Sunday, August 10, 2008

Orange Light Troubleshooting

for Dell.

And for those who have the problem I did. Maybe I can save you $50.

My Dell (Dimension Desktop E510) began having issues some time ago. When we (rarely) restarted it, it would not want to start up again. The first time, we clicked the button a few times, pulled it forward and peered into the tangled mess in back. I noticed an orange blinking light in the neighborhood of the DSL cable. I removed the cable, and clicked the button. It started right up.

It happened again and again, and each time the 'fix' was a bit different. Once it was the USB cable from my Kodak EasyShare dock. Always there was an amber / orange blink behind the start button when it would fail. Eventually I was removing handfuls of cables each time, and each time it would eventually start back up.

When we returned from camping, it was after I removed the larger monitor cable.

I called Dell earlier this week and requested backup/restore disks so I could wipe the whole hard drive and start anew. They arrived quickly, and Friday night I began the process of 'backing up' my photos and documents and such. Saturday morning, the process was completed, but the computer was 'tangled up again and I had no toolbar at the bottom, and other than frozen screen-saver, the only working window was the 'finished!' one for the backup. I couldn't shut the computer down onscreen, so I reached down and held in the main button for several seconds.

And that was all she wrote.

Of course, I will continue to write:

Naturally, it did not restart, so I removed everything, including the monitor cable. No luck. Just an orange blink behind the button when I pressed it.

I called Dell, and they told me that the orange blink was code for a power supply issue. And that since my one-year warranty had expired last year, I could take advantage of the $49 fee-based tech support. I would not have to open the computer (not that I was afraid to), and they were confident the problem could be rectified. They did NOT think I would need to purchase any parts for this problem.

I told them I'd call back after consulting my husband.

I did so, and browsed the yellow pages for computer repair, and did a few more troubleshots myself. I recalled once having to unplug it from the wall and then holding in the button to 'drain' residual power from the unit. I thought certainly this would work.

It did not.

I tried about fifty gazillion configurations of cables and plug- and un-plugs and holding the button in for varying seconds and minutes.

Each time I was rewarded with an orange blink on attempted restart.

I got out my debit card and called Dell again. Once I was finally transferred to the correct department and someone with a workable version of English, the fun began.

I began by explaining what I had already done: removed all external cables, drained the power, etc.

She began by having me plug the unit into a different wall socket.

Of course, nothing.

Then she instructed me carefully: "Shut down the computer completely, please."

Me: "Uh.... I think it already is.." Isn't that why we're here?

"Of course. Remove all external cables please."

Me: "Um... I did that already." This is what $49 gets me?

"The blinking orange light indicates a problem with getting power to the components."

Me: "Right." The other lady already told me that for free.

"Remove the power cable and hold the button in for 5 to 10 seconds."

Me: "Okay..." I already explained to you that I did this, remember?

"Please look at the back of the unit near the power cable.. What color is the light there?"

Me (looking): "There is no light there." I thought we went over the model details so you could find the right schematics...

"Ah, okay. No light. Please turn the power off completely."

Me: "..."

"Remove the side of the unit so you can access the interior."

Me: "Okay.." Isn't this what we weren't going to have to do?

"Remove all cables from your CD/DVD drives and hard drives."

Me (wracking my brain for any evidence that I've ever seen or recognized a hard drive before, and coming up empty): "Where exactly is the hard drive?"

"I will tell you exactly." (brief pause) "Remove the plugs from the hard drive."

Me (seeing something vaguely familiar, and wondering about it): Is it long, and rectangular? What does it look like?" Huh? That doesn't "tell me exactly."

"Ah, I will tell you. There are two cables, one from the power, one from the motherboard. Please remove both."

Me (taking a good long while to figure this out, but finally finding something with 2 cables from the appropriate places): "Okay.." Thanks for being so clear.
"Replace the side cover, plug the unit into the wall, and try to start it."
Me (replacing, plugging, and attempting): "I get an orange blink."
"Unplug the unit, press and hold the button for 5 to 10 seconds, and remove the side cover..."
Me: "Okie dokie."
"Remove expansion cards."
Me (eventually after much clarification): "Okay." This is fun.
"Replace the side cover, plug the unit into the wall, and try to start it."

