Jeb Wilkins

Coding and climbing in Cumbria.

Dell Rant

I’ve got a nice Dell Laptop which I got a few months back, and XPS M1330 - and at the time I was able to reclaim the unneeded Windows licence and was singing Dells praises.

What I’ve now discovered (well, my girlfriend discovered) is it actually has a destroy the hard drive button - I kid you not! I’m still not 100% sure what happened but it looks it happens when you press the key with a house symbol (left of the power button) whilst going through the BIOS part of the boot process. At which point the laptop tries to start some helpful media player, finds its not on the hard drive (I reformatted the whole machine with linux) so restores itself. No warning, No confirmation, just happily writes a 2gig blob onto the disk destroying what ever was there, then rewrites the first entry in the partition table to point to this blob. The blob turns out to be an NTFS filesystem containing what looked like some WinXP varient. I was busy and it was a week before I could look at this, all the time thinking I’d lost the data on the laptop since my backup machine died a month before.

Turns out it writes the blob to the end of the disk (in fact 1 cylinder past the end of the disk according to the partition table), which thankfully was filled with a large swap partition. Once I got Testdisk to fixup the partion table and recreated my swap partition the laptops was back in working order.

That doesn’t change the fact Dell are shipping laptops which intentionally overwrite the hard drive with no confirmation, it blows my mind how stupid the engineers at Dell must be to let something like this through their QA process.