Computing Rants

Acer e-(non)Performance Management

Close-up of a hard disk head resting on a disk...
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I hate the stupid bits of junk software that get bundled with a newly purchased machine. “Here’s your windows sir, and it comes with Acer blah bla, Acer blah, DVD-blah, and an ancient version of Adobe Acrobat.”

Little did I know how damaging this software could be.

Two months ago my Acer 8204WLMi laptop was refusing to boot. Or, to be accurate, it would boot, and reboot and reboot and reboot and I’d never get into any operating system I tried. Try tweak BIOS? Nope. Boot disk, multiple distros? Nope. Nothing could keep the machine from rebooting every 30 seconds. My initial analysis? Overheating. I’ve been burnt (figuratively and literally) by a overheating CPU before.

But desperate times called for desperate measures, and yes, I was desperate. At the time I was managing my online existence using a Nokia N95 and a Playstation Portable. Not easy to do, but I’m glad to say it can be done. I needed my laptop fixed pronto. After hours of testing and fiddling I was desperate enough to physically take it to Acer South Africa myself (after carefully removing the hard disk to protect my data). I figured they would have access to diagnostic tools that could diagnose this *hardware* issue pronto. I’d eliminated the possibility of memory or DVD or Hard disk issues. This problem was definitely close to the motherboard.

How disappointing it was when Acer called me the next day and said my laptop needed a new hard disk. “THERE WAS NO HARDDRIVE IN THE MACHINE WHEN I GAVE IT TO YOU GUYS!”, I tried to explain, exasperated.

Rinse and repeat, twice at least, phone calls, hard drive arguments and vloek words galore. Bottom line: (To me as a computer professional with 15 odd years of experience) Acer Africa is useless.

Eventually I succumbed and let them put my hard disk back into the machine. Lo and behold, their “diagnostic software” told us it had a bad sector! OMG! Show me a two year old hard disk that doesn’t have at least one bad sector and I’ll show you, well I’ll show you a regular hard disk.

Later they reported that there was also a problem with the DVD writer. By now I just wanted my machine back, so i told them to forget about replacing the hard disk at their ludicrously overpriced quotation, and give me a new DVD writer, to be fitted by yours truly – I mean c’mon, 250 bucks to press one button… really.

I took the laptop back home and booted her up, she went into windows but she still felt unhappy. (Ok, to explain I have this “sixth sense” for feeling when a computer is working properly. I don’t know where it came from and I can’t really explain it but if you put me on the keyboard of any computer I’ll tell you how she is within a few interactions. I just know the damn things.)

Occasionally she would still do the reboot thing, although a little less frequently – I was doing my utmost to reduce heat and run very lightweight programs. I had changed absolutely nothing with the hardware though. Ran a BIOS upgrade (which Acer South Africa did not have the ability to do, even though I requested it), but there were still frequent reboots after that. Real, hardcore tear your ball-hairs out kinda frustration this was.

I ran Sisoft Sandra with a full diagnostics package and noticed something a little weird – Sandra was reporting a possibly overclocked Front Side Bus. How could that be? I’m no overclocker, especially on a laptop prone to heat exhaustion.

I kept digging around – checking what applications were running, all the time incrementally reducing the windows footprint and eventually stumbled on “Acer ePerformance Management”, where two years ago, when I first got the machine I had selected the options for “Turbo Startup”, “Turbo Shutdown”, “Performance Enhancement”, “Disk Defragmentation” and “Network Booster”. Unable to find any useful information on what they did, I disabled these options.

Do Not Want!
Do Not Want!

And all of a sudden my worries ended. No new hard drive, no new DVD writer or motherboard, no changes, except a click of a box on an Acer packaged piece of software.

So what do I think? I think Acer ePerformance Management overclocks your system, I’m not 100% sure now, and I have no proof yet, but I’m digging and boy if I find out that that recommended software had the potential to damage a system, Acer will be providing me a brand new state-of-the-art laptop with no software pre-loaded very soon.

Do yourself a favour. Get rid of that piece of shit software. Save your ball hair.

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