I was suddenly very glad I had backed up a *day* ago, and had nothing on the harddrive to lose. *phew*
Of course I didn't really *want* to reformat, because the series of Packard Bell I bought doesn't come with *any* distribution disks (my dad had a really impressive fit over that one), because everything had come pre-loaded. I asked the guy at Radioshack when we bought the system (the one who still remembers my name from last May, and even which Nova Scotia town in which I was going to school - weird) about that - he said that all the software was "tattooed" to a "hidden partition" on the harddrive. To be fair, I don't think he'd ever gone near the procedure either. He was just repeating what he'd been told.
While I was at school my packaging got stolen - along with it I lost a bunch of software, a few power cables, and of course, the documentation for the computer, including the receipt.
Fortunately, the guy at Radioshack did remember me, and after an hour of standing around, we finally located the receipt. We had to call home twice to get Dad to check the serial number (he gave us the wrong one the first time, and the second time he had to go get a magnifying glass to read the sticker *snicker*), and as it turned out, it was not, as Dad had said, under his name, but under Mum's.
We finally had the receipt, so I asked for the Packard Bell tech support number. He wrote it down for me on a piece of paper, and off we went.
When I got home, the first thing I did was call the line - only to find that it was only open ten AM to four PM, EST. Of course.
So I called the next day. And got some guy with a French accent I couldn't quite place. This will be important later.
After talking to him for about fifteen minutes, I was asked "Do you have an extended warantee?" I said yes. So he gave me another number, for Priority One Tech Support, something meant especially for those privileged few with extended warantees, he said.
As it turned out, I was required to pay $4.80 a minute for the privilege of speaking to these people - because I had an extended warantee, I was "entitled" to pay *more*.
I talked to the next guy for about twenty minutes, until he finally asked: "Where are you calling from?" I said "BC." He said "Oh; Canada?"
(...and then I had to give him a point for actually knowing what and where BC is... ;)
I said "Yes."
He said: "Oh. Packard Bell Canada shut down two years ago."
There was a moment of silence.
I went: "What?!"
He said: "When did you buy the computer?"
I told him I'd bought it last May.
There was another moment of silence where I could hear wheels turning. Finally, he said: "Okay, well; it must be a European system."
I tried to figure out, for a moment, how this could be so... but he explained it for me. Apparently, since Canada's still part of the Commonwealth, we get systems from the UK, while the US does not.
So. My computer is from Europe. Which explains why I didn't recognize the first guy's accent - because it was Parisien!
So anyway; *he* gave me yet another number for what he claimed was PB Europe. By that time it was too late to call it. So. The next day...
...I called the number. Only to get a message from Packard Bell/NEC Systems Canada (*not* Europe) telling me that "this line no longer supports Packard Bell systems. For assistance please call Priority One Tech Support, at..."
The number I had JUST CALLED.
I hung up, and for a minute just sat and fumed. Then I called them back. This time I got a different guy, (named Joe) who actually didn't seem like an idiot who was just trying to get me off the phone so he could go back to playing Age of Empires or Europa Universalis or Quake or whatever the hell the first guy was doing.
I explained my several days of phone tag to him, and that I was getting mightily pissed with the whole thing. And then he asked me to tell him what was wrong with the computer, and what I was trying to do with it. I did, and he even knew what I was talking about! He called it "Tattoo Procedure" and apparently, lots of companies are doing this now - and he had no qualms about conveying his opinion that they suck. ;)
Anyway; he said that their company didn't actually *do* tech support for this procedurey thing, but took my e-mail address and said he'd contact me later that day when he tracked down the specs for it.
He did; he sent me two things. One was an address for Solectron Inc. (no phone number or web site, but I tracked down the site - and not only was there no contact info, their site didn't even *list* Packard Bell as a supported product... my guess is someone just *told* him they did and he took a stab in the dark). The other was a .txt file outlining the procedure, using something called a Master Rescue CD that was apparently supposed to come with the computer. Which didn't.
Again discouraged, I made an umpteenth visit to the Packard Bell website. I had discounted them as a likely source for information previously, because there *is* no Packard Bell Canada website. The listing on their hubsite only takes you to PB UK or PB France (under the "English" and "French" language options for Canada). This was a last resort sort of thing, so I clicked on the UK link, and searched for "Master Rescue Disk".
And found it on the first try, including the phrase "Hidden partition recovery".
After banging my head on the desk a couple of times out of astonishment for my own stupidity, I downloaded the .exe file from the PB website onto a floppy (I was using Mum's computer at this point, as mine still wouldn't even boot), saved it, ran downstairs, popped it into my A drive, and started up the computer.
It booted into the Partition Recovery right away, and offered to restore my computer to the state it was in when it left the factory. Which was what I was looking for all along.
Well, my computer's working fine now, with no major casualties except my entire photo library, which I forgot to save because it's in a different directory than everything else. The Packard Bell Master Rescue Disk is sitting in my little box of floppies, with a big, clear label on it, for future reference.
But I understand now why there's a massive class action lawsuit against Packard Bell tech support; the fact that it only seems to exist as intermittently as Pratchett Starshops notwithstanding.