Send your Hard Drive or Else!
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA -- This is a two-part review of the Compaq Presario 8000.
This computer was the Wal-Mart $498 special, so I didn't expect it to be a powerhouse. I just needed a computer for my daughter's college work. I have been a computer support tech and programmer for many years and usually build my own, but I went against that rule in the name of simplicity. That was a mistake.
As soon as I got the computer installed I realized that something wasn't quite right. Windows XP took over five minutes to boot and another five minutes to get to the point where I could actually click on an icon. For a 1.8 GHZ Machine, that seemed pretty slow. I did some (slow) research and discovered that the 128 MB of RAM that Compaq puts in these machines standard is not really enough to run XP well. So I went out and bought another 128 MB of RAM the next week. As I said, I knew it was a basic machine when I bought it, so I didn't complain much.
About five months later my wife was going to check her email and it wouldn't boot. The fans came on but I got no video and it never attempted to access any of the drives. I opened it up and reseated everything, but it refused to do anything. "Good thing its under warranty", I thought. Wrong.
My wife called me at work the next day and told me that there are no local service centers for Compaq anymore. The deal is that they send you an empty box and you send them your computer. They "fix" it (which means it is sent somewhere to be refurbished and resold) and they "send it back" (which means you get a different computer). She was concerned about sending our hard drive since all of our accounting and banking information and passwords were stored on it. I agreed.
I called Compaq support and they told me that I had to send the hard drive even though I offered to purchase an identical drive and send it in.
When I explained that I could not afford to lose the data I was told to back up the drive to another drive and send in the original. When I expressed concern about sending my personal data to some repair center in (where?), I was told I should format the drive.
I asked him how he wanted me to back it up without pulling it out (which would void the warranty according to him), he actually told me to "find a friend who will let you install the drive in his computer and just do a drive copy. It really isn't that hard. Really."
I told him that I had no friends that were trusting enough to allow me to take their computer apart so he then told me that I should make a backup to CD. I pointed out that the computer STILL wouldn't boot up, so that still didn't solve the problem. How could I burn it to the CD drive if it wouldn't even boot?
The next ingenious suggestion was that I should remove the drive and take it so some shop in the area and have them back it up to CD. I pointed out that I had been told that if I removed the drive (just took it out of the PC), it would void the warranty. The tech said that it was OK to pull it to make a backup. Go figure. I asked him if I took it somewhere and they did make a successful backup, wouldn't that prove that the hard drive was good?
I told him that whether I made a backup or not, I was not going to be able to run any of my applications when I got the new machine back without reinstalling them all and copying thousands of files over. I thought that this was pointless when I knew that the problem was not the hard drive. Besides, why would I trust the underpaid tech down the street any more than I trust the underpaid contractors they used to "repair" their computers? He told me that if the ORIGINAL drive was not in the computer, they would not service it. When I pointed out that I could have upgraded the hard drive. Would that void the warranty? I was told it would.
After three days our case was forwarded to someone named Anthony (Extension 3114 at Site 79. He refused to give his last name). He was a "case resolution manager" for Compaq. We got an email telling us that he would call us, which he did several days later. Since I run several web sites and all of my maintenance software was on the hard drive that they insisted they needed. I couldnt afford to have my computer down for two or three weeks.
I started looking around for a replacement Compaq motherboard on the Internet and made a very interesting discovery. The Compaq Presario (maybe others?) uses a generic design motherboard. In the past, name-brand computers required factory-supplied parts. However I took the bad motherboard out of the Presario and took it to a local computer shop. They had a motherboard in stock that fit it perfectly. The only differences were that the backplane did not line up with the factory backplane and the power switch plug required an adapter to fit the plug in the Compaq chassis. The backplane was no problem because the new motherboard came with one and I just popped the old one out and replaced it. The adapter was also a very easy swap.
This self-fix cost me $90 for the motherboard and $90 for the processor (they were both bad, it turns out). So now my $498 deal was a $678 deal.
Two days after I replaced the motherboard and chip Anthony from Compaq called me to resolve my complaint. I explained the situation and he wasted no time telling me that since I did not return the unit as required by the warranty rules (i.e. with the ORIGINAL hard drive), there was nothing that they could do. I asked them if they could reimburse my expenses, replace the bad motherboard, or do anything at all and they said that there was nothing they could do to resolve the problem. In fact, I specifically asked him Are you telling me that there is nothing that can be done to resolve this problem? He said There is nothing. His justification was that I didnt do it their way, so they didnt have to honor the warranty.
Thanks for nothing Compaq.
My advice for anyone who is looking for a computer is:
"Steer clear of the Compaq".
If you already have one and have discovered how useless their support is, or you are like me and refuse to send your bank account information on a hard drive that is just going to be sold off to a refurbishing company (and then maybe found by a dumpster diver in India), my advice is to get a motherboard from a computer store and chalk this one up to experience.
The motherboard I purchased is a very common Asus A7V8X-MX. They run about $90. I know for a fact that they work in this machine because I wrote this review using it. And it is even much faster than the original motherboard even though I got the identical processor for it.
I now have a new motherboard with a three year full replacement warranty from Asus that doesnt require me to send in a hard drive with it to get service.