Just Put the Installation/Recovery CD In the Box, Okay?

cdA couple of days ago, a friend of my son’s called me with panic in her voice. Her fancy media-enabled Acer laptop had died. Kept booting into a recovery mode but then could not recover, so would shut down, only to do it all over again. I asked her if there were any CD’s or DVD’s that came with the computer, which is only about six months old.

“No, but there’s a booklet.”

I had her drop the laptop and booklet off at the house yesterday and last night I started it up to see what I could do. I could get to a dos prompt and was able to do some disk checking, enough to find out it didn’t seem to be a hardware issue. But beyond that, with the Windows recovery not functioning, and no CD or DVD installation disks, I was pretty much dead in the water to do anything else. I looked through the little manual that was shipped with the laptop. It has a section on safety (“never use your laptop in the rain or bathtub”), and a section on how to properly plug it in, plus sections on how to use the fancy media functions on the face of the laptop. But nothing about troubleshooting or recovery, other than a phone number for Acer and a website where I could buy (and have shipped to me in 2 weeks) a recovery CD.

Google is my friend, so I started plugging in keywords and phrases hoping to come up with something I could use to restore this machine. Forty-five minutes later, I had nothing but torrent sites and the same information: “reinstall from disk” or “use your backup recovery CD’s you made.” I also saw in multiple places that people who had made backup/recovery CD’s had coasters instead of working software once they got done, and this didn’t build much confidence – even if I had the recovery disks that should have been made when the machine was first used, it didn’t sound like they would have worked anyway. I had a Vista disk, but it wasn’t the right one (the laptop needed Vista Home Premium and all I have are Home Basic and Ultimate), and I was still hoping for a recovery rather than a complete start-from-scratch do-over. Plus, I wanted whatever proprietary software and drivers needed for the Acer, not just generic ones from the CD/DVD’s that I had on hand. What to do.

I changed search terms slightly and finally got a hit that was worth something. cnet to the rescue! Finally, I found instructions for accessing Acer’s recovery console on the sick laptop. All it took was a reboot, the alt key, and tapping the F10 key about 80 times, but I got into the console, and did a repair from there. Worked like a charm, and the laptop was back up and running in just under thirty minutes. Of course, that was after spending an hour searching for an answer. Had there just been the original CD/DVD’s in the box with the laptop to begin with, I would not have had to waste so much time.

How much money does it really save to print the CD and put it in the box? Really, is this an insurmountable issue? Makes me wonder if laptop makers (and desktop makers too, for that matter) are just more interested in selling you new hardware than allowing you to repair the ones you already have. After all, if my son’s friend had not had access to a geek-mom like me, she’d have probably just ended up buying another laptop. She was sure the machine was dead and unrecoverable.

Before I gave it back to her, I did go through the process of making Acer-specific recovery DVD’s. I don’t know how good they will be if/when I need them for another restore. My confidence in the Acer brand is not strong.

I have another laptop sitting at home waiting for me to repair it. This one is a Dell 1525, and it came with its CD/DVD’s. And its issue is hardware (has a bad hard drive), rather than software. I don’t anticipate any problems with restoration because I have the actual media that belongs to the laptop to begin with. That right there is a whole load off my mind.