anyway, I had no choice but to try again. That means I got sent to the back of the line to wait again. Fortunately it was only a few minutes before I got connected with someone else.

05:41:33PM Session Started with Ajit_113237
05:41:36PM Ajit_113237: "Thank you for contacting Dell Technical Support. My name is Ajeet and my rep ID number is 113237. How may I help you today?"
05:42:03PM Jason: "Hi there, I was just disconnected from a chat with ANIRBAN_149447"
05:42:19PM Ajit_113237: "Okay"
05:42:23PM Jason: "The DVD+RW drive in my Inspiron 8600 needs to be replaced"
05:42:30PM Ajit_113237: "All right"
05:42:34PM Ajit_113237: "Thank you for the information. I’ll be glad to assist you. Please give me 2 to 3 minutes to pull up your account information. In the meantime may I have your telephone number, along with the area code to update our records?"
05:42:49PM Jason: "I worked with him for about an hour on it"
05:43:00PM Jason: "I only have a cell phone, the number is XXX-XXX-XXXX"
05:43:46PM Ajit_113237: "Thank you for the number."
05:45:50PM Ajit_113237: "Through I have checked the previous case records. I would really want you to let me know if there is anything else you want me to understand apart from the optical drive is not able to read only DVD's , however the drive is able to read CDs , and you have also cleaned upper filter and lower filter , but the issue still persist , is that correct?
05:47:41PM Jason: "I have cleaned the upper and lower filters, yes. The problem is that I can't boot from the optical drive, even after all of those changes. I booted into Windows and was able to read a file from the drive, but I still cannot boot."
05:48:47PM Ajit_113237: "All right"
05:49:49PM Ajit_113237: "As I understand the issue correctly you are not able to boot the system only with optical drive , am I correct?"
05:50:34PM Jason: "That's correct, I cannot boot from the optical drive."
05:51:38PM Ajit_113237: "All right"
05:51:45PM Ajit_113237: "Please do not worry I will definitely take care of the issue and will make sure that it will be resolved on this chat interaction only"
05:52:10PM Jason: "Thank you"
05:52:41PM Ajit_113237: "Jason , I understand the concern and would like to resolve the issue ASAP. For this I need to verify few things so that we can correctly pin point the problematic hardware / software, so shall we begin?"
05:53:20PM Jason: "Okay. I went through about an hour of debugging with the other guy, so I'd prefer we not do any of that same stuff again"
05:54:23PM Ajit_113237: "Sure"
05:54:54PM Ajit_113237: "Trust me the steps will not be repeated"
05:55:00PM Jason: "Thank you"
05:56:15PM Ajit_113237: "Jason , are you able to boot the system with hard drive properly after you remove the optical drive ."
05:57:35PM Jason: "I can successfully boot from the hard drive if the optical drive is installed, but I haven't tried removing the optical drive and then booting from the hard drive. Should I do that?"
05:59:13PM Ajit_113237: "Yes please."
05:59:24PM Ajit_113237: "And let me know"
05:59:56PM Jason: "OK, one minute"
06:00:45PM Ajit_113237: "sure"
06:00:51PM Ajit_113237: "Take your time"
06:02:01PM Jason: "It seems to be booting just fine without the optical drive installed"
06:02:16PM Ajit_113237: "All right"
06:02:24PM Ajit_113237: "Great !! I appreciate your troubleshooting skills."
06:02:46PM Jason: "Glad I can help out"
06:03:20PM Ajit_113237: "Thanks"
06:03:50PM Ajit_113237: "Jason , please verify the optical drive (CD/DVD/CDRW/DVDRW/BD) is detected by the system BIOS."
06:04:37PM Ajit_113237: "Please verify the optical drive is detected by the BIOS."
06:04:38PM Jason: "OK, one minute"
06:05:37PM Ajit_113237: "sure"
06:05:38PM Session Ended

Blast! This guy looked like he was going to be helpful, and then he got disconnected from the chat!

I'm not sure how rebooting without the optical drive installed was going to help, but hey, that could be some hardware thing that I don't know about, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But, of course, the question is moot, since we were disconnected.

Again, I jump to the back of the line, for yet another new chat session.

