November 12, 2014

A Bitter Sweet Geek Squad Computer Repair

My first experience with the Geek Squad computer repair was bitter/sweet and very very frustrating. I am writing this post about my experience for a couple of reasons. One, it might help some readers if they run into this same problem and two it is somewhat entertaining for those looking from the outside in. It is a very a long post but I think an interesting humorous read.

Back in October 2010 I decided after using computers for almost 20+ years, to change from a Windows PC to an Apple iMac. I'll not go into the reasons why except to say it proved to be a great move and I have had zero problems with my iMac since the purchase 4 years and 1 month ago. I caught an article last Monday on November 3rd, talking about a professional company had found a breach in the new Apple OS Yosemite. Apple had confirmed his find and there would be plans by January 2015 to provide the fix. It was suggested in the meantime to run a program located in System Preferences - Security called File Vault. I also had a couple of friends email me the link to the article because they knew I had updated to the new OS Yosemite recently.

I decided, although somewhat hesitant, to turn on File Vault. I have always had the firewall turned on, I run flashblock and ad blocker but have never installed anti-virus based on the Apple geek's recommendations. I thought after reading the article along with the new OS, maybe it was a good idea to turn on File Vault.

I didn't get far with that decision.

After turning on the program, it was supposed to restart your computer and then encrypt the hard drive. After the restart I had a screen show up called "Reset Your Password", a locked padlock and 3 options or reasons why I could not reset my password. That seemed strange because it had never asked me for my password. "Houston, we have a problem".

I spent time trying to reboot my computer various ways, as a single new user, in the safe mode, and even as a last resort I pulled the OS cd from my original package and was willing to boot the computer from that cd, knowing it was going to reset my hard drive (reformat) back to a clean OS install. I would then use my backup to reinstall my files of documents and photographs.

That didn't work either.

I went over to MacRumors forum and did some searching for a possible fix and couldn't find anyone with that issue. I posted my problem with hopes of getting an answer within a few hours. By Monday afternoon I had over 300 views to my question and zero replies.

I was stuck with a computer that had locked me out. I found out a week later that File Vault automatically turns off your automatic log in and will ask for your system user password each time your computer boots up. The problem was my mouse pad did not move the cursor, nor did my tab key on my keyboard work to click enter on the screen and move to the next one. I wasn't in the panic mode but I was pretty sure that File Vault did not like my wireless keyboard and wireless track pad that came with the computer.  My computer was stuck on that one Reset Password screen.

The thought of trying a keyboard and mouse attached to the computer by USB never occurred to me. Were those even sold anymore since everyone had moved to wireless years ago? I had moved to wireless 7 or 8 years ago, even before switching to an iMac.

I decided by 6pm to drive over to the local Best Buy where I bought the iMac and see what the Geek Squad could do. I was hoping it was something simple and possibly be fixed right there at the help desk. Driving 33 miles away was a better option I thought than driving 90 miles to the nearest Apple store the next day.

The Geek Squad tech plugged the computer into power, he plugged in a keyboard and mouse via USB and we got nothing different than the locked screen that I had at home. He could move his cursor but instead of clicking the "next" arrow at the bottom of the screen he kept clicking "previous" arrow and that only moved to a screen that was blank. Why didn't he click the "next" arrow to see where that would lead?

I was prepared to take it back home, do some further research and fix it myself and if that didn't work, I had a quick thought of driving the 90 miles to the Apple store to use their Apple Care program. I changed my mind at the last minute before leaving and thought I was already there, I'd leave my computer and get it back within a couple of days. The Geek Squad agent said they had a 3-5 day estimate for picking it up, but most likely I'd get my computer back within a couple of days.

He handed me my copy of the service order, pulled a new cd of WebRoot Anti Virus for Macs and recommended the hard drive to be reformatted, a clean install of the OS and the Anti Virus. He told me that was the normal procedure instead of trying to get back into my system that might be corrupted. I told him to add that I did NOT want File Vault activated once they did the reinstall of all the updated software.

He had commented that my iMac was in mint condition and that surprised him since it was 4 years old. My first concern about Geek Squad was when I read the service order and beside "condition" he had typed worn and scratched. Also the purchase date was nowhere near the date I purchased the computer plus he never asked me for the date I bought the computer. When I brought that up to him he replied the date was just a fill in and "worn and scratched" was the commonly used condition for all computer submitted for repair. Then he stated there was not enough room to type that I did not want File Vault turned on in their forum so he would have a hand written note. He asked if I had a backup two different times and both times I answered yes.

I can't say I felt encouraged as I left the store but thought once the computer got back to the lab and the real techs would start working on it, there would be no problems. Little did I know what was in store for me and how this all would turn out.

Of course none of these things started until I paid the $200 for an 1-year membership. I reminded him they tried to sell me the same package when I bought the computer but I turned down the offer and consequently never had a problem until now. That $200 was to include the anti-virus software and something to remember later in this story.

As I drove home I figured I'd be coming back on Wednesday to pick it up. I mean aren't the Geek Squad techs a bunch of computer experts? What could go wrong when it wasn't a hardware but a software issue.

