Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Jacked by the HP Power Jack Problem

I am, of course, old enough to be nostalgic for the good old days when things lasted. Sure, they'd break, but that's when you had them repaired - because you weren't going to just toss away something that still had some life in it - especially given that the the cost of repairing something was so much less than the cost of replacing it.

Most of the time these days, there's nothing you can do with broken stuff except replace it (and get indignant),

So you might think I'd be pleasantly surprised to find out that for only $298 I can ship my laptop to HP and, within 7-9 days, get it repaired.

I'm not.

I'm annoyed - annoyed that problem I'm having appears to be a fairly widespread one that points to a poorly manufactured component.

Here's my story:

A few months ago, I began to notice that the power jack on my HP Pavilion ze2000 was really heating up - too hot to touch - and that the power supply was flipping back and forth between AC and battery. Not to mention that the battery was draining like a bathtub that had just been Drano'd.

Since I have two power adapters, and two batteries, I tried all possible combinations.

No go.

The problem persisted.

Oh, if I wiggled and jiggled things, or, as I'm now doing, propped the connector up with my wallet, I can get it to stay on AC for a while at a time, but it still heats up. Burna, burna, as my mother used to say when a kid got near the stove.

I'm also seeing - or perceiving - performance degradations.

Time to shop around, of course.

But I thought I'd check out what HP had to say on their support site, which was mostly nothing more than I'd already done (take things out, put things in, turn things off, swap things out); and something that I wasn't going to do because it sounded like too much hassle, not to mention nonsense: reload the OS. (Say what?)

I asked a techie friend what he thought about the problem and he told me that info on the hotta, hotta HP laptop jacks had been burning up the blogosphere for a couple of years, and that there were class action suits about the problem.

Well, Eric was right. There is plenty of noise out there about the jack problem. And HP has certainly not acknowledged that there is one.

So I thought I'd give their live, on-line help a shout, and got to "talk" to "Kinsey" who, after a pleasantry or two, asked me to proceed with my "enquiry."

Which I did:

Here's a snippet of our exchange:

Maureen Rogers: I am experiencing power jack problems - the power is not stable, flickering back and forth between battery and AC.

Maureen Rogers: It's not the adapter - I have two. Nor the battery -ditto.

Kinsey: I regret for the inconvenience cause to you by this, need not to worry I will help you in this regard.

Maureen Rogers: I understand from the web that this is a persistent HP laptop problem. Are you doing anything about it - I couldn't see anything other than generic instructions on your support site.

Kinsey: Maureen, the issue will be caused by the usage of the Notebook.

Usage of the Notebook.

I really liked hearing that.

I then found out about the $298, and that HP would send me the packaging materials FedEx, and I'd get the laptop fixed and back in 7 to 9 days.

But I don't want to spend $298 that I could put towards a newer laptop - with more processing power (although also with Vista - ugh) - fixing something that really strikes me as not all that likely to be related to my personal usage. And even if it were my usage, do I really want to go without my laptop for nearly two weeks? (Even though I do have my trusty old Dell that's really only got one problem: the PCMIA slot got busted when I dropped the laptop with the card in it, so I can't use wireless - only ethernet - to connect.)

I pointed out to my friend Kinsey that I have used laptops for years - HP, Dell, Toshiba - and that I have never had a problem with burned out connectors until just now. I suggested that there might be a quality problem.

To which my friend Kinsey replied:

Kinsey: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

And then - was it something I texted? was it a power flicker that ended our connection? - Kinsey was gone.

Which was fine.

He/she's not setting HP policy here, but it seems to me that one or two things is true.

Either HP is wrong, and they do have a poorly designed or manufactured component, which they should fix for free. Or give us coupons for purchasing a new laptop.

Or HP is right, and this is just a usage problem.And as for the untold thousands out there with flaming jacks, well, it's because we just wore them out, or don't connect things properly to begin with, or whatever. And, well, we ought to just shut up, rather than blathering all over the blogosphere and riling people up. But with all the talk out there, you'd think HP could at least put something on their support site about "rumors" about the HP laptop jack problem, and how their investigation has proven that they are not at fault, or whatever way they want to spin it. (If it's there, I sure didn't find it.)

Absent this, HP will not be on my list for this weekend's new laptop purchase.

