My Problems with Gateway

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Well, I did it!  I bought a 'puter made by someone other than myself.   I had good reasons though, I wanted my wife Amy to have a nice *new* system instead of hand-me-downs.  So I bought her a Gateway.   It showed up here about a week after I ordered it.  It looked great, seemed great, but developed a *tiny* (cough) problem.  From time to time it would hard lock.   On the reboot we would find it had changed the time and system date.  The date was always 01/04/1980.  But it didn't reset the CMOS to the defaults nor, if we were gone, did it lose it's time & date even after 2-3 weeks.  So it's not a CMOS battery.  I did lots of re-installs to no benefit.  The short version is Amy found the answer herself! (surprise, surprise!)

On Symantec's website in the Norton Utilities 4.0 Win95/98 knowledge base she found the following...

Norton Disk Doctor reported invalid time and date stamps.  You chose to correct these errors.  Now when you try to run some programs, you cannot because a number of files have had their time/date stamps changed to 1/4/80, or some other inappropriate past date, such as 1/1/80, 1/4/80/, 1/10/80/, and 1/4/90.

This situation occurs most commonly when the computer is improperly shut down, such as when it has crashed and you are forced to turn off the power.  On some computers, the BIOS will reset the date to its default, making the system date an old date, such as 1/4/80.  Because the computer was shut down improperly, Norton Disk Doctor (or scandisk) runs during the next bootup; it determines that the date of the files is later than the system date and reports the file dates as invalid.

Then further down in the article, it states...

List of affected computers:   Here's the link to the page
Here is a partial list of computers that will reset the BIOS date after an incorrect shutdown:

And guess what?!  Amy's puter happens to have the above mentioned Phoenix BIOS!  So here's what happened when we/she made numerous calls to Gateway tech support.  The following was written by Amy after each call....(anything in red is my comments)

Gateway Problem Log

Problem: Get a hard lock, have to hit reset button, reboot, and scandisk says time and date errors.  Cancel out of that and before getting into Windows, I have to reset the clock which now shows Jan. 4, 1980.   That date of Jan. 4, 1980, is the same during any instance of the problem and the time varied.  So I called Gateway tech support and this is what went on:

Computer serial # 0013862679

1.     6/9/99 Called and talked to Jeff #505618, event #24599765. Said was CMOS battery going bad, gave me CMOS battery part# CR2032 and said he'd mail it out.  This guy was told why I felt it wasn't the CMOS battery, but what do I know?

2.     6/12/99 Called again and talked to Steve #502137 he said they (gateway) were aware of problem with the time resetting and to get the newer sound card driver off the Gateway web site. He also said he'd make other request for the CMOS battery.

3.     Called yet again on 7/5/99 10:52 P.M. talked to Andy #502065. I explained the problem again and he said the first event # not saved. He didn't see anything else it could be. Sending out the battery via US Mail. He said to use event #24646231.

4.     Peter called 7/24/99 2:07 P.M. Talked to Ron #506106. He said sounds like a virus. Said he'd re-request a CMOS battery. If the battery (when and if it shows up) doesn't solve the problem, to do the following: boot with the restore CD, exit the program, type GWSCAN and then press enter, overwrite all with 0's, password is required - gw2k, partition, format, and reinstall. If the above doesn't solve the problem, to call back and Gateway would send a tech out to start ripping and tearing into the computer and see if it is a hardware conflict. Why do they always claim a virus?   Like I didn't cover that base!

5.     On 8/12/99 took the computer to Gateway Country, Canton, OH. They replaced motherboard, chip, and memory. BTW, they said it would take 3-5 days to fix it.  We picked it up 2 weeks later and they hadn't had time to re-install Win98 OR time to do a burn in!

6.     9/8/99 Had another lockup, had to hit reset, the date and time issues reappeared yet again, hit cancel, continued booting and reset clock. Once back in Windows, had another hard lock, hit reset, NDD found invalid date and time stamp again, hit cancel, and before getting to the desktop had the blue screen of death with the following error message: "disk write error, unable to write to disk in drive c: Data or files may be lost. Press and key to continue." hit any key and nothing. Did a 3 finger salute and got another BSOD which was: "exception OE occurred @ 0028:c0035a63 in VxD IFSMGR(01) + 0002977. This was called from 0028:c004b37d in VxD VFAT(01) + 00009db1. It may be possible to continue normally. Press any key to attempt to continue or Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart..." Pressed space bar, then enter, then 3 finger and nothing. Turned computer off, tried to boot into safe mode and got the following message: "Himem.sys has detected unreliable XMS memory @ address 00202540. XMS driver not installed. To continue starting your computer, press enter." Hit enter and NDD came up with the following message: "Error [35]: General Protection Fault in c;\windows\command\scandisk.alt @ 0D88:003C code 0000 SS=0FD8 DS=0FD8 ES=0000 load base=AB40 AX=F388 BX=0000 CX=0000 DX=2F14 SP=F330 BP=F372 SI=52B4 DI=001A. Himem.sys is missing. Make sure that the file is in your windows directory. Widows has stopped. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart your computer. At this time I called Peter over to my computer and he determined that the FAT tables were hosed and all data was lost.  Yep!  Norton couldn't even fix it!   Can we say bad motherboard?
I then called Gateway @ 3:28PM and talked to Robert #502198 and asked for a supervisor. He connected me to Donna #502039 (supervisor) who listened and said her database was down and "dismissed" me (my emphasis) back to Robert. He then had me GWSCAN the hard drive since he said that was the problem and to call back when done.  This guy tried to tell me that HIMEM.SYS isn't loaded unless you put it in your config.sys or autoexec.bat (since when can you load HIMEM.sys from the autoexec.bat?!) and that Win9x doesn't need it!!!  When I explained why he was stating wrong info (and how to prove it) he start to argue with me. Sheesh!!