Me (replacing, plugging, and attempting): "I get an orange blink."

"Unplug the unit, press and hold the button for 5 to 10 seconds, and remove the side cover..."

Me: "Okie dokie."
"Remove the memory cards."
Me (realizing these were what looked familiar - and secure now that they are NOT hard drives): "Yep." What should I be doing with all these pieces?
"Replace the side cover, plug the unit into the wall, and try to start it."
Me (replacing, plugging, and attempting): "I get an orange blink."
"Unplug the unit, press and hold the button for 5 to 10 seconds, and remove the side cover..."
Me: "Okie dokie."
"Reset the motherboard power."
Me (eventually deducing that this is code for 'unplug and replug the motherboard power cable'): "Okay." The kids are getting unruly. I think I might need to reset my own "motherboard power". Can you walk me through that?
You know the drill.
"Unplug the fan from the motherboard."
Me: "Alright."
Wash, rinse, repeat.
"I have deduced that you need a new motherboard and power supply."
I think you're right. I HAVE been tired lately, and discipline is in great demand this week.
She went on to console me regarding the "much money" I spent on her assistance and recommended I purchase the components myself and replace them, to save on additional expenses.
Me: "Can you tell me the price of these things?"
She tried, really, but she couldn't. She said she'd transfer me to sales, which she did NOT - I ended up with a mush-mouthed very-American kid (probably in the mail room) before finding sales. Sales did not impress me much: Refurbished parts, with paltry 90-day warranties would be anywhere from $180 to $250 total, plus taxes, shipping, etc.
I thanked him for the information, hung up, and decided immediately that I could find something better online.
Oh. Online.
I ended up paying $350 (semi-) locally for a new tower with twice the memory and hard drive space as the Dell, a much better processor, a year warranty, and 60 days of free antivirals. The difference is worth it, if I can get more than 2 years of life out of it, and I'm praying we can get much more.
If this $50 story saves your system (providing one of the above steps actually works for you), feel free to send me a few bucks for my Dell-to-English translation services. You're welcome.


Jenny said...

Do you think it had anything to do with the 666 unread email messages and the 6 programs running???? Sounds kinda suspicious to me....

EllaJac said...


Hahaha! You're right! The techno-demons have me targeted.

Is Windows Vista a good exorcism operating system?

annie said...

Hilarious! I love the dialogue. That is an almost exact replay of what transpires between me and any tech support.

I'm surprised you've had so much trouble with your Dell. I have a Dell laptop that I've had for nearly three years and have absolutely no problems with it, other than it's running a bit slower than usual due to the insane amount of photos I have saved to the hard drive. I really should look into getting more memory, etc. Prior to this laptop I had a Dell desktop that lasted me more than four years. In fact, it's still running in tip-top shape in my dad's office. He's the CIO of his business and only recommends Dell. Computers are his job, so I trust his opinion, which is why I'm surprised at your experience.

Yikes. But, I'm glad you were able to find a good replacement and are back up and running! I have you on my Google Reader and keep forgetting to come here and leave actual comments, though I write many in my head. :)

I've heard bad, bad things about Vista. I wouldn't use it, if I were you. Well, I'd research it because I'm only 90% sure it's Vista I'm remembering.

EllaJac said...


Yeah, I don't know about the Dell. Had I thought things through a little better, I'd have made a call.. I know someone who works at a Dell call center, and I don't think she'd have charged me $50. Plus, she speaks english. Ah, well.

I've heard some negative things about Vista too, but I THINK it was mostly the 'new system' transition complaints. That and maybe hackers/viruses targeting it. I have 60 days of free Norton; so far so good...? I'm highly annoyed that my Photoshop Elements 4.0 isn't compatible. Now I'm stuck with a firework display in my header! Or nothign at all..