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Folo up: HP admits to problems with Pavilion notebooks and tries to help. But is it enough?

Earlier this week, I published my 11th video Tech Shakedown. This one was a critique of HP; not just the failures that buyers of its HP 6000 and 9000 series Pavilion notebook computers are experiencing with their built-in WiFi components, but also for the company's failure to make an appearance in an online forum on its own Web site where its customers are expressing extreme displeasure with HP's handling of the issue.

Earlier this week, I published my 11th video Tech Shakedown. This one was a critique of HP; not just the failures that buyers of its HP 6000 and 9000 series Pavilion notebook computers are experiencing with their built-in WiFi components, but also for the company's failure to make an appearance in an online forum on its own Web site where its customers are expressing extreme displeasure with HP's handling of the issue.

In response to that Shakedown, an HP spokesperson said that HP was "working on a resolution" and would be posting "further guidance directly on the user forum."

That same day, as can be seen from the forum in question, someone named Anna who claims to be with HP, began posting entries under the forum ID "HP Total Care." Clicking through to the actual ID-level page for Anna's ID reveals that the ID was created on Oct 22 which by itself seems rather unfortunate. After all, shouldn't HP have pre-established IDs so that its techs can proactively go into the forums on its own Web site and help customers out? As I reported earlier this week and as evidenced by the thread, the customers who take the time to log in to HP's Web site in search of help have ended up relying on each other instead of seeing some presence from HP's tech support. If you read the thread top to bottom, you can really feel the pain of these Pavilion owners.

Even worse however is that Anna responded with the same initial answer that has, for the most part, proven not to be a solution for the people experiencing problems. Wrote HP's Anna:

Hi, it's Anna from HP Total Care,

I'€™m sorry some of you are having trouble with your wireless WLAN not detecting your wireless network and not displaying in your device manager. The issue appears to be affecting AMD based Dv6000, v6000 and Dv9000 notebooks running Microsoft Windows Vista. We'€™ve got a BIOS update and some instructions on getting this resolved. If the BIOS update does not resolve the issue, please contact HP support and we will help facilitate a repair.

Please do not try replacing your wireless card or inserting a third party wireless modules as some have suggested here on this forum. This will not resolve the issue and is in violation of FCC regulations.

So, the company is admitting there's a problem with certain HP 6000 and 9000 series Pavilion notebooks. But, yikes! The forum also shows several users trying out their own fixes through a variety of solutions including external USB-based WiFi adapters. But, Anna says that trying to fix a notebook on your own with a third party module could violate FCC regulations? Is HP for real?

Additionally, there's the question as whether HP really researched the thread or not. Also, is someone back at HP's headquarters connecting the dots? For example, with so many complaints on its own Web site and so many of those complaints finally ending up with replaced computers (where BIOS updates simply didn't work) or motherboards, is the entire issue slipping through the cracks at HP? Perhaps so give the words of HP's own customers. On October 23rd at 4:59 GMT, forum user Nate Nygren wrote:

Guys, "Anna from HP Total Care" didn't bother reading jack in this thread, otherwise she'd have known that many of the reported problems are on XP machines as well. AS WE ALL KNOW ALREADY, this is not a BIOS issue as no updates have ever solved it for any of us, not a driver issue as fresh installs OS don't resolve it. It's not a wifi card issue either because nobody who's had it replaced reports that it worked.

As Nygren implies, most of the users who have finally gotten their problem solved were able to reach a resolution not through a BIOS update, but rather, a motherboard replacement or a new system altogether. Anna responded that her suggested HP BIOS update is a new one that specificially addresses this problem leading me to wonder (regardless of whether it works or not) what took HP so long to address this specific problem. Wrote Anna in a subsequent post:

Hi, it's Anna from HP Total Care once again, You may have tried a different BIOS updates in the past, but we highly recommend that you give BIOS version F.3A (SP36551) a try as it was created specifically to address these issues and has resolved them in many cases.

Unfortunately, shortly after that post appeared, so to did responses from Pavilion owners indicating that Anna may be misinformed about the BIOS update in question. Wrote ne_moose:

That BIOS is from July. I tried that BIOS to no avail. Also, the description does not mention anything about wireless cards problems. The only statement is Updates the code to support AMD Sempron 3000+ Processors. ...I appreciate the help, but I request that you raise this issue to your management. This is a very serious problem that is going unaddressed.

Sure enough, there are other HP customers in the forum saying that the BIOS update isn't working for them either. So something else is up -- something that apparently requires a motherboard replacement or a new computer. Yet despite knowing this, HP is still pushing users down the BIOS path. In fairness, HP is saying to try the BIOS fix and then saying that the next step is repair if that doesn't work. But here's the rub. According to the thread, there are users whose systems are out of warranty and for whom the fix apparently is not free. For example, Boris Dzyubenko cc:ed the forum on a response he received from HP:

Boris,from our short conversation I understand that the notebook is not detecting wireless card.

I also understand that you have tried by updating the BIOS.

I have checked the warranty status and found that the warranty has been expired.

It seems that the problem is related to the hardware malfunction of the wireless card or the slot in which the wireless card will be installed.

In this regard I recommend you to contact nearest HP service centre.

This to me seems unfair since (1) not only is there obviously a pretty serious defect in the system (given how many systems are having a problem and given Anna's initial response), but also (2) HP is aware of the problem given the volume of posts on the issue. Instead of being proactive with customers and helping them out before their warranties expire, HP is letting existing warranties on Pavilion notebooks expire knowing that the owners of their notebooks may be soon have WiFi issues.