Dell Inspiron 14R (N4010) BSOD on factory image restore

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Dell Inspiron 14R (N4010) BSOD on factory image restore

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I received this machine, service tag [ADMIN NOTE: Service Tag removed per privacy policy], from a customer who was infected with multiple trojans and at least one rootkit. Rather than pull my hair out trying to clean the system since the user had all significant personal data on external media, she chose to have me simply reinstall using the Dell DataSafe Local Factory Image. This process appears to complete successfully, but upon the reboot, it BSODs with a STOP 0x0000007b. Since this is generally related to ATA/AHCI settings in BIOS and/or drivers related to same, I set it to ATA mode and tried again. BSOD. Tested ram, passed. Tested HDD, passed. Used bootrec.exe to /fixmbr and /fixboot. Reboot, BSOD. Set back to AHCI mode. Reboot, BSOD. Used bootrec.exe again, /scanos finds no installed OS and /rebuildbcd also finds no installed OS. Looked at C: while booted to command prompt, appears to be a complete Win7 install. Booted a Linux live environment. Tested all hardware again. No errors found. Searched BIOS for any boot sector virus protection or other such setting that might be interfering with OS install. No such setting appears to exist. I'm just about out of ideas. The only one I have left is to reinstall with Win7 retail media and her Dell key. I really don't want to have to do that, since Dell's system image already has all her drivers and support software already and should "just work".

The customer says she bought all Dell products during her last upgrades in December 2010, but after talking to phone support regarding a previous issue she says she'll never call Dell again. She brought it to me hoping I can square it. She said that if I can't, she's going to go with HP for her planned hardware upgrades next month, even though she really liked the Dell hardware, just not the Phone Support.

Tom

Verified Answer
  • So, your view of Dell, the company, will be based now on how prompt the replies are of the volunteer forum users ... other users/customers like you?  Just FYI ... this forum is NOT an official avenue of support for Dell; while there are some random Dell employees and some regulars acting as the role of moderator, this is largely a user-to-user forum.  For an official and timely response FROM DELL, you will need to contact Support directly, via phone or chat.

    Obtaining replacement media is not so bad as you think.  Dell is not alone in not shipping installation media ... nearly all OEM's have stopped shipping media.  I hate it as much as the next guy, but that is today's reality.  However, Dell makes it much easier than most OEM's to obtain this media.

    You can request media here, free of charge:

    support.dell.com/.../backupcd_form

    Alternatively, you can install with Retail media, then activate by phone using the license key on the computer:

    www.mydigitallife.info/download-windows-7-iso-official-32-bit-and-64-bit-direct-download-links

    As for the Recovery Partition ... it may not be working for many reasons, including disk or file corruption, changes to the boot files (dual-boot, repair, cloning to new disk), etc.  When this option works, it is great - fast, don't have to mess with drivers, software, etc. - but unfortunately, it is as prone to error as any other computer software.  I've never seen your particular issue and don't imagine you have many options remaining to fix it.

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  • OK. I admit that 4 1/2 hours isn't a long time to wait for a forum post, but the customer needs her computer back before freezes over. I've now spent most of the last 12 hours doing NOTHING but reading Google search results hoping to find any other potential solution to get the restore to work. I really don't want to do this, blowing out the recovery partition, because then the customer will be unable to restore her computer without support since Dell no longer supplies recovery media. She will have to either hire me again or deal with Dell for recovery media next time. This is NOT an optimal solution. In fact, I find it so sub-optimal that I can't conceive of how Dell thinks this is good for customer loyalty.

    15 more minutes waiting, hoping for any potential alternative to be posted, before I go ahead and throw the nuclear option at this machine. The moment I do that, Dell drops from a company I have nothing bad to say about to a company I will recommend all of my customers avoid.

    Tom

  • So, your view of Dell, the company, will be based now on how prompt the replies are of the volunteer forum users ... other users/customers like you?  Just FYI ... this forum is NOT an official avenue of support for Dell; while there are some random Dell employees and some regulars acting as the role of moderator, this is largely a user-to-user forum.  For an official and timely response FROM DELL, you will need to contact Support directly, via phone or chat.

    Obtaining replacement media is not so bad as you think.  Dell is not alone in not shipping installation media ... nearly all OEM's have stopped shipping media.  I hate it as much as the next guy, but that is today's reality.  However, Dell makes it much easier than most OEM's to obtain this media.

    You can request media here, free of charge:

    support.dell.com/.../backupcd_form

    Alternatively, you can install with Retail media, then activate by phone using the license key on the computer:

    www.mydigitallife.info/download-windows-7-iso-official-32-bit-and-64-bit-direct-download-links

    As for the Recovery Partition ... it may not be working for many reasons, including disk or file corruption, changes to the boot files (dual-boot, repair, cloning to new disk), etc.  When this option works, it is great - fast, don't have to mess with drivers, software, etc. - but unfortunately, it is as prone to error as any other computer software.  I've never seen your particular issue and don't imagine you have many options remaining to fix it.

