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HP: Bad motherboards, broken support, and the black arts

(This post originally appeared in Infoworld’s Notes From the Field blog.)

by Robert X. Cringely

Things have been kind of quiet lately on the Hewlett Packard front. There have been no recent spying scandals, no daily kerfuffles over what the CEO is doing, saying, or wearing. Bill Hewlett and David Packard have stopped spinning in their graves at 7200 rpm.

But if the letters I’ve been getting lately from Cringesters are any indication, there’s something rotting in HP’s den, or at least giving off the distinct aroma of toe cheese.

The first comes story from Cringester E. H., who purchased a Compaq laptop for his college-bound son along with an HP Care Pack that promised a three-day turnaround on all repairs. Last March his son’s machine died, and he sent it in to be revived, fully expecting to see the machine again before the end of spring break. One month and many promises later, the laptop is still AWOL. Apparently it needed a new motherboard, but the part was strangely unavailable.

E. H. says when he asked about that three-day turnaround he paid for, he was told it didn’t apply when there was a parts shortage. (If HP can’t lay its hands on a motherboard, it has bigger problems.) He also claims that an HP case manager promised to send him a brand new laptop if his son’s machine wasn’t fixed by April 24. Needless to say, neither of those things happened. As I write this, the laptop is now due to be back by mid-May.

Having had my own impossibly stupid and maddeningly circular experiences with HP support, I know exactly how frustrated he’s feeling. But E. H.’s case pales in comparison to the report by frequent Cringe contributor D. F., a New York-based reseller who’s experienced a disturbingly high failure rate with HP’s DX2200 desktops and gotten the runaround from HP support.

As reported in Ed Foster’s Gripeline blog earlier this month, D. F. recommended 24 HP DX2200s to a client, only to have six of them fail — two bad motherboards, four dead hard drives. After a lot of wrestling with HP’s offshore support techs, D. F. learned the hard drive problem was due to a known (but undocumented) manufacturing defect in the desktops’ SATA cables. Despite having an onsite support contract for the systems, HP refused to send out techs to replace the cables, but offered to pay D. F. to do the job with her own staff.

She believes they were paying her to keep quiet. Guess that didn’t work out too well, did it? And apparently this is just one of many examples. In an open letter to Mark Hurd, she writes:

I have dozens of stories which demonstrate that HP has been has been consistently unwilling to help out small business resellers and their small business end users….Right now I cannot carry the designation of “HP Channel Partner” with any degree of honor.

Parts shortages, defects, lack of quality control, unwillingness to support low end systems — none of these are good signs. But Cringester S. M. may have stumbled onto what’s really wrong at HP when he discovered a new type of networking device for sale at

screen grab

So it seems HP has been secretly taken over by a coven of witches — mistresses of the black arts, probably left over from the Carly Fiorina era. That explains everything, don’t you think?

Got hot tips or evil spells? Cast them below or email me here: cringe (at) infoworld (dot) com. Top tipsters will receive wicked cool swag in return.

12 Responses to “HP: Bad motherboards, broken support, and the black arts”

  1. on 18 Jul 2008 at 10:15 am Monica

    I bought a HP Compaq Presario in September 2007and since the time it came it wasn’t responding to internet. I complained and did trouble shooting with the techs and even after three repair services the problem persists today. I am severely disappointed about HP’s poor product quality and worst customer service. I am so frustrated as the customer service has stopped responding to me after the last repair. They tell me that they will research the problem and get back, but they never get back and return my calls. It takes several hours of my day in trouble shotting, to no avail. I don’t know what to do?

  2. on 24 Oct 2008 at 4:40 pm HP is the Devil

    I received an HP Pavillion entertainment/tablet PC in November of 2007. I should have returned it from the outset when I became suspicious about the quality after seeing the poor resolution of the external monitor and the horrible resolution if I connected it to the docking station. A phone call to HP about the above issues just resulted in a lot of transfered phone calls but no solutions. I just gave up on the $50 dock and moved on and accepted that the quality of the tablet really wasn’t very good and did not remotely compare to the quality I had observed on other tablets.

