Hilarious but horrifying tale of a misconfigured Dell workstation and dismal customer support

I’ve never fully understood why(the actual hardware the controllers have is nontrivial; and their firmware isn’t huge); but SAS controllers and some NICs with more exotic options enabled take ages to boot; and some BMCs are none too snappy despite being 500MHz-1GHz class ARM SoCs running fairly modest firmware(though you only see the boot time when rebooting or starting from full off, since they run in the background on powered-off).

At least in my experience it is the norm rather than the exception for the OS to come up quite snapping indeed(thanks ample CPU and memory and fast storage…); but the pre-OS boot to take minutes, sometimes double digit minutes, to finish.


Apparently it was a “Precision 5820 Tower”, and looking at the motherboard it’s basically a server repurposed as a desktop, which is exactly what a high performance workstation is supposed to be.

Really, this is on the guy buying not paying enough attention when he ordered it. If you’re going to drop thousands on something like this, you should either know what you’re ordering, or find someone to help you. It’s not a consumer laptop, it’s a tool for a specific business need.


It looks like he needs an adapter because the Precision 5820 supports a whole bunch of different storage configurations for the front bays(various 3.5 and 2.5 in HDD options; m.2, u.2, SAS or NVMe) which require different backplanes and suitably configured sheet metal.

Obviously more Dell-proprietary than 3.5in bays or stuff that bodges into 5.25in ones; but Dell’s prices didn’t look particularly out of the ordinary for small storage backplanes; and, even with generics, converting 4 drive bays that were SATA or SAS to NVMe can add up. OCUlink cabling just plain costs more than SAS/SATA; and if the motherboard’s PCIe link allocation means that a PCIe switch is required you aren’t getting away with just cheap drive bay adapters anymore.

Sucks to have to change when, at order time, the price difference was probably a pittance; but doesn’t seem to be an area of massive vendor gouging.


Mind slipping the name of this company so I can blacklist them from ours? EVERY storage vendor I’ve worked with during my tenure at [RedactedCo] only cares if the unit is in warranty or has a valid support contract, and with one exception*, they already know what drive has failed because auto-support is configured on the array.

(* QNAP, but only because we assembled the arrays ourselves, so it’s on me to replace failed drives, which has happened once due to the bathtub curve. And even then, the drive manufacturer was all “send us the serial number and give us a credit card, we’ll advance ship you a new one with a return slip for the bad one” for it.)



Roomie wanted a new desktop because old one is super old. Poke at me because I work in IT and have most of a clue. First thing out of my mouth was “what are you wanting to do with it?” i.e., requirements gathering.

Since I’d rather not deal with the support side of it (that, and I got out of front line support ten years ago) I bought a dell that matched up with the requirements (Office tasks, multi-screen, low end gaming (Diablo III, maybe WoW) and they’ve been happy with it. unboxed it and set it up all by themselves, even.


The product in question was under a “next day replacement” warranty, and at the time was typically chewing through two to three hard disks a month due to heavy usage, they’d send us the disk, I’d swap it, stick the dead disk in the shipping box, and send it back to them.

I’m not sure I should mention the name of the company the product was from, the resulting blow-up when I went to our sales rep and the head of the company’s operations for Ontario about it was:

  1. the support rep themself no longer had a job,
  2. the support contracting company (ie: the vendor was sub-contracting first level tech support to another company) was put on probation and forced to review their policies, and
  3. now (6 years later) is no longer even used by that vendor.

Also, the company was not primarily a storage vendor, but more an HPC computing vendor, and the storage was a smaller part of their business at the time.

The real lesson is that if you’re a low level support rep, picking a random customer to assert your dominance over is a bad idea, you never know when they’re two days away from a meeting with your boss’s boss’s boss regarding a major hardware purchase.


I swear this is a years-long issue. With the MacBook pros of roughly 2012-2015 (I think) I used to get a sharp pain in the skin of my wrists when resting them on the chassis. I never thought to try to measure it, but I’m pretty sure I was grounding those machines.

A shame, since I generally think Apple’s laptops are the best built in the industry (aside from their dismal repairability if course…)


“Built by us. perfected by you someone who knows what they’re doing”


I think I know who that is. We used their arrays as fibre channel storage with our HP blade chassis installations for our VMWare environment for a while back in the day.

Yeah, that’s pretty much been my experience too. Especially RAID controllers, those things seem to just churn for ever.

While I can kind of understand the predicament of naively thinking that any old drive type might be a valid start disk target and getting sideswiped by weird gotchas, like the “nope sory nVME isn’t gonna let you boot from it because it’s hanging off the PCI bus” thing. The most perplexing part of the thread is the assertion that the machine has no way to connect to the internet. Because there is no configuration of the Dell Precision 5820 that lacks an RJ45 receptacle on the motherboard - one of the basic existential premises of that hardware platform is that it exists in an environment where CAT5 is ubiquitous, and in a performance prioritizing install (like this case seemed to be) - it is precisely what one would want to use, lest ones render beast be unduly preoccupied pushing those multimedia assets cloudward through the paltry 802.11 pipes.




I haven’t worked in IT for quite some time sadly, but the difference between home and enterprise support has been like night and day in my experience.

Home support can be absolutely infuriating sometimes, where they force you to go through a long and extensive diagnostic checklist to work out the problem, despite you telling them exactly what the problem is and what troubleshooting you’ve done. Such as one time where it took around 20mins to diagnose a Virgin cable TV box with an obvious dead HDD emitting horrible noise.

As a contrast

One notable tech support call to Dell enterprise support:
[quick intial verification of company, PC type and serial and so on]
support - “what is the problem?”
me - “it’s the hard drive” [i hold the microphone next to the HDD that is emiting a number of horrific HDD head-crash death noises]
support - “i’ll get a replacement drive sent out”

Quickest support call ever :smiley:

When i brought myself a laptop a few years back i made sure to spend a little extra to get a business Thinkpad. Have had to use support twice, both times i didn’t even need to call them, a simple email description of the issue and what i’ve tried and they set it up for a depot repair straight away with zero fuss.


If you don’t know anything about cars, but go to a dealership and say “I want to spend a lot of money on a new car”, what do you think would happen in that situation?

He should have gone with a f’n Kia instead.

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Honestly, this guy seems like exactly the sort of user who not only uses “the wifi” and “the internet” interchangeably; but does not possess any significant conceptual separation between the two. Those are, unfortunately, more common than I would have believed if I didn’t run into them fairly frequently. What’s always a real joy is dealing with them in situations where there’s a captive portal page of some sort involved and the difference between having a functioning link to the AP and being properly routed to the internet suddenly gets really important.

At least he did figure out that his problem was not having a wifi NIC; which puts him above the (also more common than I would have expected) grade of users who think that “having wifi” means that devices just sort of automagically connect to the internet and act deeply confused when a computer that they haven’t even asked to connect to their network fails to have network access for some reason.


Ah, Tech Support!

The job that made me realize why I dislike Salesdroids, & and that it is best that I never work Retail…

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Those are, unfortunately, more common than I would have believed

You don’t tell me…

I have a very smart colleague, they have a number of patents and are well regarded in the international communications standards community.

Some time ago (when having lunch together was still a thing), they were complaining that since they installed WiFi at home internet was not working at all.
After some questioning we discovered they had disconnected all cables from the router the moment they got WiFi working…


Many times this. When [RedactedCo] was still a Dell shop, we were able to just order parts directly from them for warranty service through a program of theirs. Granted we either paid for said program, or our purchase volume was high enough that it was a thrown in as a perk, but still…


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