More Laptop Problems

I’m not very happy with Sony’s U.S. support operation. My burly Sony Vaio GRX-500K laptop, which is only about 6 months old and was bought to replace another defective Sony Vaio, developed an intermittent fault about a month ago where it would suddenly freeze up.

At first, these occasional system hangs were presaged by a too-brief-to-read “blue screen of death,” after which the screen would go black and the system would need to be rebooted.

Then, about a week ago it started dispensing with the nicety of the blue screen of death, and would just freeze up. Completely: No mouse, no cursor, no keyboard — nothing. And it started getting more and more frequent, until sometimes I couldn’t even log in to Windows before it had frozen up.

“OK,” I thought, “I’ve seen this kind of thing before. It looks like a hardware fault, because it happens instantly, and even Windows can usually fall over a little more gracefully than this. It’s probably a duff SDRAM or something.”

So I call Sony, and they tell me to defrag my hard drive. Now, I’m a little skeptical that disk fragmentation could cause the kind of spectacular system hangs that I’ve been experiencing, particularly with 40% space remaining, but the drive certainly needs to be defragged, so I play along. That’s one not very entertaining night wasted, and unsurprisingly, the problem has not been fixed.

Next day, I call Sony back. They’re still convinced it’s a software problem, and tell me to do a system restore, talking me through the process. This is a little more involved and time-consuming, since I have to be “escalated” to a more senior techie, but we get though it. Guess what — another fun night spent on the ‘phone with my new-found pals at Sony doesn’t resolve the problem.

At this point, they’re telling me the only option is to do a System Recovery. This means wiping drive C: and returning it to the state it was in when it left the factory. My work is all backed up to an external hard drive, so that’s not a problem, but all the Windows and network configurations, software installations, device driver updates and a bazillion Microsoft “critical updates” will be lost. I’ve done this before, on my previous Sony laptop, and it can be WEEKS before you’re back to having a functional system.

I plead with them, saying “Are you SURE this is the only way? It really looks like a hardware fault to me, do I really have to trash my hard drive before you’ll look at it?”

“I’m afraid so,” they say.

So guess what happens? I back up my work, insert the System Recovery CD, and reboot. It gets through the first CD, then the system hangs again, proving incontrovertibly that this is a HARDWARE problem, NOT a software problem.

So now they’re sending me a shipping carton, so I can send it back to them for warranty repair. SHAME I HAD TO TRASH MY HARD DRIVE BEFORE THEY’D BELIEVE ME!

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