My Machine: The Saga Continues

OK, so I was on a chat with Dell Technical Support and got Uday. I explained the situation of how the CPU’s increased usage caused the fans to spin up at a faster RPM than normal and that when the CPU is nothing, the fan goes to nothing. After a few minutes of chatting where I felt I’d done a good job explaining the situation, Uday decided he needed to call me. No problem, I’d rather talk than chat anyway.

So Uday calls and again I explain the situation. Because I run SETI@home, my CPU usage has always been 100% on both CPU’s in my main machine. I also run SETI@home on my old Dell machine as well as my company-issued laptop. As such those CPU’s run at 100%. For those who don’t know, that’s what the program is designed to do. It uses all unused CPU cycles to process SETI data. That means, for those who’s first language isn’t English, that the SETI@home application always takes a back seat to any other process that needs CPU time. I’ve been running the application since 1999 and SETI@home runs all the time without impacting anything else I’m doing.

Now that this explanation is out of the way, Uday was still concerned that an application would take up so much CPU. If I let SETI@home run for about 5-minutes, my CPU fans sound like a room fan because of the high RPM rate they are spinning at. Sadly, Uday picked up on the word “sound” and combined with his obsession with my running an application designed to use all of the CPU (or both CPU’s in my case), he was ready to gallop down the wrong path. He wanted me to test other application to see if their use of CPU would cause the fans to spin up at a high revolution. They did, but because I didn’t get the CPUs up to 100%, the fans never achieved “hurricane force.”

Uday decided that maybe I should re-install SETI@home after having me restart the application and having heard himself the loudness of my fans after a few minutes. He swore that sometimes this works. Well, stranger things have happened in my career in IT so I’m game, I’ll try that even though I know this won’t have anything to do with the fans spinning at an outrageously high RPM just because the CPU is being used. This feels like a hardware issue.

Uday had me run the msconfig, uncheck all startup applications, then go to the services and uncheck all non-Microsoft services to do a reboot. He was bound and determined to prove that an application was the cause of my problem. After all, in his mind, a CPU being used at 100% is a bad, bad thing.

So, I do what Uday requested and what do you know — it didn’t work. The moment I tried running applications and the CPU rate started going up, my fans started revving up like the CPU was really overheating. So Uday’s intimidate response is to reload the operating system.

What did you say?

I got irritated at this point because I want to check the hardware first. So, Uday agrees to have this done and so I reboot the machine to the partition for the utilities. I’m told that the operating system used for the utilities to check the hardware is based on an early version of Windows, possibly Windows 3.11 (but I can’t confirm that yet). I perform a fan test and it passes. The funny thing was that at the test’s highest RPM rate (3000), sounded quiet compared to what I’m currently experiencing when I dare use the CPU over 30%.

I also ran the CPU test and that caused my fans to really rev up, though the test wasn’t long enough for them to achieve hurricane force strength. Since the CPU test and fan test both passed, that would make it seem like a non-hardware issue. Uday was ready for me to basically “rebuild” my C-drive and re-install everything from scratch, assuming I had my O/S disc and recovery discs from Dell.

I was very angry at this because of the sheer stupidity of the suggestion. I pointed out to Uday that the utility partition that my system was currently booted up to was not running Windows XP and didn’t have any extraneous CPU-hogging items running. Further, the simple act of a CPU test caused my fans to run at a much higher RPM than even the fan test caused them to run. I was having to really bite my tongue to keep myself from going off on Uday in anger, then going off on Dell for being cheap bastards in sending the tech support overseas to people who likely don’t even have a PC in whatever $10/day affords them to live in.

Uday could sense my anger though and decided to send me to his supervisor because there was no way I was doing an O/S rebuild. His supervisor (name unpronounceable by me) got on and I had to explain the whole situation again. He made the command decision to send a new CPU fan set and a new heat sink. I didn’t believe the problem was fan-related, but OK, I’ll play along and we’ll see what happens. It is always possible that replacing these parts will fix the problem.

