Ronby Ronald Khol, Editor

One of the options Dell offers for $169 is an installation service where a service technician sets up your new computer with the same folders, files, and e-mail structure you had on your old computer. Supposedly, when you sit down at your new computer, everything on the desktop should look familiar.

This service is provided by third-party contractors. And that is where the problem comes in. Sometimes these contractors aren't responsive to customers. In the worst case, such as the one I encountered, they don't even go through the motions of being truthful.

Supposedly, the contractor monitors the delivery schedule, and shortly after the hardware is delivered, contacts the buyer to make an appointment for installation. So after all my hardware was on hand, I hung around the house waiting for the phone to ring. After four days of waiting, I called Dell and found out the technician claimed he couldn't reach me. (That was a blatant lie because I had deliberately kept the telephone free.) Then there were more days of waiting. In all, I was left dangling for seven days before the technician finally showed up.

Even before he arrived, he called to try to convince me I didn't need the installation service. Evidently, he had so much business with regular clients he didn't want to work for what Dell paid. But I had experience with operating systems beyond Windows 95, and I knew I was going to need some handholding with Windows XP. So I insisted he perform the installation according to the contract.

When the technician arrived, the first thing he did was try to apply Microsoft patches for the various worms and viruses making the rounds. But instead of having the patches on a CD, in boneheaded fashion he went to the Internet to get them, and this promptly infected my computer with the Blaster worm. It took him more than 45 minutes to fix that problem.

Instead of setting up my e-mail with the Outlook Express platform I had been using, he used a generic Earthlink system. And he didn't transfer e-mail files to the new computer. Of the limited amount of work he actually performed, all of it was slap-dash.

Worst of all, he said he could not transfer my Windows 95 files and folders to Windows XP. (It turned out what he meant is that he couldn't do it within the time he felt he could allocate to me.) The total extent of the data migration he did was to take a floppy on which I had a few miscellaneous files, and transfer them to a Documents folder in Windows XP. That was it. So mark up a zero for file and folder migration.

The contract also called for him to provide 20 minutes of familiarization with the new computer, but he blew that off entirely. Then he packed up and was gone. I was left not knowing how to set up files and folders in Windows XP, nor did I have my files and folders for e-mail. And as I expected, Windows XP is so unintuitive I was not able to negotiate it. In short, I was yanked around for six days waiting for the installation, then I was left with a computer I could not use. So my computer upgrade turned out to be a complete train wreck.

Now the story takes a happier twist. My son arrived for a visit a few days later. He has a similar Dell system, so he was able to get me up and running. He showed me how to do all the things the technician had neglected to do, and he even fixed a few things the technician had done wrong.

To put a cap on the story, Dell issued a refund on the installation charge. However, there remains the issue of third-party contractors arrogantly dismissing their obligation to customers. Evidently, the installation technician escaped all this without a scratch. Somebody should have nailed him to a wall.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor