Merida is a lovely town. Really, it is. Problem is, we didn’t really get to enjoy it.

You see, just a few days into our trip, we found ourselves with a MAJOR crisis. Both my computer, and Jared’s computer, were DEAD.

“Great! More time to vacation! Good riddance!”, you say?  I wish!! 

The thing is, we fund our travels by running our business remotely, and it means that we absolutely, positively, have to be connected to the web at least every 48 hours (preferably every 24 hours)!

Two dead work computers is BAD news!  And seriously…what are the chances that both laptops would die at once??

Jared had admitted he dropped his laptop (in the protective case) while he was packing the van back at home in Ajijic, Mexico. He didn’t check it at that time, but his computer was now telling him that the hard drive was fried. And mine? It hadn’t been dropped, but it wouldn’t turn on AT ALL. Zilch. Nada. I’ve seen this before…a dead main board…the sad sorry story of my previous Dell laptop that had died 5 years previously. Oh, joy!!

So, we pulled into Merida, found a lovely hotel with a pool, and immediately set off to find a computer repair shop. The first one we found told us the dreaded news that we half-expected (but wished wasn’t true). They said they could possibly order in some parts to save one of them, but it would take 3 days. Three days of our precious vacation time?  No, thank you!

So, we went across the street to a mall, and to make a long story short…we found a lovely new HP laptop at Radio Shack. It’s our first time wandering away from our Dell’s that we have used for 8 years…and I have to admit it felt good to turn our backs on Dell (I think). We asked if they had any laptop sales/specials going on, but they said no. We also confirmed with them that it would be “easy” to change the operating system language to English. “Si! No problema”, they said!

I chose to optimistically trust them (although I knew better).

The manager appeared just in time to ring up the sale, and was suddenly throwing in extras like a wireless keyboard and external speakers (great! Our old ones had just bit the dust!). Why is it that when you buy laptops, companies won’t discount the price, but they’ll thrown in an extra $100 of products for you?  (p.s. Dell does the same thing. If you find what you want for your customer computer on their website, call them to make the purchase and they will throw in all sorts of extras!)

We made it back to the hotel, and were excited to charge our laptop overnight, and have a working computer and internet connection, yet again!  The next day we took it easy,

 When leaving town the next morning, we had all but given up hope on our old laptops. We turned out of the hotel, drove just a few blocks, and there I suddenly spotted a hole-in-the-wall computer repair shop. “Computo Tecnologia y Comunicaciones”.


I told the family to wait, and I walked in with our laptops, and must have looked desperate enough that I finally convinced them to work on them right then (instead of getting to them the next day as they quoted). I hung out in the midst of the small staff, and after 2 1/2 hours in the car, Jared finally brought the kids in. After a very long stay there, they had finally pieced our two computers into one. We kept Jared’s body (yes, he had/has the better body), my brains (my hard drive was saved!), and my keyboard (Jared’s was missing some keys).

At least one hour of that time was just spent trying to restore internet access to the revived laptop, and we were told we still needed to take it home for additional repair–wiping it clean and re-installing everything (um…we still haven’t done that).

Computo Tecnologia y Comunicaciones on Calle 48/63 (phone 928-6420)

 The bill?  $300 pesos.  We gave them $500, and I felt like hugging them (I almost tried–but it was so awkward that I think I abandoned that idea mid-hug), and we went happily on our way to the next town just after nightfall.

So…3 months later…here is an update on what it means to buy a laptop in Mexico:

1. The keyboard is a Latin American keyboard. I assumed it would be an easy switch to an English keyboard, but was shocked to learn that an English keyboard for this laptop model is $100. Ouch. I still set the keyboard through the Control Panel as an “English” keyboard, despite the fact that a Latin American one is installed. This means that the letters/symbols on the keys do not match what I am typing. This makes it a little awkward for learning where new keys are located (such as the END or DELETE key)…because they are different from my last laptop, and again…what I see is not what I type.  I’ve found the best solution is that when sitting at my desk I use an external English keyboard, and therefore the annoyance just comes up when I go mobile. And truthfully, I’m a crazy obsessed typer that rarely looks at a keyboard anyways…so all is good for me (poor Jared, when he tries to use my laptop)!

2. The computer came in Spanish. I managed to get around just fine at first (I’m not terrible at reading Spanish), but still…when the control panel and everything else on the computer is not in English when you’re having trouble…it starts to bug.  Surprise, Surprise…You cannot easily change a language on a Windows operating system! My computer came with Windows Basic, which meant that I had to upgrade to Windows Ultimate ($200) to be able to download a language pack and upgrade it to English. To upgrade to Windows Ultimate to change the language, I had to do a clean install, which meant I had to wipe the ENTIRE computer clean. Assuming that the computer was brand new and I had nothing to lose, I did this clean install without doing any kind of a backup. Silly me…I didn’t take into consideration that it wiped out all of the pre-installed programs and drivers.  Just getting the computer to connect to the internet again was a huge chore!  Ahhh!!!

3. The reasons go a lot deeper than point #1 and #2, but like childbirth I have already forgotten all the pain, and can no longer remember all the problems I had to resolve. I know it included about 5 hours on the phone with US tech support, who couldn’t help me fully, because my computer is a Latin American model. I then called the Mexican HP support number, but somehow instead dialed the equivalent of 911, without even knowing it. Here I was trying to tell the guy about my computer problem, and he’s asking me “Is this an emergency?”  “Well, no, not really.” “M’am, this number is for emergencies.” “For computer emergencies?”  Umm…we got that straightened out very fast, and I felt a bit sheepish.

So, my advice to you?

Don’t buy a foreign computer unless you absolutely have to.

Or if you buy one, accept that whatever quirks it has are yours to keep…they are probably not worth the pain (and money) to fix!

It would have been cheaper to purchase a laptop in the states (those import taxes kill you on electronics), not to mention I wouldn’t have had to pay an extra $200 to upgrade the operating system to get it into English. Also, my keyboard would have already been in English, so I wouldn’t have to consider whether was/is worth it to me to spend an additional $100 to get an English keyboard. If I had been able to wait another month and a half to get a new computer (not too likely, considering the other laptop was literally just limping along-only sometimes able to connect to the internet), I would have ordered one and had family deliver it when they visited in January. The other option would have been purchasing the laptop in the US, and shipping it to Mexico, which would have resulted in a huge important duty/tax. I also learned that I perhaps could have called the HP office in Mexico and had them build the custom computer for me, and shipped it to me (perhaps even with English?) within Mexico.

Hindsight is always 20/20.

2 Responses to “Why not to buy a foreign computer”

  1. Thanks for the info.. I have been trying to change my Mexico computer to English for several months. The help sites all say I can do it and tell me how, BUT it never works.. Now I know!!! I can practice my Spanish when I need to do anything on my computer except surf the web…


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