06:08:55PM Session Started with Pooja_143454
06:09:02PM Pooja_143454: "Thank you for contacting Dell Technical Support. My name is Pooja and my rep ID number is 143454. How may I assist you today?"
06:09:36PM Jason: "Hi, I was connected with two previous representatives, but was disconnected both times."
06:10:13PM Pooja_143454: "How may I assist you today?"
06:10:49PM Jason: "The optical drive in my Inspiron 8600 will not boot, and needs to be replaced. I've done numerous troubleshooting steps with both of the previous representatives, but it still will not boot."
06:11:21PM Pooja_143454: "Thank you for the information. I’ll be glad to assist you. Please give me 2 to 3 minutes to pull up your account information."
06:11:27PM Pooja_143454: "In the meantime, May I also have your telephone number, along with the area code to update our records?"
06:11:43PM Jason: "I ran the Dell Diagnostic utility, and it said there was a problem with the drive. It gave me "Error Code 0F00:131D; Illegal request – possible use of incorrect media""
06:11:58PM Jason: "I don't have a home phone, my cell number is XXX-XXX-XXXX"
06:16:51PM Pooja_143454: "Thank you for staying online. I appreciate your patience."
06:17:22PM Pooja_143454: "Jason , please let me know since how long have you been facing this issue?"
06:18:17PM Jason: "one week"
06:18:34PM Pooja_143454: "Okay."
06:19:12PM Pooja_143454: "Jason , please do not worry I will replace the drive for you"
06:19:17PM Pooja_143454: "For that"
06:19:23PM Pooja_143454: "May I please have the name, that is mentioned on the invoice / order slip ( that you would have used at the time of computer purchase) ?"
06:19:28PM Pooja_143454: "Also provide me the ship to address where it would be most convenient for you to receive the replacement?"
06:20:22PM Jason: "Thank you"
06:20:55PM Jason: "My name is Jason; my ship-to address would be: XXX"
06:24:04PM Pooja_143454: "Thank you for the information."
06:24:08PM Pooja_143454: "Please stay online."
06:35:55PM Pooja_143454: "Thank you for staying online. I appreciate your patience."
06:36:04PM Pooja_143454: "I have created a dispatch for DVD drive . You should receive the part within next 2 to 3 business days, depending upon the availability of the part in stock. The dispatch number is XXX. You can use this number for tracking the shipment by calling at 1-800-433-9014. You will also receive a packing slip with instructions on returning or scrapping the defective part(S). If the part is to be returned, you will receive a prepaid return air bill. Please use the box that your good replacement parts(S) came in to return the defective part(S) within 10 business days. Please write the Dispatch reference Number on the box and on the prepaid return air bill in the Billing Reference area.
06:36:12PM Jason: "No problem; thank you for your help"
06:36:29PM Pooja_143454: "Dispatch #XXX"
06:36:35PM Pooja_143454: "You are welcome. My pleasure to be of assistance to a valued dell customer like you."
06:36:39PM Pooja_143454: "Is there anything else that I may assist you with today?"
06:36:41PM Jason: "Great"
06:37:05PM Jason: "No, that's perfect. Thank you again!"
06:37:25PM Pooja_143454: "Thank you for staying online. I have included your Case Number # XXX to reference our interaction today. Please keep this on file; it will assist you when contacting DELL. Thank you for contacting DELL Technical Support and allowing me the opportunity to assist you. If you still feel that there are additional DELL Hardware related concerns that need to be addressed, please contact us again at 1-800-873-1420 Or Click on "Chat with Technical Support" at the following web page and enter the Service Tag. http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/en/chat?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs
06:37:30PM Pooja_143454: "We will be happy to assist you again. Have a nice day."
06:37:37PM Pooja_143454: "good bye!!"
06:37:51PM Jason: "good bye!"

Thankfully, Pooja (ha, ha, "Pooja") quickly helped me out, and didn't require me to duplicate the troubleshooting steps that I went through already.

So, it took nearly two hours, but I finally got what I needed. I know that Dell has to deal with all levels of computer expertise when they get a call, but I wish there were some way that I could indicate my level of experience so I didn't have to begin with a bunch of steps that I've already tried; something like the special button you get to push when you call the pharmacy if you're a doctor. I thought that mentioning Linux in there might have done it, but I guess it's mainstream enough that it's not as meaningful as I hoped.

Oh, and I think you have my phone number already.

Also, I wonder why there was such little interest in the Dell Diagnostic tool results?

UPDATE: After I was done speaking with Pooja, I got a call from Ajit. He wanted to make sure that I was getting the help that I needed since we had been disconnected. That was nice of him.

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