I called back and talked to John #15107 who asked for all the details and after I told him and what the results of the hard drive scan was (which was no errors found code 0000) he said that wasn't needed/useful (although Robert said that was the problem). John then wanted to troubleshoot over the phone. He had me boot w/ a boot disk, try to boot into safe mode, command prompt, etc. During this time, we kept getting either DIFFERENT error messages each time or not being able to boot at all. He had me remove the network card, controller card and still no boot, loop boot to the Gateway screen, no video, cap/num/scroll lights with no video, but could not get the computer to boot. He then finally said it was motherboard and I had 2 options that he was authorized to offer: 1. send me a MB, chip, and ram and have us put in or 2. take to Gateway Country. He also said that if the computer couldn't be fixed, we would have to contact the case management team and they would decide if a MB swap would be needed. John also said before he determined it was a MB failure that I just had a bad install of Win98 but we pointed out we had reinstalled Win98 six times. He wanted to try a format and reinstall. We formatted the drive and then decided heck with it and took it to the Gateway Country store in Canton, Ohio with instructions that Gateway Tech said it needed a new MB, chip, and ram and to give them the following event# 27448397.

7.     9/9/99 Peter called the Client Relations Dept. and talked to Candice ( 1-800-846-2000) @ 1:40PM. She asked for details, all event numbers, and tech names and id's. She called back @ 2:26PM and said she talked to a supervisor and since we were out of the 30 day period, we can't upgrade and downgrade except going through the add-ons dept. and there is no one else that we can talk to.
Note: The problem started prior to the 30 day period and we never have received that damn CMOS battery!

8.     9/9/99 Called Gateway Credit Card Plan and explained our problem and she said to put everything on paper and they would look into it.

9.     9/9/99 Called Better Business Bureau of S. Dakota phone # 712-252-4501 and talked to Myra, she took some information on us, our problem, and Gateway, and she said that if we don't receive some contact from Gateway by Tuesday morning, we were to call the BBB back.

So here we are with a very frustrating problem.  My original purpose was to make Amy happy and save myself some time.  I've spent more time dealing with this than I would have had I built it myself.  Now I realize that nothing is perfect.   That's what warranties are for.  But, I believe that they are selling a product with a bad/defective component! (the motherboard)  They won't change it, only replace it with an exact duplicate.  Same BIOS and all.  Plus this is the only BIOS revision available. (they say)  They flat out won't do anything except rip and tear (meanwhile Amy has no 'puter).  I've offered to accept a downgraded motherboard, or pay to upgrade the motherboard (pay the difference between the two), but they say all I can do is to buy additional new parts (ya right!).

Well, what do all of you think?  Are we asking for too much or is Gateway out of line?  I realize that they must have thousands of happy customers but we sure aren't!  I'll update this page as I learn more.  Till then I CANNOT recommend Gateway to anyone!


Here's the first update... Last night I sent an email to the PuterGeek News subscribers with a copy to Larry Hood at Gateway(high up tech guy).  Today at 12:00 noon my time I received a phone call from Larry Hood.   It was a very nice call, and he assured me that someone would be contacting me either today from the "Executive Response Team".

12:20pm same day

Deborah Myers from the "Executive Response Team" called and said they would resolve this issue today!  Someone from her team would contact me later today.

12:50pm same day

Raj from the ERT (1-800-846-2000 ext. 41764) called me.  He said they want to send us a new system today.  He was very concerned and wanted to let me know that the buck stops with him.  He is to be our contact person for now on.  He said he would get back to me today by 3pm with all the details.

10/02/1999 -- Resolution

After about 7 phone calls, it was determined that we would be upgraded at no cost from a mid-level system to Gateway's current most powerful and feature-rich system.  After a 5-hour wait at the Gateway Country Store in Canton, Ohio, we took the system home Thursday 09/30/99.  The system appears to be working very well, it is using (IMHO) top-of-the-line components, and it's very fast.  If you could look at this system without all the above baggage, I would rate it a 9 out of 10.  It does not use any proprietary hardware, nor does it use any components that I feel could be upgraded any further.

It is a shame that we had to go through so much hassle, time and frustration (I clocked 37 hours of my personal time) to resolve this situation.  Now, you can tell of course that we made out like bandits here, and yes my wife is very happy, but I personally would rather have simply had these problems dealt with smoothly and efficiently, without all the grief. Life is just too damn short!

In closing, we must all remember that Gateway is one of the top three computer manufacturers, and if that's the case, what happened to us is probably the exception, not the rule.  Even though I just wrote that, I still would probably have a hard time recommending Gateway in the future, simply because of my personal experience.  If I have another Gateway experience in the future, I will be sure to add information about it to this page.

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Last Revised: 12/25/2000
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