HP: over-engineering and under-delivering support

Vignettes from setting up a new PC.

Starting point: new HP machine, reimaged from scratch with Windows 7. Naturally most of the devices are not recognized, because the drivers do not ship out of the box with the OS. The biggest problem is the network card: once the machine can reach out to the Internets, remaining drivers will become easy to download. Only problem: there is no indication anywhere about the type of network card used. It is not on the HP website: “integrated network card” is about as specific as the documentation gets– ashamed of the brand? It is not listed anywhere on the paperwork that arrived with the machine. Windows itself provides no clues, after the OS attempts loading the generic Ethernet card driver, which predictably fails to start the device correctly or get any information such as manufacturer ID out of it.

First plan: look for drivers on the HP website, under the support section. No drivers for the specific model. Luckily this is a part of a series of models, virtually identical  except for different processor/memory options. One of the other models has 11 drivers posted. Minor problem: they are all packaged as executables named SP<random number>.exe. There is no reason for device drivers to be delivered this way: presumably it simplifies installation. Except it does not work. Every single one fails with a complaint that the package can not be installed because the machine fails to meet minimum requirements. (This is W7 ultimate edition– the machine shipped from the factory with home SKU, presumably deemed worthy of the driver packages. What is it about the higher version that HP considers  insufficient?) This is an example of making the support brittle by trying to get too fancy: if HP had made the raw drivers available instead of holding them hostage inside buggy installers, it would have been the end of the story.

Second plan: time to contact support. The idea of a customer flattening the box and reinstalling a new OS from scratch is clearly an unusual scenario that stymies the eager support representative. (Not to mention that the IM conversation is taking place on a different computer because there is no networking on the machine under investigation.) He continues sending a series of links to the driver-packages, none of which install correctly because HP tried being too smart about detecting when a version of Windows was worthy of the update. Eventually this blogger manages to get across the message that raw drivers are necessary. At this point the Macbook Pro freezes, but the support rep dutifully  sends an email with the links, along with the disclaimer that the links will be taking this blogger to a non-HP website where they are not responsible for content– that can only be good news considering the HP site added exactly zero value to this endeavour. This is enough to reveal the brand of the mysterious network card: Realtek (which does indeed have some detractors that could have given HP a pause) and locate the correct drivers.




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