  • Thanks for your reply, theflash1932. I can't say it was of any use, but I really do thank you for it anyway.

    Though I wasn't really clear on that last post, my feelings of Dell are founded on my personal calls to tech support in my line of work and the thousands of various Dell machines I've had to work on over the years. I haven't been bad-mouthing them to customers yet because basically all of the other big name companies have Customer Support operations every bit as poor. I myself build all my own machines from parts. When I sell one to a customer, it's a total custom job, and they get 2 separate forms of Recovery Media: A Retail Windows package, and a Linux DVD I make myself that will re-image the HDD with the image I set up for them. And I do it all for roughly the same price as Dell, as do many other small companies. I'm here (though I didn't mention it before because I was trying to be reasonably respectful), because I was told by Dell phone support RE this machine that since I'm a sub-contract computer repair person and not the official owner they will not talk to me at all. And since the computer is out of warranty and doesn't have some extended service plan, I'm locked out of support chat. This wasn't the first time they've taken any reason to just get me out of their hair so that they didn't have to deal with some issue. It's not like I try to call Dell for stupid problems easily solved with 2 minutes of Google searching, and it's always been IMPOSSIBLE to get my support calls transferred to a tech who knows more than how to read a script.

    As far as ordering recovery media, I admit I've avoided even trying that for Dells for years now. Last time I tried to do that, it took more than a month from first contact with Dell until the media finally arrived. And it was SCRATCHED and UNUSABLE! It took almost another month for the replacement replacement to arrive! Maybe they have improved. But I haven't seen anything that makes me think it's true. I've already started the install with Retail DVD. Assuming no insoluble issues come up during the install, I'll be creating the Linux based recovery media I normally reserve for my custom machines, and that should be more reliable than the Dell recovery partitions anyway.

    "I don't judge you based on your English skills or your country of origin. I judge you based on your knowledge of the product you sell or service, and your ability to listen and work beyond the script."

    Tom

  • "I can't say it was of any use"

    Although I didn't have a solution [directly related] to your particular problem, I only posted to help you understand what to expect from your posting here, which seemed to be addressing Dell in an ultimatum fashion.  Just wanted to help you adjust your expectations of hearing a direct and prompt response from Dell.

    "Maybe they have improved. But I haven't seen anything that makes me think it's true."

    Consider the form I linked to as something to help you believe.  That page has not always existed.  Also, if you are talking "years" since you tried to obtain media, Vista and 7 is MUCH more streamlined that media procurement for XP ever was.  Several report overnight and second-day delivery of the installation media, and Ed Bott sets Dell as being the easiest of the main OEM's to work with on this front.

    Good luck.

  • I had quite a post written out but, silly me, I decided to mark the post with the links to the media submission form as the "answer" before submitting the post I'd written. Obviously, It's all gone now and I don't feel like recreating it all. So here's the bullet points:

    1) Install with Retail DVD went exactly as expected

    2) Customer still wants original Dell software package (I'm not sure why personally, I prefer machines w/o the bloatware)

    3) Since the submission form makes clear that they again don't want to deal with me, an independent tech hired by the owner, and only with the owner herself, I pointed her at the form and she plans to order the media and have me reinstall when it arrives.

    4) I'll repost here her experience ordering media. At stake: "I told you so" rights for theflash1932. If it arrives relatively quickly, he'll have earned them.

    5) Maybe I'll get lucky from all of this and being forced to deal with Dell again will convince her that she wants to buy whitebox laptops from me instead of Dell laptops when the upgrades are ordered....

    Tom

  • 1. This is a well-documented work-around for OEM's reluctance to ship installation media. No surprises there.

    2. The ONLY difference between a Dell installation disk and a Retail disk is the OEM branding (Dell in System Properties and custom wallpaper/user icon) ... it includes NONE of the Dell drivers or "bloatware" ... only the Factory Restore/Recovery Partition can "reinstall" with all drivers and "bloatware" intact.  Other than the branding, it is a "clean" installation disk.  Unless she wants that little Dell badge next to Windows, there is NO reason to reinstall with the Dell DVD, although she may wish to keep one around for good measure.  One other small difference with using a Dell DVD is that it will probably not ask for the Product Key, as they typically are already activated when installed on the proper system.

    3. The form may ask for personal or account information that you do not have and/or cannot access .., it is easier for the owner to request this.

    4. I'm not in it for the "I told you so" ... FYI only and hope it helps you/her out.

    5. Smaller system builders have their place, but so do larger OEM's ... only she can decide which works best for her.

    Take care :)