    But then, in May, the tablet feature suddenly stopped working. Eight hours of phone time didn’t resolve the issue, and the call backs I was supposed to receive from technicians never arrived. I needed a computer, so I kept using it…

    And then in July or August, it started making a high pitched screaming noise if it wasn’t muted or plugged into an external headset, but I didn’t have time to call HP, because I knew it would require losing my laptop for days if not weeks, and who is able to do that?

    But in September, when I was finally ready to call HP for repairs, the wireless just stopped working. The drivers would just disapear and not install. Another 8 hours on the phone with technicians from all across the world, and no solution (though each insisted on going through the same routine over and over). I sent it in with the promise it would be back in less than a week…

    Nope, it took a month. And when I got it back, how long did it work? Three hours! After three hours the wireless drivers had uninstalled themselves. And then it wouldn’t respond after sleep mode for a day before I called HP. When I did get them on the phone (time 2 1/2 hours), I was told that “HP’s have trouble with sleep mode.” A modern PC that has difficulty with sleep mode? Regardless after 2 1/2 hours on the phone the wireless problem wasn’t resolved, yet I was promised a call back the next day.

    After waiting by the phone for 5 1/2 hours I called HP and insisted on a replacement or refund. I was lead to understand that I would receive one. Guess what, when the person contacted me to “arrange” a replacement he was really calling to say that they do not do that. Only if your HP computer has been repaired three times are you elgible for a replacement (do the math: three times at a month each time). Refunds are called “buy backs” and are based on (get this!) “the current value of the PC.” Everyone knows that my PC is currently worth nothing!

    My new contact at HP also insisted that they only see major problems such as mine in “about 5″% of their products.” If any of you can do that math, you must realize that 5% of the number of HP products is a huge number. Few businesses are willing to operate on the premise that 5% of their products will have serious defects that may reach the customer, but apparently HP is not one of them.

    So what is the point?
    1. Do not buy HP products, they are cheap and break often and the company is aware of this but lets you, the user, discover that you have a cheap product that you will spend more hours trying to fix than actually using

    2. Do not buy HP products, their customer service is abysmal and they will spend more time transfering your phone call from one agent to the next, or shipping your product from one repair location to the next, or even insulting you, as one technician did after failing to repair my device and stating “IIII am the technician here, and I say that it is fixed.” (If it doesn’t work, it is not fixed).

    Do not fall into the trap of HP’s units being affordable given the number of features they offer, there’s a reason they’re so much cheaper than the competitors: they aren’t competing.

  3. on 24 Nov 2008 at 6:34 am Chris Elrod

    HP is right in line with the other big corporate companies. I own a small computer retail and repair shop. I have been in the computer business for 23 years. Other than refurbished systems that I use other parts in to refurbish, I don’t sell any name brand systems. With laptops I have no choice and offer only the manufacturers warranties with them. We custom buils all our systems and offer a much longer warranty and other than 2 or 3 cases where a part was defective, I have yet to have one returned. They may cost a bit higher but you get what you pay for. I use only good quality motherboards, ram and cpu’s with good powerful power supplies. Most of the repairs we get are directly caused from overheating by their cheap low end fans and it still amazes me at the power supplies they use. I was getting better power supplies in my old 95 systems than what comes out in the ones today. I have yet to see higher than a 350W PS in any new system. In most cases it is 230-250W. No where near enough to run the high end new systems and software. I have old Dell and HP systems for resale that are 6-10 years old and still run like a charm. People complain at having to spend over $500 for a system. What they don’t think is that just a few years ago a system with less than 25% of the power of the new ones would set you back nearly 3 grand. They all use cheap, cheap parts that can be expected to last. The rebates are a joke as well. I had one of the top members at HP admit that only about 1 out of 10 will ever receive a rebate. They cover the UPC you need with shipping labels and many other tricks to keep you from getting the rebates. Their all in league with Microsoft and are just out for the buck. I expect them to make money. That’s what they are in business for. But we are no longer a person to them or most any company these days. We are simply a number that they can get money from. I run my shop the old fashioned way and may not make it in today’s world but know I can sleep at night knowing I did the right thing.