Any suggestions? (And no, I'm not yet psychologically prepared to get a Mac.)

8 comments:

John Whiteside said...

Silly Maureen, USING the laptop! No wonder you've got problems.

Consider this before dismissing a Mac: you can easily get a copy of XP with your Mac, and install it using Boot Camp and have a dual-boot machine that runs XP (or Vista, of course) just like another brand would, and in some speed tests is faster than many of the other brands. Or you can use Parallels of Fusion to run it as a virtual machine (which is what I do, and it works rather nicely, though performance isn't as good as installing it under Boot Camp. Best of both worlds.

(I can demo it for you next week!)

Mary said...

Maureen,

Re Changing to the Mac: Really, it only hurts for minute and than you're happy. ;-)

Seriously, yes you can easily run parallel environments. So, c'mon over to Apple land!

Philip said...

My Pavilion is only 4 months old withthe power jack problem. The laptop cost over $3,000 with high end spec.

If people are interested, I am going to start some action over this. I need my laptop day to day for my business. I can't be without it for a week to 10 days. HP should supply a replacement unit that I can swap the (two) hard drives into and keep working. And there will have to be a design fix or a general recall as the heating and arcing danger makes it a matter for a regulator too.

tresho said...

I'm retired but use my laptops every day all day as part of retired life. Note I said laptops. If my livelihood depended on my laptop, I would be sure to have a 2nd one ready to go at a moment's notice. Laptops are just more prone to failure than other types of computers. I destroyed the hard disk drive of my first Windows laptop by simply dropping a ball point pen onto the palm rest of the keyboard while I was standing next to it.
If your other laptop has a USB slot, you could get a USB WiFi adaptor for it, they work as well as the PCMCIA ones.
If your HP is no longer under warranty you might consider having a local repair shop fix just the power jack, which is by far the most likely cause of the overheating you mentioned. I did a Google search using the terms "laptop power jack Boston" and got a lot of hits, tho I don't know how reliable they are.
After my most recent Toshiba developed its 3rd power jack problem in 16 months, a month after its 2nd extended warranty expired, I took it on myself to fix it using skills I picked up as a ham radio operator. The results look terrible, I am surprised my machine survivied, but it works. In the process its storage battery gave up the ghost. The laptop now only works while plugged in. Rather than throw good money after bad, I retired my Toshiba to my ham radio room.
Ten days ago I bought a Lenovo 3000 N200 laptop with WinXP for about $630 after rebates (I hope). The same deal is available in the Boston area. Most Lenovos and Mac laptops have power jacks designed for durability, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill engineering found on most all other laptop brands.
I have a page on the web concerning the laptop power jack problems at http://tinyurl.com/2f4bfk
There I have some comments on laptop power jack engineering & links to many repair shops I've come across. Good luck.

Maureen Rogers said...

Thanks to all commenters, especially tresho for his lengthy bit of advice.

With respect to getting a USB-wifi for my old Dell, I've been told it's too old for the USB port to support this, but I do need to check it out.

I went ahead and bought a Viao running Vista - new set of headaches there. Lots of random blue screen of deaths, plus freeze ups and one popping black out. I've had it less than a week. The only reason I haven't returned it is that I've been away on business. Tonight it goes back!

Sam said...

Maureen

I just bought a HP Pavilion laptop yesterday. Seems decent - but I am having the same hot power cord problem as you. Did HP have any suggestions? Or am I better off returning the laptop ?

Best regards

Sam

Maureen Rogers said...

As far as I can tell, HP continues to attribute the problem to "usage". Some power cord heat is normal, but if it seems overheated on Day 2, I'd probably return it, as this will not get any better. Definitely return it if you're having any problem keeping on AC power, i.e., if the laptop wobbles back and forth between power and battery, if you have to continually play around with the adaptor to keep it on, etc.

(Meanwhile, if you're the Sam I know and love - hope you're well and that we see you soon.)

C2W said...

Something I found that takes the strain off the plug even if you tug or yank it. . . It's got a funky/suggestive/weird name but it works. Called the Jerkstopper. I've couldn't it in my local computer stores only at www.jerkstopper.com. Maybe one of these days Fry's will carry it. Anyway it works, I've got them on my Fujitsu laptop and my wife's MAC.