The story gets better.

Tuesday night after seeing my repair status was "assigned to a technician", I call the 800 number to get a status on my repair since their website showed it had been inducted for repair on Tuesday morning. The tech on the other side of the phone said she could not see anything in their system as far as repair updates and that was not normal. She suggested I call the store where I turned in my computer for repair. Another slight feeling of lack of confidence in the newly acquired Geek Squad.

The local store tells me they are working on the computer and I should be able to pick it up on Thursday with no problems. I made the mistake of assuming they were doing the OS install and all the updates would take a lot of hours to upload and Thursday would fall within their 3-5 days pickup window. Then she asks me what I thought to be a strange question .... Do you have a backup of your files? For the 3rd time I answered yes. I reminded her that I did not want File Vault activated because that is what started all of this mess.

Before I make the 66 mile round-trip drive to pick up the computer I call on Thursday as instructed, to see if it was ready for pickup like they told me the day before. "No, the tech is still working on it". I asked if they had found any unexpected problems because it was just just going to be a clean install of the OS and I would do my file backup install here at home. "No, no major problems found, your computer passed all the tests ran for computer and had a clean bill of health".  It should be reading to be picked up on Friday.

I call late Friday afternoon and they tell me the techs could not find a way to get the computer running but their boss had found a way to get around the locked screen and had the computer running normal and all my files were still there. I asked about the clean install of the OS but this time was told "We never do that if it's possible to boot up your system". Hmmm, I'm a little confused because the first tech told me they always did that in this type of situation.

So I remind them that since they are in my computer, go to System Preferences - Security and "turn off" File Vault because that is what caused this problem. They confirmed they had. He said "the boss" wanted to run some more tests and I could pick up the computer on Saturday afternoon.

After being told it would be ready for pickup on 3 different occasions and then each time I was given a different excuse I had decided by noon on Saturday that I would call them and let them know I was picking up the computer in it's current condition no matter what and that I would be there by 5pm. I was finished letting them try to complete their repair when they had told me on Thursday it was up an running, all the files were there and they were just going to test a few more things.

Well here is where the story gets exciting for some readers, frustrating for me and great humor for some of the readers I have.

During the half-time of one of the football games I am watching, I call them around 2pm and actually get to talk to the boss. This is the man that got into my system, had tested the system and everything is good. He said it would be ready by 5pm, the time I told him I would be there. That was great news to me. I'm expecting a simple pickup.

I get there, the man that did the repair boots up the computer with no problems and I move through my files of documents, emails, photographs without any problems. He hands me the service order for me to sign and right off the bat in the section for Repair Comments..."File Vault and Firewall are working properly". If I recall on 3-4 different occasions I requested that File Vault be turned off since that was what caused the problem. I couldn't believe it and told him I wanted that turned off. He replied that he found no problems running the program and it was a good thing to do.

I also noticed he was using a mouse and keyboard connected to my computer via USB. I asked him if they had tested it with the Apple wireless keyboard and and mouse pad since that was not only what I used but it was what came with the computer. He replied that they never used the wireless keyboards or mouses for their computer repairs because of the time it takes to calibrate them to the computer. That seemed strange to me because it's "plug and play", takes less than a minute.

I didn't even think of bringing my own keyboard and mouse, I mean they surely have that keyboard and mouse since they sell them at Best Buy plus they are "the experts" in computer repair. They surely have one sitting on their test bench somewhere. I was wrong again.

I'm excited but keep my speed at 60mph on the way home. I let the hounds outside, they are thrilled that I am home and have no concerns for my computer. They want to go out and then back in to get that "programmed" treat when they enter the house. To take no chances I don't plug anything into my computer as far as the printer, external monitor (my main one), external hard drives, speakers ... nothing. All I do is plug in the power cord into the surge protector and turn on the computer.

High anticipation ... 6 days of using my iPad Mini as my main computer as a backup, no access to my online banking or spreadsheets because they are backed up on the external drive that I can't get to and my passwords are locked inside of the program LastPass, which I started using a few months ago.


The computer boots up to the same exact screen I had last Monday on November 3 !! It was locked so my mouse cursor would not move and nothing on my keyboard worked. A frozen screen again.

I called Best Buy and asked for the man that fixed the computer and showed me my computer worked when I picked it up. Now remember Geek Squad has computer geeks that have had training and are the so called experts in computer repair. That's a key bit of information for this story to go forward.

He has "no idea" why it's doing that.

I suggested it might be possible that my keyboard and mouse pad may not work with File Vault. Then reminded him that 4 different times I told them do stop running File Vault because that started the problem and cost me $200 just to get this far. I am shocking myself that I am maintaining my cool ... that I have no urges to climb through my phone ... He was thinking but couldn't come up with anything except "to bring it back in and we will take a look at it". Didn't they do that between Tuesday - Saturday? Help me out here, is my memory fading already at the age of 62?