  4. on 10 Dec 2008 at 8:05 am Brittany

    I’ve had the same experiences that everyone has had. I bought a tablet PC, and the motherboard just shut down on me. I called customer support 5 times in one night… and NEVER got to talk to a TECH. I kept having to give my information to the representatives… AWFUL. To add on to the motherboard flatlining, the pen holster broke AND the disk drive has been broken since I purchased it a year ago. HP is NOT THE WAY TO GO!! I’m currently a student and it took me THREE WEEKS to get it repaired. Off to the library I went…. sheesh.

  5. on 24 Mar 2009 at 3:10 pm gugus

    I had an Hp/compaq laptip that i bought about two years ago. the laptop went bad after a fire in my apartment and firefithers poor water on it. after cleaning and everything the laptop was still functionning correctly. the only problem was that when i touch the left side of the laptop, it restart itself. I sent the laptop to them for repair and they told me that my warranty does not cover accidental damdage. they opened the laptop and look inside and saw residue of water in it so they put it back together and sent it to me without repairing it. when i received the machine back from them, it was not even turning on. it would not power on no matter what i do. i complained and they told me to send it in again and that they would fix the problem they created including the initial problem. so i sent the laptop to them again. a month later they told me that they would not repair the laptop because i did not have accidental coverage. i told them that all i need them to do it to return the laptop in the condition it was in when i sent it to them the first time. they refused and sent it back to even more broken than it was when i sent it the first time. as i write this my laptop would not come on. before i sent it to them, it was only restarting itself when i touch the left side of it. after they sent it back to me, it won’t even turn it.
    So i sent my laptop to HP only to have them damage and refuse to take responsibility for the damage. My next step is to file a lawsuit against them for the laptop and lost of important data

  6. on 06 Apr 2009 at 6:48 pm Holly

    I have had MANY problems since buying my HP less than a year ago.
    First there was some unknown error that required the reinstall of the OS. That was three weeks after I bought it. Should have returned it for a refund at that point – while it was still possible.
    Then two months after purchase, the WLAN quit on me. Got it fixed, but it was fixed by reinstalling the OS.
    At some point between then and January I had to reinstall the OS again. I forget exactly what happened… It’s hard to keep track.
    Then in January, the motherboard fried. I sent it in for repairs. They replaced the WLAN, a few cables that were causing “minor” issues, and the motherboard. Now, a couple months later, the hard drive fried on me today.
    I’ve wasted my entire afternoon with tech support. I’m waiting for a call from the hardware dispatch department or something like that.
    They’re going to send me a new hard disk, but I’ve heard that the motherboard is what is frying the hard disks. Is this true? Does anyone know?
    Any advice on how to get them to replace the darn thing. There is no way that I should have had to reinstall the OS 4 times AND have all these things go wrong.
    When I wasn’t on the phone with tech support I was filing a claim with the BBB, printing a Consumer Complaint form to send to the governor’s office in my state and sending my story to a law firm who has a current class action case pending.
    I refuse to give up without a fight. I encourage you all to do the same.
    If their customer support OR their merchandise (one of the two) was worth crap, I might not be quite so persistent, but this is absolutely ridiculous!
    With four weeks left in my semester and 26-30 pages worth of papers to write, I guess I’ll be residing in the library…… But what does HP care?

  7. on 05 May 2009 at 6:12 am James

    HP Customer service is absolutely horrible. They have technicians that do not understand the problem and they are simply trying to get people to extend warranty. Once you sign up, their technicians are so incompetent it is ridiculous. Part of the problem is that you can barely understand them. When you ask to speak to another technician in hopes of speaking to someon who speaks clearly, they transfer you to someone who has the same issue. I wish I never bought an HP and have to deal with their customer service.

