Fix or fuckit?
May 25, 2014 6:39 AM   Subscribe

I have a 4 year old Dell that has just this morning started doing the 7-beeps-on-startup problem here. I have read that Dell is fixing it, but is it worth it, or should I get something new?

I need to have a working computer pronto. I have an article due in 2 weeks. But I also have all the stuff on my dell (backed up online, fortunately) and saved emails I need (which are NOT backed up). I've been considering a surface anyway, but don't know how the keyboard situation would work. I'm also on a budget.

posted by EmpressCallipygos to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
First thing to do is verify your backup is good, that will determine just how precious the internal disc is.

A dell forum rep suggested

(1) Turn off the computer.
(2) Remove all the external peripherals like battery, AC Adaptor, Flash drives, etc.
(3) Now press and hold the power button for 30sec it releases the static on the computer.
(4) Turn on the computer.

(I personally would put the battery back in after step 3 but that's what it said.) If it still gives you 7 beeps on powerup then the cpu or motherboard has failed.

Check Dell's exact fix status and cost, then decide whether to get a new one or not. Bear in mind that if you send the machine in, your disc may not survive whatever the repair shop decide to do. You could extract the drive and place it in an enclosure which would give you a spare external disc and allow you to recover your email.
posted by epo at 8:08 AM on May 25, 2014

The problem is that I do not know what you mean by "external peripherals". Do you mean "anything that did not come with the computer"? Like, I have a fitbit connect plugged in and that's it, so I just take out the battery and take that thing off?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 AM on May 25, 2014

External peripherals =

portable hard drive (if you have one)

Your computer should have nothing except the power cord coming out of it when doing the reboot test.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:00 AM on May 25, 2014

It's a laptop with a trackpad. Are you saying I somehow need to disconnect THOSE?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:05 AM on May 25, 2014

Nope. As long as the power cord is the only cord attached you are good. A laptop generally doesn't have peripherals, but desktop computers usually have a bunch.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:15 AM on May 25, 2014

Okay, I just took out the battery and took off the Fitbit thing, held down the power button, then put the battery back in and turned it on again. No more beeps, but nothing else either at all. A blank screen.

I have found a local repair guy who is highly rated on yelp who is open Tuesday, and it looks like the cost to fix is cheaper than buying new. Arg. So I guess the follow up is "just how fucked am I."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on May 25, 2014

Did it seem to be booting, were there disc access noises etc? If not, it is possible the battery has failed, try rebooting from cold with battery out and power cord in.

How does cost to fix compare with a new machine? Your repair guy should be able to extract the hard drive and copy it to another external drive. Once you have your mail and a good backup you are in position to limp along with a begged or borrowed machine.
posted by epo at 10:06 AM on May 25, 2014

Try hooking up an external monitor to confirm that it's not just your screen that's borked.
posted by carmicha at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2014

Are you sure your email messages are not backed up? If you use a service like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. then all your messages are probably available through the web interface that you can access from any computer that's connected to the Internet.
posted by alex1965 at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2014

I use Outlook, which is connected to the email I get with my ISP. I can access webmail, but it deletes messages after 3 days, and I need emails I've saved to my laptop from a year ago.

Looks like the rates for this guy to fix a motherboard are in the $150-200 range, which is dealable, and better than me trying to fix it myself because I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. The best alternative would be to fly deezil to NYC (after all, he helped fix this one before), but that seems an abuse of good will. And reviews for this local guy on yelp all sound satisfied, positive, and are recent.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2014

7 beeps (according to the Setup Manual) is a CPU failure. That does not affect the hard drive, so whatever data you have stored in your computer is (should be) fine as is right now. You may want to ask them to back up your data before they work on the machine (just as a precaution; you can pull the hard drive out and do that independent of the actual computer) but the repair process for this should not deal with the hard drive at all other than removing/reinstalling it, assuming you go with the local guy. There is pretty much no reason to fiddle with any actual data to perform this repair.

(A word of warning: if you end up getting Dell to handle it, you may want to pull the hard drive before sending it in.. they can be pretty bad about wiping the thing and restoring it to factory condition even if there's no real reason to, and even if you ask them not to. The setup and service manuals are available from Dell here for the M5030 - they're at least real good about providing actual takeapart instructions and stuff.)
posted by mrg at 3:14 PM on May 25, 2014

I actually do use Mozy for the rest of my data, but for some reason Mozy doesn't back up my Outlook files; I've got some email in there about pending commitments I would really need to keep, but it's not horrible if that's lost. I considered getting Dell on the case, but am worried about the turnaround (I have a couple artilces due in 2 weeks, and need something with more functionality than the iPad Mini I am currently using).

But your point about the CPU is a relief, and it sounds like this is also a frustratingly common, yet simple-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things, fix, so I'm a bit more relieved now. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:27 PM on May 25, 2014

FYI, I've had the motherboard failure thing on a (different) dell laptop -- several times, actually, on the same laptop -- and it was always followed shortly thereafter by a hard drive failure.

I would consider getting a new laptop and just pulling out the hard drive from this one and copying over the files.
posted by jeather at 4:19 PM on May 25, 2014

EmpressCallipygos: sorry to hear about your laptop, and good luck getting that data back!

I was given a Surface Pro last summer (they've just released v3, so my experience is a bit outdated). It works well as a laptop, if you're used to Windows (I'm not). Also, much of my work requires a larger screen, so that's not great. The Surface does have a DisplayPort jack to output to an external display (just like the MacBook adapter).

The Surface Pro came with a keyboard cover, like many of the keyboards for iPads. It types all right, but the trackpad was annoyingly unresponsive. I was also unhappy with the fixed angle when the Surface Pro is propped up. To address this, I got Microsoft's wedge bluetooth mouse and wedge bluetooth keyboard, whose case is designed to work as an angle-adjusting prop for the Surface. I hate having to keep their batteries charged, but otherwise, they work well!
posted by honest knave at 6:59 AM on May 27, 2014

And the denoument - I took the laptop to a local repair guy who came highly and fanatically recommended on Yelp, and he said it wasn't worth fixing. He also set me straight on whether a Surface would do what I wanted anyway. So I am writing this on a new laptop (one purchased with the specs he recommended, and for such a good deal that he was even impressed when I arrived back at his shop to set it up for me) and he cut me a break on his installation and setup. (Dude was awesome - he was like the Brooklyn version of deezil, frankly.)

So the answer is "fuckit". (Actually, not even that - he suggested selling it for parts, and I'm about to memail a couple folks to ask about how much I might charge for that.) Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:09 PM on May 27, 2014

Didn't realize you had that much money for this problem.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:45 PM on May 27, 2014

...What do you mean, Kruger?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 PM on May 27, 2014

Sounds like your question was really about justifying the purchase of the Surface, not bare bones troubleshooting .
posted by Kruger5 at 11:42 AM on May 28, 2014

....No, I needed to do something no matter what, and was trying to ascertain the cheaper option. Fixing ultimately would have been more expensive.

And I somehow missed where you had an answer in that snark.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on May 28, 2014

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