The Netcom Experience: Not A Good One

So my church’s laptop, a Dell Vostro 1200, had an unfortunate accident resulting in a broken LCD screen and was thus sent for repair with Netcom. It took quite a while to get the parts but finally after getting it fixed it came back and was unbootable: just a black screen. It was taken back to Netcom and diagnosed as a corrupt operating system and they recommended a format. It was decided that we could format it ourselves so I was sent to collect it.

Sure enough on booting it just turned out to be a black screen without even showing the Windows logon. Pressing F8 gave a message saying no bootable medium so I though probably the hard disk wasn’t being detected. So I decided to boot into GParted from a CD and it turns out that the partition table had been corrupted, so I managed to recover the partition table using TestDisk which was included in GParted (nice touch guys, kudos for including it!). After recovering the partition table I managed to reboot and see the Windows Vista boot up process. And I thought it was all over with the computer being fixed in roughly 10 minutes. Oh how wrong I was.

Quickly I noticed that the background wallpaper was not what used to be on the laptop. There were installations of Cabal Online, Google Chrome, aVast anti-virus, iTunes, Quick Time, Firefox, Orbit, Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 (previous laptop had a non-commercial Standard edition, where did they get the product key from?), Skype and some other software as well that I was sure was not on the laptop before it went in for repair. I quickly deduced that 1) the hard drive is some other Netcom customer’s or 2) they formatted the drive. I check with the person at church and ask if they were asked to format the drive and found out that they did not request for formatting, nor were they asked to format the drive. So I called Netcom to ask if they formatted the drive or if the drive could be another one of their client’s drive. They couldn’t give me a proper answer and so I left my number with them and they said they would call me back because the person who received the laptop handed it over to his superior to process it. That was over 6 hours ago.

After some more probing I found that the version of Vista needed to be activated within 3 days and upon doing so it was an invalid product key. Also none of the drivers or service packs have been installed, making me think it is a cleanly formatted system. System Properties identified the laptop as an “HP Pavilion dv2500” when it’s a Dell Vostro 1200.

Having the computer identified as a completely different laptop made me think that they changed the LCD, tried to turn on the computer and it didn’t work so they restored the drive from their own cloned image (based on an HP Pavilion dv2500) and stuck it back in and called it a day without even booting it up to check it worked.

Now Netcom while no important information was lost (there should be a backup of any files in the other laptop), the way this was handled is not satisfying. Under no circumstance should a laptop be formatted without customer’s consent as there could be important information on it. Also if it was formatted, at least complete the job and provide the proper product key information. As with almost all laptops, the product key is on the bottom of the laptop, you can change it without issue. While I commend you for installing applications that the user would regularly need and use, I do not like the fact that Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 is on it because this is just piracy. On further inspection there is also Corel Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Acrobat as well: there could be more commercial products but these 3 are the main ones. I don’t believe you have the rights to distribute them (do correct me if I’m wrong) Another point is why couldn’t they answer if the laptop had been formatted or otherwise? Isn’t any action on the laptop noted down so the customer has an itemized report on what was done on the laptop? I’m sorry but I cannot recommend any customers to you at this moment in time and am pretty appalled by what happened.


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