  8. on 20 Jun 2009 at 2:28 pm Jan

    I have found that HP’s customer support was great for me, it is their products that SUCK big time. I have a Presario F572 laptop that I bought in 2007. Six months after the purchase the darn thing would not wake up from hibernation unless a cold shut down and restart was performed. After about a month of that it would not even start up at all. A call into HP customer service and sending back the laptop for about 10 days I got back my laptop with a new motherboard. Now 1.5 years later the motherboard goes out on it again. Thankfully I have a 3 yr warranty (purchased through Staples) on it and sent it in to be fixed again. It comes back after 10 days and yet another new motherboard replaced. Used the laptop for 2 days and guess what? I does not come on yet again. Another call into service and they actually told me that HP is known to have a bad batch of motherboards out there. It is now waiting for the box from Fedex so it can go back to the repair center.

    Don’t get me started on their printers – I won’t touch one of them if you paid me. You see I used to work in R&D at HP’s printer division and I know way too much about what they do to those things.

    I am typing this comment out on an old Compaq Presario 1200 and it is over 9 years old and still runs like a champ so not all of HP products are bad.

  9. on 07 Jul 2009 at 11:44 am ClearlyPro

    When I tried to log on to ours laptop, a box saying “there are not sufficient resources to load” my account with the default something-or-other came up. The message had a timer that was going to close the message, and then when it closed it would not log me on. I could not turn it off normally so I cut the power. When I turned it back on I logged on fine?
    I read here Windows Error but couldnt make sense?


  10. on 10 Jul 2009 at 3:59 pm LIsa

    Wow!! I see that there are many of us out there!!! HP had this service enhancement that was supposed to replace motherboards at no cost. But it ended June 30 2009. I have had issues withmy laptop for quite some time (about 9 mos) but just had not had the time to address these issues and guess what today is July 10 and HP says so sorry for your luck but for 400.00 we can fix it for you. I will never buy another HP again!!!!

  11. on 29 Sep 2009 at 12:21 pm Rob

    My HP Slimline computer had problems with the video and resolution. It got worse and within a few weeks went completely dark. After some excellent intervention from HP technical I found out that the motherboards for these slimline computers where having problems and that HP would replace it for free. Great news since my one year warranty had finished a couple of months before the problems. Sent it off…got it back good as new. 8 months later the motherboard dies again. HP now tells me that they extended my one year warranty for an extra year, but that ran out 2 weeks before this latest failure. After some intense wrangling on the phone they informed me that they would do nothing to help me with the 8 month old crappy motherboard they had installed. HP is going to have to go a long way in the future before I will buy any more of their products and I will urge everyone I know to steer clear. Every computer I’ve owned over the last 15 years has been an HP…but no longer. Apparently some fundamental change has occurred with this company. Stay away.

  12. on 06 Aug 2010 at 6:44 pm k brent

    We bought TWO f572us laptops the same day a couple of years ago. The first one fried in January this year and the second one fried today.
    I called HP and got the same replies everyone else gets, plus the thing about how we ‘chose’ to not be contacted when we registered the product, so that’s why we never heard about the extended warranty thing they did. Oh, and that I could’ve learned about it if I’d checked the HP site.
    WHY would I be looking for extended warranty info on a computer I wasn’t having a problem with?

    This is such a huge screwup on HP’s part and it’s awfully convenient that they didn’t acknowlege the issue on their site until these computers were out of their warranty periods.

    Considering that they ALL have the exact same issues, HP needs to admit they sold us a bad product and either replace the systems, or give a refund.

    I’ve ONLY had all HP products, thus the reason we bought two of the same laptops at the same time.

    Now I have TWO laptops with no wireless (kinda defeats the purpose of a laptop), and I can’t afford to buy another computer.

    I’m going to small claims court. I’m sick of big companies getting away with this crap.