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Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Dell Laxative Utility

A few weeks ago I was moving my Dell PC around, which involved unplugging all the cables from the back. When I'd finished, everything worked except the Forward and Back buttons on my Dell mouse. That was a nuisance because I use them instinctively to navigate my way through Google Chrome. I checked in the Device Manager, and the mouse was showing up as a vanilla device. Attempts to fix the problem in the Control Panel were ineffective. Unplugging and replugging the mouse failed to bring up any 'New Hardware Found' dialog that might have let me attack the problem.

So I let it rest.

Until today, when I decided enough was enough. It occurred to me that Dell might have the solution. When the PC was brand new there were several Dell applications lying around, which I quickly bundled off the desktop and forgot about. Maybe one of them could help. What was this I found? The 'Driver Reset Tool'. That could be just what I was looking for. I launched it.

There was a pause, and then a small dialog popped up telling me that my ethernet port was disabled. It offered me three choices: Yes, No, Cancel. Well, I had indeed disabled the port when I went wireless, so I clicked Yes. Another pause, another dialog: Nokia phone disabled. I clicked Yes again. Again the pause, then a dialog that just said, "EN?" (I should add that the last two dialogs had also started with "EN". I presume it meant 'ENglish'.) There was only a Yes button this time, so I dismissed the dialog. A final pause, and then the PC shut itself down.

Years of working with computers has left me with a certain amount of intuition about what's going to happen next. I was not feeling good about this.

The shutdown finished, and the reboot started. It got as far as 'Press F2 for Setup and F12 for System Menu'. I did, repeatedly. Could I possibly have reset the drivers so much that the keyboard wasn't working? No, surely we hadn't got that far yet. In any case, that wouldn't stop the auto-boot from finishing. I decided to power it off, count to ten, and try again: same result.

At this point I had to answer a sudden call of nature.

When I got back the reboot was under way. Much slower than normal, but everything eventually came back, and here I am typing it all up. The only thing I've had to fix so far is the annoying 'network unplugged' icon which had reappeared in the system tray.

Chastened by my near death experience, I decided to ask Google if anyone else had had this problem. Hysterical laughter: it seems it's a recent bug in Google Chrome. Sure enough, the mouse is working perfectly well in Internet Explorer.

I guess there's a lesson here, but I'm still too close to appreciate it.

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