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Dell XPS 420: at the end of my tether

by simian_sapiens / August 28, 2009 10:48 PM PDT

You may or may not be aware that the Dell 420 has been having problems with its RAID array. I wasn't when I bought it. Some kind of conflict with the Intel controller or some such. At any rate, it's full of all kinds of bugs.

Dell do claim to have offered a fix for the RAID problem (a driver download), but I (and a lot of people) have discovered it just doesn't work.

I've spent about five hours on the helpline today, talking to fifteen different technicians who just kept passing the problem to someone else until I was cut off. When I rang back and shouted at the first techy I spoke to (who had an irish accent and spoke clearly, as opposed to the inaudible indians) who eventually told me to revert the thing to factory settings. In between, we tried pressing the restart button for twenty seconds, reverting to an earlier version, launching start up repair, and repairing Vista with the disc, leaving only this option.

Since the problem has been in the computer since it arrived with factory settings, I don't see how this would help (and from reading around it seems like this fix doesn't actually prevent the problem recurring).

I then thought that maybe I could remove the RAID entirely (and use it as an opportunity to install XP instead of Vista, and thus avoid having to fix all its annoying featurettes all over again), but now I find that there's no option in the BIOS for disabling it at all. The BIOS only has options for "RAID Autodetect/ATA" or "RAID on"--both of which seem to do the same thing, neither of which switches off RAID. I also tried unplugging the hard drives on advice but still got the same BIOS screen.

So at the moment, I'm stuck with a terrible computer with a recurring crashing problem, that every couple of months destroys itself and forces me to spend half the day listening to Dell's awful awful hold music and inaudible indian technicians. There's no known fix for the RAID problem that I can find, and no way a novice like me can get rid of the RAID and just have two separate drives.

At least I've finally got it to start outside safe mode now--but the problem is just going to repeat itself and the error message on startup that the RAID is degraded isn't going away.

Is there anything left for me to do, or should I pack it in and buy a new one?

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Hi, Simian:
by Osprey4 / August 28, 2009 11:00 PM PDT
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Yes, I have google.
by simian_sapiens / August 28, 2009 11:06 PM PDT
In reply to: Hi, Simian:

It's Raid 1 -mirror- I thought I'd mentioned it. Sorry.

And I've already seen that article---which doesn't actually offer a fix. Nor does my XPS have the same BIOS screen as the one shown.

"Do they have Google in your country?"

I've been searching google for about 24 hours and not found any sensible fixes. Don't be so bloody condescending.

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Time to say good bye.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 28, 2009 11:54 PM PDT

You don't want to continue with this machine. Start asking for another model as it has never worked for you. Get your money back and shop for another machine.

Your post tells me there is no hope of getting it fixed so I'm going to agree and suggest you get Dell to refund your money so you can move on.

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by simian_sapiens / August 29, 2009 5:01 AM PDT
In reply to: Time to say good bye.

Well, thanks to begging for help on all available forums, someone finally walked me through switching off RAID and I've 'successfully' installed XP. Problem is now that it's not got any of the right drivers, and isn't recognising my wireless card, so no internet. I tried downloading the drivers on this computer and using a pen drive to transfer them across, but they aren't working (they either demand to be connected to the internet, or something equally impossible).

There's a list of drivers here:

...but the link to the wireless driver downloads the driver, not the installer, and since the wireless card isn't even showing up in the hardware manager (that I can see) I can't install it by searching for it. I need an XP compatible installer for it...but I will plod on Sad

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Why use that wireless card?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 29, 2009 6:57 AM PDT
In reply to: 'success'

Since these are about 20 bucks why waste time on that?

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desktop system software
by mlg63 / August 31, 2009 1:54 AM PDT
In reply to: 'success'

XP requires that the Dell Desktop system software be installed first with the chipset drivers and before all other drivers or the drivers will not install properly. Get it under System Utilities at your download page. It is only for XP, so you need to specify that OS.

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Dell XPS 420: at the end of my tether
by Constantin_B / January 21, 2013 5:39 AM PST

Dear Simian,

I could not agree more with your findings and conclusions... I have been through similar pain with this machine and decided to give up, despite my attraction for the mechanical design of the box. I tried the XPS 420 (Model Number L375P-01 with motherboard CN OTP406 70821-7CE-10OW) in its native Windows Vista Ultimate, and then rebuilt it on Windows 7 Professional, with the intention to have Disk 0 for System, Software (Partition C) and Data (Partitions D and E) and Disk 1 for Manual Backup with no RAID or other backup automation.

[For years I have been doing my own backups in the original file formats and have not lost anything.]

At one time, I was able to get rid of RAID with some Ctrl-I option in the black startup screen. That was fantastic: I was able to format Disk 1 (a Seagate Barracude 500 Gbyte disk, same as Disk 0), name it X (Backup) and have it reported clearly empty in My Computer! I started and stopped the XPS 420 many times and it worked as desired.

Unfortunately, my happiness lasted very little because the next day the computer stopped at booting with a message like "This computer could not be started" and some repair options - none of which worked. That happened with no action from my side other than shutting down the PC with the Start/Shutdown command and restarting from the power button.

Then, using the option that gave me access to the Windows 7 Command environment (DOS-like black screen), I was able to see all my drives listed, that giving me some hope. However, miraculously, disk X (Backup) was populated with all the Windows 7 system files!! I had never asked these files to be copied there! This told me that the motherboard somehow remembered its RAID obsession and tried to save the system on Disk 1!

My humble conclusion is that the process recommended by Dell for disabling RAID does not work. Worse yet, if you apply it, the machine becomes unusable. I am not an IT professional, but only an EE engineer using computers in semiconductor R&D... I have built many computers from parts, for my home use, but have never experienced such an intense irritation. I may be wrong and do not want to insult the Dell developers, but have decided to accept the loss (money and lots of time) and dump this machine.

I wonder if any other ATX machine would fit in the box... Perhaps not, because the Dell mechanical design is obviously original. Otherwise I will choose something original from Intel, making sure the word RAID never appears in its documentation. I only want the box and the motherboard to accommodate 2 hard drives, 2 CD/DVD drives, and to be sold without the operating system, which I already have. Any suggestion?

Thanks for the excellent description of you experience, anyway.



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