I just spent the last half-day trying to fix my father-in-law’s e-machines desktop Windows XP box. He can’t clearly explain what happened, but somehow he became concerned that a new scanner he’d purchased had installed bad stuff on the computer, and I think he sought to remedy this by hand-removing some of the items he thought the installer had put on the disk. Hand-removing stuff under Windows is a bad idea.
At any rate, the upshot of all this was a non-functional sound card – the system thought it was running fine but no audio was produced. After walking through the unhelpful, very basic audio troubleshooter built into Windows, I took a deep breath, cleared my calendar for the day, and initiated a support call and ticket with e-machines.
After a brief intake, it was determined that the never-registered machine was out of warranty, and that the ticket would run $20 to initiate. I had been expecting some sort of charge, so I okayed it and we began.
After a few followups and verifications, we were recommended to run a full system install, wiping the HD, after pulling my father-in-law’s documents to a backup. Happily, we were able to do that with no gnashing of teeth, and I initiated the system restore.
When the initial-boot Windows XP setup appeared, it appeared over soothing music! Hurrah, the card’s fixed, I thought. After reboot – nothing. Alas.
One more phone call, and I was advised that the physical sound card was bad and that I should simply replace it. Now, my father-in-law really enjoys his computer, but rather than learning about it by reading or becoming a tech-nerd, he has evolved an elaborate personal set of metaphors that suffice to allow him to use the machines. However, that means he’s likely to blame the last person who touched the machine if things start going awry, and thus, the last thing I wanted to do was pop the case and start rummaging around in the guts of the machine.
I may understand how to assemble and disassemble computers but my level of expert Wintel knowledge dates to 1993, the first year I could afford to buy a Mac and get the hell outta Dodge.
After some frowning thought, I realized that the support person who advised me to buy a new soundcard had missed a clue: the machine played audio when booted into the setup routine. The card, physically, was fine. There had to be a way to address whatever tangled thing had cut off the circuits from the software.
One more call back to e-machines and I was told, in this order:
a) your machine is still in warranty for another year
b) we’re refunding your $20 ticket fee
c) use the device manager to uninstall the modem, then reboot
d) we’re going to reinstall the audio drivers from the restore CD before the modem drivers are re-enabled at startup
As it happened, due to a slight accident, the machine booted into Windows directly, with the startup chime!
I’m happy that the emachines support people were able to help; each time I placed a call I was connected to a real, live human within 30 seconds of having navigated the intake telephone tree.
On the other hand, I was told that the machine was out of warranty and that the audio card was dead, inaccuracies that would not have been corrected had I not pushed back, something that makes me reluctant to recommend the manufacturer to naive PC-users.
Finally, I have to note that the whole experience occupied me for four hours. Yeesh. I’m sticking with my Macs until they pry ’em outta my cold, dead hands.
UPDATE: One reboot later, the sound output is AWOL, again. On a clean install! Man! How do you people live with it?