I have had some horrendous luck recently with my Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop which I bought in 2003. I had heard stories of them failing but mine was doing fine until a couple of months ago.
At that time, the computer started switching off whenever I was running Matlab or doing any video encoding. I was able to turn it back on after 10—15 minutes. It was a fan problem and since I had bought 3 years at-home service, the processor fan was replaced within a few days.
Then a couple of weeks ago, the AC adaptor cord started acting up. I had to wiggle it to get it to work. That was replaced last week.
A week ago, the computer started turning off immediately after switching it on. Dell Technical Support found out that one of the memory slots on the motherboard was bad. So the whole motherboard was replaced on Thursday.
Then the mother of all problems happened. Booting up, I got a registry error. Then Chkdsk was run automatically on the next reboot. It found some file system errors but Windows XP refused to start giving an error about missing registry hive. I found how to fix that on the Microsoft website, but then Windows complained about another missing file. I made an Ultimate Boot CD for Windows and was able to check the contents of the hard disk. Some files and folders were corrupt or missing while others seemed ok. A call to Dell Technical Support was useless since he wanted me to install stuff on the hard disk which would have made data recovery impossible. After trying the Ontrack EasyRecovery software and a few other tricks, I decided that professional data recovery was needed. So my hard disk is with data recovery right now and I am having trouble coping without my laptop.
Unlike the complaints I have heard about Dell Support, I had a good experience. I did not have to wait too long on hold and the guys had reasonable accents. However, I am extremely disappointed in Dell quality. In addition to the stuff I mentioned above, the laptop battery lasts only 50 minutes now instead of 2.5 hours, but its warranty was only for a year. It seems that Dell’s Quality people have their work cut out for them.