GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkMy ThinkPad Woes -- I Thought They Were Over, But They're Not
10:46:36 PM

I have about an hour of battery power left. That should be about enough. Enough to vent my incredible frustration.

I leave on my next business trip on Wednesday morning. It looks like my ThinkPad will not be making the trip. This is the ThinkPad T43p that I bought a couple of months before I joined HP. This is theThinkPad for which I paid for a multi-year next-business-day on-site warranty.

Regular readers may recall that I blew my ThinkPad's AC adapter on my last business trip and replaced it with a 3rd party universal adapter. That adapter worked perfectly, and I had not even got around to ordering a replacement from Lenovo.

Last Saturday morning, I accidentally stepped on the cord running from the adapter to the ThinkPad's DC input jack. The ThinkPad jerked a bit, but seemed ok -- until about an hour later when I noticed that the battery was draining. I examined both the ThinkPad and the adapter cord. Both seemed to have been damaged. The DC in jack felt slightly loose -- something I had never noticed before. And the pins going into the adapater's interchangeable head were a little bent.

So, the first thing I did was run out to CompUSA and get another 3rd party adapter. I plugged it into the ThinkPad, and the battery continued to drain,

So, on Monday morning I called Lenovo. This was silly of me -- I should have called over the weekend and had a tech dispatched for next-business day service on Monday. Instead, a tech was dispatched for Tuesday -- the next business day after the call. While on the phone, I told them that I had two problems: a dead AC adapter, and no DC power coming into the ThinkPad from a good 3rd party adapter. They said they could only open an incident for one at a time, and gave me a choice. I thought that was pretty stupid, but I told them I wanted the incident open on the DC power. The fellow I spoke to on the phone told me that the tech would bring a new system board.

The tech arrived on Tuesday with a kit for replacing the DC input jack. Apparently on the T43p the jack is not soldered to the system board the way it is on many other laptops. Unfortunately, the tech did the replacement and rebuilt the machine without testing whether his fix did anything. He booted the machine up -- on battery power! He never even plugged in the power cord! When he brought the machine into my office, that was the first thing I did -- and when I pointed out to him that the battery was still obviously not charging, he got rkight on the phone... and came back a few minutes later to tell me that IBM would send me a new AC adapter the next day, because they didn't trust the 3rd party adpapter I was using.

I wasn't pleased, but what could I do? The terms of the next-day on-site warranty don't actually promise that they'll repair it that day. They just promise that they'll show up and try.

So, the adpater showed up the next day and I dutifully tried it. Of course it made no difference. I called Lenovo again, and a tech was dispatched for Thursday. This time I was told he would definitely bring a system board -- and he did. He replaced the board, the laptop powered up, and the battery began to charge! There was no play in the DC in jack. All seemed to be good.

Later on Thursday, though, I put a CD into the ThinkPad's drive, and nothing happened. The CD/DVD drive had been working perfectly prior to the power problem. I'm sure of this because I had been loading CDs into iTunes at the time that I accidentally stepped on the cord in the first place.

Also, twice on Thursday night, the ThinkPad just froze up. The keyboard and pointer just stopped responding. The switch that blanks the screen when you close the lid did nothing. It was just completely wedged.

So, this morning I called Lenovo. I spoke to a technician and he suggested that I try reseating the drive. Silly me! I didn't even know it was removable. I followed his instructions to release the drive, and as I was re-inserting it I heard a little bit of a rattle. I shook the ThinkPad lightly and there was definitely something loose inside. I tilted it a little, and a small piece of thin metal, about a half inch by a quarter inch, fell out. I told the phone tech about it, decided it didn't look like anything important, put the drive in, and put in a CD. It spun up and the system recognized it. Once again, it looked like all was good.

But it wasn't good. It froze up on me twice more during the day. And then, a short while ago, I noticed that the battery was draining. I wiggled the power cord, and once again I felt some looseness in the DC input jack.

So, I'll be calling Lenovo again tomorrow. But at this point I think the best idea is to agree to send the machine in to their depot instead of having a tech dispatched on site. There's clearly good reason not to trust the quality of the field techs' work.

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Comments :v

1. David Leedy02/10/2007 09:12:17 PM

Sorry to hear about your ThinkPad problems. Service has gone down a little since they became Lenovo. We have 100+ laptops in the company and do all service though the depot. You never know what you're going to get with the service tech. We regulary have thinkpads coming and going. If there's a silver lining in this... Usually the depot does a good job and turns around the units fairly quick.

Good Luck!

2. Alan Bell02/13/2007 05:06:12 AM

I had power problems with my own laptop, the TSA left a note in my luggage on the way back from Lotusphere saying basically that for my own security they felt it necessary to search my luggage, take my Thinkpad out of it's protective neoprene bag without replacing it causing it to end up with a crushed corner, no backlight and a general lack of willingness to boot, then, for the security of my fellow passengers, they found the power supply to my other laptop and stamped on it, breaking off the socket on the high voltage end.

