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NO NET GAIN AS COMPUTER WOES LINGER

Q: Last June, I bought a $1,600 Dell personal computer. For the first six months, it ran like a watch and then it just quit.

Beginning in February, I couldn't access the Internet with my computer. I first worked with my Internet provider, Earth Link. After many hours of talking with them, it was determined that the problem was with the computer.

I then contacted Dell and have spent many hours and days talking with a tech support person. I have also spent countless hours on hold - being tossed from person to person and trying all the numerous procedures recommended by Dell's support workers. I have done everything they have asked.

Dell replaced the modem, but that didn't solve the problem.

In late March, Dell connected me by phone with another computer expert. We stripped the operating system completely and reinstalled the software. I could get on the Internet for a short time, but it's since quit working again.

Is there any way to crack the Dell shield and get a resolution to this problem?

- John Sullivan, Amherst.

A: When we contacted Dell at its corporate headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, (it took a while since Dell has a 48-hour turnaround policy for media inquiries), a spokeswoman said Dell records indicate your problem was resolved. We informed them otherwise, especially since you said you'd informed them of the latest computer failure.

Dell contacted you a day after we spoke with them and promised to schedule a phone appointment for you and a computer expert sometime this week to make another stab at cleansing your software by uninstalling and reinstalling the operating system.

Your skepticism is understandable since you've already gone through this process and success was short-lived. But, give it a whirl and see what happens. Dell was receptive to working with you again to try to fix the problem.

Trouble shooting, a requirement of the service contract, is very important to the company, said Dell spokeswoman Margaret Coca.

"Our goal is to resolve the customer's issue as quickly as possible," Coca said. "Our technicians will work as best as possible to get a resolution. We are willing to work with Mr. Sullivan to get this resolved."

Consumer note

Check-bounce protection can be false security. There are now voluntary guidelines recommending that banks warn you before you trigger a bounce loan and allow you to opt out of bounce protection. Consider writing your bank to cancel bounce protection, get standard overdraft protection or track your balance closely, Consumer Reports suggests.