I suggested that I reboot the computer but only this time I would take out the batteries of the mouse pad and keyboard so they would not be a factor. Still I was sure that the damage had already been done and that same "Reset Password" screen would show up ... and it did.

So they close at 9pm, I glance at my clock and see its 6:50pm and I wanted my computer fixed now ... so I made an appointment to see him at 8pm so I would have priority over walk up customers. It was another 66 mile round-trip back to the store. I told him this time I would bring my keyboard and trackpad to make sure they worked before I returned home.

Computer works. He had to use the USB keyboard and mouse to get back into the system and it only took the mouse to click "next" to move to this screen:

I entered my password WITH the Apple wireless keyboard of mine and I was into my computer and I could move through all of my files without a problem. Notice what that screen says ... " may not be compatible with File Vault...etc".  I told him that I was going to do what I had requested them to do on 4 different occasions and was ignored ... turn OFF File Vault. With him standing there watching I clicked "Turn off File Vault" only to see a message would take almost 13 hours to complete de-encrypting my hard drive. I let it work a little and in a short time it estimated it would take 5-6 hours to complete.

He said I could complete that process at home once I turned my computer back on, it would pickup where it left off.

We shut off the computer and watch it reboot three different times with no problems and batteries in my keyboard and mousepad. He starts apologizing over and over for my troubles plus the 2nd trip in 3 hours driving to and from the store. Of course all that is leading to is "in the next few days you will receive an email from Geek Squad to fill out a survey on how we did and I'd really appreciate a positive feedback".

I am not sure what my shocked expression looked like nor after a slight "blackout" how long I wore that expression ... needless to say I did not reply ... not a word.

I'm happy on the way home. He and I have witnessed the computer booting up using my wireless keyboard and mousepad with no issues. I know I can turn it on and complete the 5 hours of de-encryption. What could go wrong after that?

I turn on the computer and go back to the File Vault to restart the de-encryption. It says it will take about 5 hours, it's 9:30pm by now. So I move to the living room to watch the football games I had dvr'd while I was gone. I check on it from time to time and its working, now with the estimated completion time decreasing. It looks like somewhere around 2am it should be finished. I'll reboot and get my computer back.

Well ... "not so fast cowboy".

It finishes the de-encryption and shows a screen to reboot my computer. I click the key ... but instead of rebooting it keeps asking me for my password ... over and over and over. Then it wants to encrypt my hard drive. Why??  I just waited 5 hours for it to de-encrypt it???  Now I am really confused and it's 2:15am.

I have a computer that the Geek Squad experts say was ready for pickup 9 hours ago and I am still sitting here not able to get my computer working.  I decide that even thought it's late, I'll drive to the local Walmart and see if they still sell USB keyboards and a mouse. I know if I have those I can get back into my computer.

Before I go I decided to get a 2nd opinion from the Geek Squad. I mean I have paid $200 for a year of their "expertise" and they are open 24/7 either by chatting with a tech rep or calling their 800 number. I call but I'm not expecting much as far as a fix.

I wasn't disappointed.

I'll make this short. I heard two things from this Geek Squad technician located in Salt Lake City, Utah at 3:00am my time. "That is above my level of knowledge" and "You should probably call Apple Care and I can give you the number for that but they are only open until 11pm".

Why would I do that since I paid the experts of Geek Squad $200 for their tech service for the next 12 months?

Of course she also reminds me I will be receiving in email, a survey for me to fill out so "I can help my clients better".  Sure, I'll get right on that ... laughing because I cannot believe the whole situation from November 3 - 9. Unbeeeeelieeeeevaaaaaable!

I drove over to Walmart at 3:20am and find 1 USB mouse and Keyboard on the shelf. It must have been waiting for me to show up. I get back home and by 4:15am using the new USB keyboard and mouse I am back inside my computer and turning off File Vault .... but guess what, it wants to de-encrypt my hard drive!!! I thought it did that between 9:30pm to 2:00am. Whatever......

I decided I would do whatever the computer wanted. I let it start de-encrypting. I went to bed expecting to see it completed when I woke up. It DID complete the process and even rebooted my computer so when I woke up I was looking at my desktop. My wireless keyboard and mouse pad work .... and since 10am on Sunday the computer has worked perfectly.

I can only guess File Vault didn't like the de-encryption being interrupted when we turned it off at the store. So it kept asking me for my password over and over at 2am then wanted to encrypt my hard drive again.

Why didn't Geek Squad turn off File Vault like I requested?  I don't know but I can only guess because of the amount of time they would have had to leave my computer on to complete the process. I only told them at 4 different times to turn off File Vault. Even the screen they saw said there MIGHT be a conflict between the keyboard and running File Vault. Why didn't they test the computer with the wireless keyboard and mousepad before I picked it up?

Oh, and one last thing. Part of that $200 was a $49 value for the anti virus that they did NOT install "because Macs really don't need anti-virus protection on their system.

Did I do too much of the work myself to get my computer finally running after they told me it was ready for pickup 12 hours earlier?  I think I did way too much to get my computer running after paying for their repair service.

Will I use them again if needed?

Very very doubtful.

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