Is it Dell, or is it Windows 8?!?

I create projects that use Arduinos, and in order to burn some firmware into one of those Arduinos (actually a JeeNode), I purchased an FTDI serial interface device.  You plug the FTDI device into a USB port on your computer, and then plug the FTDI device into the JeeNode, and this enables you to download the firmware into the JeeNode.  The FTDI device looks like a serial port to the Windows computer.

I purchased a Dell laptop back in September.  I now have four computers running Windows 8; one of them is that laptop.

When I plug the FTDI device into the laptop, I get the following error:

USB Error

When I plug the FTDI device into any of the other computers, I get no such error.  That is, the FTDI device is not malfunctioning.

The normal reaction to the insertion of a USB device is that Windows recognizes the device and tries to find a driver for the device.  This happens on other other computers, but not on the laptop. It is as if the FTDI device cannot identify itself properly, but only on one of my computers.

In addition, if I plug other devices into the laptop, they sometimes show that error and sometimes do not.  At one point, after using a Wacom tablet with the laptop for 15 minutes, that error popped up, as if the tablet had suddenly malfunctioned.  When I moved the tablet to another USB device on the laptop, it was fine.

I researched the error on the web, and tried about half a dozen different “sure fixes”, none of which have worked.  This included powering down the laptop, removing the battery, and waiting for 30 minutes.  Numerous reboots.  Numerous removals of the offending device.  Numerous re-installation of the drivers.

Dell was nice enough to replace the mother board and one of the USB daughter boards, after which none of the symptoms changed.  Dell has now offered to let me return the laptop to the “Depot” so that they can “fix” it properly.

If I do send it in, they will almost certainly wipe my Win 8 installation.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Perhaps the intermittent problem is in Win 8.  But reloading all of my software is a pain in the neck.

If I do send it in, and they test it with just about any other USB device, it probably will work.  So, I am concerned that the most likely scenario is that Dell “fixes” it, returns it, and nothing at all has changed (because they could not see the error, because they did not use the FTDI device).

And Dell does not want me to send the FTDI device into the Depot.

So.  Seems like this situation is a total loss.  Not sure what to do. Perhaps life has just become too complex for technology to succeed.

Luckily, I can use the other computers to run the FTDI device.  But the failure of the Wacom tablet makes me fear that this computer will remain unreliable as long as I own it.  Intermittent problems are a bitch.

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