So, Wednesday morning, the tech guy Chris shows up again with the replacement parts. After working his stuff, we turn the PC on. Will the fans go nuts when I turn SETI@home back on? Sadly, the answer was yes as within 5-minutes, the fans were spinning hard. Fortunately Chris was there to witness this and agreed this was not normal fan behavior. So he called his super-secret Dell Support number which allows him to bypass the normal slow support and go right to the upper-tier (but still ignorant) support in India.

Chris was explaining things to the support person on the phone who also seemed to be wanting to go down an application route. Chris explained that it was the CPU fans, but “Apu” would have nothing to do with that. After all, what would the field tech know? So Chris humored Apu in a way that would have been difficult for me to do. He reached down and verified that the CPU fans were in fact the ones screaming. Apu wanted to do something about the noise of the fans (the noise isn’t the problem you dope, its the RPM) but wanted to make sure he knew where the noise was coming from. So he instructed Chris to shut down my machine, remove the CPU fans, and then restart the machine.

When Chris told me this, I felt my jaw hit my gut. What kind of stupidity were these bozo’s in India trying to pull? Apparently, they had to be convinced further that my fan noise was coming from the CPU fans and not the video card fan or the power supply fans. Chris had no choice to humor Apu and do what he suggested. I pulled my jaw back into place then clenched it.

Amazingly, the boot of the machine had the power supply fans start revving at an RPM rate I’d never heard from them before. Chris and I looked at each other in surprise because neither of us were expecting that. As the machine attempted to load Windows, it died because the CPU overheated. Chris reported this to Apu and had to explain it to him at least three times because apparently Apu wasn’t expecting a computer without its CPU fans to just die like that. Whatever.

Chris put the CPU fans back and and powered my machine up one more time. This time, the power supply fans were their normal quiet self, leaving only the CPU fans to quietly do their thing until the CPU started being used, at which point…well, you know.

Apu asked Chris what he felt the problem was, and Chris stated the motherboard since that was when the problems started. So Dell stated they’d send him another motherboard, another heat sink, another CPU fan-set, and a new power supply fan-set.

I can use my main computer providing I don’t run SETI@home and providing I don’t run applications that cause the CPU to run over 30% for extended periods which would cause the fans to be stressed. Come Monday, we’ll see what Dell’s “new” parts do.

Reader Comments

  1. Between your customer support adventures and the notorious flaming laptop battery incident, I’m staying away from Dell as long as I possibly can…


  2. Well, I didn’t have these kinds of issues with my first Dell. I had been a Gateway guy until they refused to let me customize my next PC the way I wanted. So I went with the “Dude! You’re getting a Dell!” guy because they let me build the machine I wanted. I did have a bad memory chip with the first machine, but that was easily replaced. My C-drive crashed a few years later, but I just replaced that and went on (by that time, I’d purchased my current machine so the crash was no big deal).

  3. You must be a racist. Everyone knows that Indians are among the best IT people in the world. To focus so much on them being foreign and having strange names is racist. You’d probably prefer to talk to some fat white Texas farmgirl who’s been put in a tech support chair after minimal training. Even if you’re afraid that smart Indians who work for less will put you out of your job, that’s no excuse for being racist. Thanks to your ban I have time to catch up on my browsing, and I think I now understand why you can’t stand me. You must have a problem with people who aren’t white and don’t share your religious views. That’s bigoted. White people these days…

  4. The problem with that Indian support is that they follow a script to a letter and have no experience in dealing with real issues. So that’s why they insist on doing things that make no sense to someone with experience. Their script tells them to do so and that’s all they can do.

    If you get beyond a help desk level of support, you can find some decent Indian people who actually know a thing or two. I work with a team of Unix admins from India who are really good, though it is very difficult to understand them when working on an issue.

  5. I’ll have to say that my recent experiences with DSL support from Mumbai (Bombay) India have all been good. I pretty consistently come across guys who really know their stuff, know the product and hardware, and have ALWAYS been able to solve my problems. I do encounter an occasional scriptbound obvious trainee, but they encourage the sharper ones to use their knowledge and initiative. It’s a nice thing to see.

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