His Dell laptop stopped working after a BIOS update. Does he deserve a refund?

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By Christopher Elliott

After Jonathan Sinnwell updates the hardware drivers on his new Dell laptop, the device stops working. Dell can’t fix the problem. Does he deserve a full refund?

Question

I ordered a Dell laptop recently. About a month after it was delivered, I began receiving notifications from the Dell support tools preinstalled on the computer that a critical BIOS update was required. 

I ignored the continual pop-ups reminding me to install the update for about four weeks. Eventually, about two months after I received the laptop, I installed the BIOS update. Immediately after applying the update and rebooting the computer, the computer stopped outputting video on the USB-C port to the monitors connected to my Dell dock. 

Conservatively, I’ve spent 15 hours of my personal time dealing with this support case, including more than three hours of the tech on-site working with me. This does not include the time it took me to install all applications and configure the laptop for my purposes. 

Replacing the motherboard did not resolve the issue because the new board contained the same version of BIOS. I’ve had a support case open with Dell for months. 

The laptop has not been usable for my purposes. I hope that by reaching out to you, I can find a contact who can take ownership of this case to help find a resolution, I’ve been bounced from support engineer to support engineer with promises of return calls with no follow-up. 

I’d be happy with my current laptop functioning as expected. Short of that, a return with either a store credit or refund would be acceptable. The latter solutions do not account for my time or frustrations dealing with this support experience. — Jonathan Sinnwell, Golden, Colo.

Answer

Dell should have fixed this laptop for you quickly or refunded your purchase.

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A quick sidebar: We use mostly Apple computers in the Elliott household. But my son, who just finished his applied computing degree at the University of Arizona, needed a Windows computer for his classes last year. He also had a BIOS issue. (By the way, BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System, which is firmware that helps your computer’s components run.) 

My son’s laptop kept running slow, and his graphics card didn’t work correctly.  After several agonizing weeks, he informed me that he’d found a fix: He erased the operating system and installed Linux, an open-source OS. The computer works like a charm now.

I’m telling you about our BIOS battle because, ultimately, your fix may have been exiting the Windows ecosystem. But hey, I’m a consumer advocate, not a computer expert. (Related: My Dell laptop broke after an update. Can I get a refund?)

It looks like you have a long paper trail between you and Dell. You did a great job of keeping records, which is helpful when you’re trying to prove that you went through all the right channels to get something fixed. It looks like you ultimately tried to contact someone at a higher level at Dell (I list the names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.) That didn’t work, unfortunately. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

Sometimes, cases like yours get stuck in a seemingly endless loop. Even with an excellent paper trail and a strong case, you still can’t get out — and you need a little help.

I contacted Dell on your behalf. The company asked you to return your laptop and issued a full refund.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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