3. Tim Supples02/13/2007 10:47:20 AM

I'm sorry for your experience, I'd like to help make it right. I've sent you an e-mail.
Tim Supples

4. Danny Lawrence02/13/2007 11:26:43 AM

A reminder -- do a complete (or as complete as possible) backup before you send it in. Service depots have been known to "accidentaly" reformat hard drives on machines that come in for repair

5. Rock02/14/2007 03:27:13 PM

Better yet - take the HD out before sending it in. If you are sure that the problem isn't the hard drive (it rarely is) then pop it out and send that in. They have drives there that they can use to test. I haven't sent a box in for repairs with a drive in a long, long time (and I just went through a repair issue with my T41p - and I am not working on a nice T60p ).


6. Richard Schwartz02/14/2007 03:58:38 PM

@4, Danny -- I'd do that except that the machine won't boot given that the battery is drained. And I don't want to risk pulling the drive out of its carrier and plugging it into a USB interface. It was reasonably recently backed up, so the risk of data loss is small, and the risk of further inconvenience if I trash the pins is greater.

@5, Rock -- I've done that before with Dells, and that's my plan this time, too.

@3, Tim -- Thanks for getting in touch. I think it's great that Lenovo has someone going through the blogosphere dealing with customer issues. Kudos for that. As I mentioned via email, my current business trip will delay follow-up on this for a while, but I will keep you posted.

7. Adam S02/26/2007 01:06:44 PM

I too have had a terrible time with Lenovo support. In July of 2004 I bought a Thinkpad T42p. Since then, I have had three hard drive failures, a bad cpu/cpu fan, and a bad system board on two separate machines. The exact order is that within the first 11 months of ownership my hard drive failed once, then the CPU/cpu fan failed, and finally the hard drive failed again. After the second hard drive failed, IBM could find no logical explanation and after some arguing agreed to replace the machine. Each time, the technical service representative assured me my problems were software related. I can't tell you how frustrating that is, since I have built computers and handle my company's IT department in addition to my marketing/sales duties.

Within 8 months the replaced laptop began to overheat and wouldn't run for more than a few minutes. After dealing with Lenovo's escalations department they agreed to look at the machine. They also agreed that if I had another problem in 6 months they would give me a full refund (~$3200!). Their explanation was that the machine had been exposed to water, which caused corrosion inside on the system board. They sent me pictures which they claimed were corrosion. At this point, they agreed to repair the machine but rescinded the offer of a special 6 month refund warranty.

First of all, I need to tell you that this laptop has lived a very cushy life. It is transported in a case within a case (Both are expensive Tumi brands). There is no way I would have exposed my $3200 investment to moisture of any kind.

When I got the machine back, they told me to open it up and look because some of the parts that weren't electrical might still have corrosion on them. This is where things got interesting. My laptop came with a 1.8ghz processor and was replaced with a 1.7ghz. I opened up the machine and looked at the places they claimed were corroded. I should add that I work for a company that is heavily involved with the manufacture and development of ceramic substrate materials used for the laminate material in circuit boards. I am highly familiar with the manufacturing process, the resins, and materials used. I was shocked to see that what the technicians told me were corrosion, was actually a resin used in the manufacture and assembly of the circuit board.

To me, it appears that the Lenovo people I dealt with had tried to come up with any reason that the failures were my fault.

Recently, my computer has experienced another hard drive failure. Despite my best attempts of regular backups, the computer I will STILL lose valuable files. Last wednesday the representative I spoke with told me they would send me a hard drive and OS CD's to get the computer running. The escalations manager told me that they had several hardware supplier issues around the time both machines were manufactured and that resulted in them discontinuing the T42p very quickly.

At the recommendation of the escalations manger I have a requested a refund based on the continued aggravation, lack of reliability, and time I have wasted dealing with this computer. I received a call from a Scott at Lenovo relations last Friday while I was at work. He has not since gotten back to me. What's worse, they sent me the hard drive but no OS CD's. I still don't have a working machine.

I have to say my experience with their customer service has been once of the worst I have ever heard of. I continue to press the issue with IBM/Lenovo, but I don't have high hopes. Based on this, I have since halted all purchases of Thinkpad laptops at my company (we are now happily and reliably using HP's), and I tell everyone I know about my terrible experience. They are all more than surprised and keep that in mind when they go to buy a new computer.

Richard, I feel your pain and hope you have better luck than I continue to have. Unfortunately, Lenovo doesn't seem to care as much as they should about their reputation on their expensive machines. They continue to tell me that they are honoring the terms of their warranty and I have no real complain. But I remind them that I spent $3200 on this computer so I wouldn't need to use the warranty. If I had wanted an unreliable computer I would have spent $700 on a Dell. I do have to say this latest escalations manager I dealt with (not Scott) seemed to sympathize and understand my situation.

Best of Luck to You!

Adam S.

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