Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Dell computers are a mainstay in my home and business. My experience over many years has been, and continues to be, very good.
I'm taking a bit of a risk with today's recommendation because I know that Dell has its detractors and horror stories. The question as a friend put it is "do they have more, on average, as compared to other computer manufacturers?"
My opinion is they do not.
But I do have a few suggestions to make your Dell experience more like mine, and less like the ones getting all the negative publicity.
I own, or have owned, probably a dozen Dell computers over the years. Each has served me well, and each has lasted longer than the ever-increasing system requirements of operating systems like Windows. My Dells don't leave because they've irreparably failed; they're more likely to fall out of use because they can no longer be expanded to support the latest version of Windows, or handle newer and more demanding applications. My Dells have all lasted for years.
Dell machines are easily configurable and customizable when purchased, and similarly, I've had no difficulty ordering replacement parts or upgrades when needed. When my wife's Latitude D610 needed a new keyboard I spent a few minutes on the Dell site, and a few days later I had a replacement keyboard installed. The Dell site could certainly use some clearer organization when it comes to searching for parts and documentation, but by-and-large almost everything you might want for a computer you've purchased from Dell is there somewhere.
Dell often gets a bad rap for customer service. I do believe that they've been actively addressing that in recent years, but the bad press that they've received continues to haunt them. (Sadly, all the people having good experiences aren't nearly as likely to write or publicize it. Only bad news makes news.)
As I said, I've been somewhat hesitant to formally recommend Dell simply because I know it fly's in the face of a lot of what's out on the web - horror stories. But what made me finally change my mind was my most recent good experience with Dell support.
Yes, my good Dell experience.
As I mentioned in my newsletter a few weeks ago, my Dell Latitude D620 died a hard death while I was on vacation and would not boot, alerting me that there was no hard disk installed (when of course there was).
On my return, I contacted Dell support via a web form and subsequently via email and laid out the problem asking what my options were. They responded, within a day, suggesting that I try a "known good hard drive" to isolate the problem, and report back. My feeling was that it was the motherboard at fault, since it would also not boot from the CD-ROM, but their advice made sense. Unfortunately, I had no spare "known good" hard drives to test with.
My approach was to take the drive to another machine, and see if the drive could be accessed there, making it the "known good". To my surprise, it failed. In fact, the machine also failed to see its primary hard drive while my laptop drive was installed. I removed the laptop drive, and the machine returned to normal operation.
Clearly Dell's suggestion to test was appropriate: the drive was indeed at fault.
I reported back via email, and their response, again in less than 24 hours, was "a replacement drive is already on its way". And to my surprise "and it includes a Windows Vista DVD so you can reinstall". I had ordered my machine with Windows installation media, which I strongly recommend everyone do for situations like this, but it was wonderful to see Dell avoid this issue by simply including it since it was going to be needed.
Two days later the drive arrived, I installed it, ran SpinRite (the fact that it would boot from CD again was very good sign), and then began installing Windows Vista. The next day my laptop was back in service.
It's hard not to want to recommend a company based on this experience alone, but add my decade or more of satisfaction with Dell hardware and any issues I've had in the past, and it's clear, to me, that Dell is worth your serious consideration.
I do have some specific recommendations when considering a Dell (or perhaps even any brand):
Don't buy the lowest end model. Latitudes, for example, are decidedly "mid-range" Dells, and seem to be built more ruggedly than their slightly less expensive Inspiron line. I had an Inspiron for some time, but currently have three Latitudes of varying ages in use.
If you can, enter through the small business portal or choice. You'll be offered slightly more rugged machines, but I've also heard (and it is just hearsay) that the resulting account management and support you're assigned is slightly better.
Don't buy the latest and greatest, instead buy the models that have proven themselves over time. Were I to purchased another laptop today I'd likely get the Latitude D630, the successor to the D600, D610 and D620 that I already own. It may not be as sexy as some of the newer models featured on Dell's pages, but I'm not looking for sexy, I'm looking for a computer that I can rely on.
Consider that warranty, particularly when it comes to laptops. The fact is things can and do break, particularly hard drives. My laptop was under warranty, and I'm certain that's part of what contributed to my excellent experience.
Backup! Backup! Backup! I can't stress this enough, something will fail at some point no matter where you get it from. The fact that my complete hard disk failure was an inconvenience rather than a disaster was simply due to the fact that everything on it was backed up in one way or another.
All in all my personal experience with Dell has been solid for many years. This last good experience with their hardware support only solidified my good feelings.
Sure, read the gripes and complaints, but realize that there are likely many more people who have had good experiences who simply aren't writing about them.
They're just busy using their Dells.
Please do not post your Dell horror story in comments here. There are many, many places where you and others can find and post your bad experiences, and I'll even link to some of them in the Related section below. I'm not trying to discourage negative comments, per se, it's just that I don't want this page to turn into another Dell-bashing venue when there are already enough others. I'll delete and close comments if that's what appears to be happening.
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