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How to Ruin a (Once) Fine Company

My parents have been buying Gateway PC’s since the dawn of the late 80’s, back before Gateway dumped the “2000” from thier title. Our first truly good PC was a Gateway 2000 386DX/33 tower. That baby was cutting edge (at the time) and it was built like a tank. It could handle games like Wing Commander II without breaking a sweat. If I knew where this machine was today, I bet it would still boot-up like a champ. But that wasn’t the last Gateway we went through.

About eight years ago, my Dad bought a Pentium II 450 machine, which came complete with an LCD monitor (a rare sight those days), and still runs unabated to this day without a single hardware failure. Even my Mom’s retired Celeron 333, bought at around the same time, still runs as good as it did new.

That brings up the infamous Gateway 610X Media Center PC. My Mom bought this thing less than 2 years ago from the Gateway Store (now gone) for around $2000, which is a lot of money for a PC these days. Well, just recently the PC just up and died. Up until that point, this was a really nice computer. Well, besides being relatively bulky and quite heavy, it packed a lot of features for its frame. Anyway, with a quick search around the web, I discovered that the hardware culprit was indeed the systems built in power supply. It also turns out that our dead power supply is not an isolated problem, and that a large number of people out there are having this exact same problem with this PC.

At first my Mom took this PC over to Best Buy (the Geek Squad), and they told her up front that there was nothing they could do to fix it, they even had a couple of these same PCs in the back room with this exact same problem. We contacted Gateway about it, and since this machine was no longer under warranty, Gateway told us it would cost about $400 to $600 (that doesn’t include shipping the PC to them) for them to replace the power supply. Now I’m no idiot (usually), but it should never cost that much to replace a single (and cheap) component in any computer.

Initially, we were reluctant to mess around with the innards of this PC, and since we couldn’t necessarily make things worse, we turned to the Internet. We were initially stalled when we discovered that the power supply used in this PC is no longer made, and it was one specifically designed to fit inside this computer. Under normal circumstances, I could just walk over to any computer dealer and buy a power supply for $30, but this was not the case for this PC. Because, this computer had a very tight form factor, Gateway used mostly proprietary components including the power supply, so this would be no easy fix. However, hope was not lost. We went and bought a power supply from that’s pretty close to the same size as the one inside the Gateway, and best of all it was only $20. The only downside to this, is the new power supply doesn’t fit inside the tight from factor of this PC, so it has to remain on the outside of the box (unless you want to make some modifications to the computer), and the power connectors on the Gateway are not the exact same as the ones on a standard power supply, so we had to make our own couplers to connect the new PSU to the system.

In the end, we did fix this computer, and everything seems to be honky-dory for the most part, but this whole episode has left me believing that this is truly a defective system, that Gateway refuses to acknowledge as a problem and is more than willing to exploit their customers to their own end ($500 is outrageous). And after reading some of the customer complaints about Gateway’s lousy customer service, and general issues regarding the Gateway 610XL, we have made this our last Gateway.

Do yourself a favor and avoid Gateway like the plague. I won’t shed a tear when the gates finally close on this company.

Note: If you do own this machine and are having problems with it, this site goes through the process step-by-step for taking the machine apart (with pictures) and replacing the power supply. And if these don’t help, you can always use this computer as a boat anchor; the handle on the top makes it easy!Side Note: In the weeks we spent screwing around with this computer trying to get it fixed, we moved my Mom over to a Mac Mini, which has turned out to be a really nice little machine (the topic for another blog).