October 31, 2005 5:05 PM PST

Bulging capacitors haunt Dell

Dell plans to replace components on some of its Optiplex business PCs but will not issue a product-wide recall, a spokesman for the company said Monday.

Performance problems with the company's GX270 and GX280 Optiplex computers were specifically named as part of the company's anticipated failure to meet its third-quarter revenue forecast.

Dell spokesman Jess Blackburn said the problem centers on certain capacitors--which store power and regulate voltage on motherboards-- that failed to perform to Dell's specifications.

"Over time, the capacitors can expand or bulge and the systems won't power up," Blackburn said. "There is not safety risk or data loss associated with this capacitor problem."

Blackburn said Dell receives its capacitors from a variety of vendors and declined to specify which supplier was responsible.

Dell has stopped shipping Optiplex PCs with the capacitors in question, Blackburn said, declining to specify when and where the PCs were manufactured. The company is now expected to conduct field visits to replace any affected products, he said.

"We are not issuing a full recall because we know that only a small percentage of these Optiplex machines have this problem," Blackburn said.

This is not the first time that Optiplex machines have suffered from bulging capacitors. Participants in Dell's Community Forum first spotted the capacitor problem in February when one member reported that a bad capacitor had caused "intermittent shutdown, thermal shutdown, and video failure."

A picture posted by a Dell Forum member shows two black- and gold-colored bulging capacitors with "1500 hF 6.3 v" printed on the sides.

Other Forum members noted that motherboards with the faulty capacitors were the ones popping, leaking and crusting over. Several recommended a simple but time-consuming motherboard replacement as the best fix.

As for a possible industry-wide problem caused by the faulty capacitors, calls to various PC manufacturers were not immediately returned.

A person familiar with the problem said Dell's capacitor issue is unlikely to be related to any specific Intel processor used in Optiplex systems, but did note that similar bulging issues from some Taiwanese suppliers have been observed.

15 comments

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Anyone else have this problem?
We have had the bulging capacitor problem on a few of our machines. I was curious if anyone else had this problem?
Posted by baylordawg (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
IBM has also had this problem
The last round of IBM desktop machines our group has all failed with defective capacitors on the motherboards. This isn't just one manufacturer's problem and it isn't even something relatively new, it seems to be an all-too-common problem.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Bad capacitors
Folks,
We are tracking the issue at this time. If anyone has specific photos of the bad capacitors that they can let us post on CNET or additional stories about how the manufacturer helped you, please pass them along to me (michael.singer at cnet.com).
Posted by msingersfo (24 comments )
Link Flag
Yes we do as well
I work for a Univeristy in the hardware area and at present have replaced 180 SX-270 MB's and the GX-270's that were affected we made Dell come out and replace the entire machine. Also am now seriously looking at alternate vendors or warranty methods
Posted by lunarcom (1 comment )
Link Flag
twenty and counting...
Twenty of our sixty-six Optiplex GX270 systems have failed thus far. Video loss is the most common symptom. A visual inspection of the capacitors reveals the swelling and/or leaking.

I e-mail Dell with the symptoms, and they ship a replacement motherboard.

I appreciate the quick turnaround, but in spite of what Jess Blackburn claims, a 30% failure rate is not a "small percentage."
Posted by B e n (1 comment )
Link Flag
Watched one fry yesterday.
We had one fry yesterday and have had 4 overall in the last week. Not all of which have had bulging caps. The 82801EB USB Controller is scorched. This is 25% of the GX270's we have.
Posted by mhuffer (3 comments )
Link Flag
You BET! Jan 2006
Capacitors bulging on several DELL OPTIPLEX. We even had the 24 hour / next day replacement. WHAT a laugher. Going on 8 days and DELL just "doesn't understand how this [delays in their service] could happen"! Small shop here (but I consult to about five or six such 50 user shops) and I've terminated all purchases with DELL. I've had five users w/o a system and DELL doesn't care. DELL is going to 'kaka' in a handbasket.
Posted by Bonedoc1983 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Not just Dell -Apple too
The first revision of the latest flat panel iMacs' power supplies had the same issue. Apple no longer makes their hardware so we pay the consequence.
Posted by pecos-bill (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What Now?
My company has many of the Optiplex units and we are having this problem with one right now....mine. This is the first one and I'd like to nip it early. Has anyone found out how to contact Dell about their repair policy? I've looked for email addresses but their website has everything for sales but no contacts for service.
sean
Posted by buzzworth (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
GX270 MOBO Tips
Changing the mobo in a GX270 is not time consuming. We have 16 GX270's and I've replaced the mobo in 12 of them thus far. It takes about 5 minutes. I'll share some tips from my experiences:
- Be very careful when you go to remove the cpu heatsink, you could bend the pins on the cpu chip! When removing the cpu heatsink the cpu chip will try to stick to the heatsink because the lubricant between the chip and heatsink is solidafied. Even if the pc is inop leave it on for awhile right before you remove the heatsink. If the lube is heated and soft the two separate easier. It's very easy to bend the pins on the cpu! Almost impossible to bend them back to proper alignment! I know! the first one I did I trashed the cpu!
- The first time you power up the new mobo the HD light and the power light will flash for a little while. This is normal, the mobo and bios are configuring themselves. It will boot normally after a few minutes.
Posted by wayjo (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Address
Here's the address:
us_rel_desktop_support@dell.com

Tell them what it's doing and send them the service tag number. They have been very helpful and usually the new mobo arrives in 1-2 days.
Since I knew more optiplexs would be crashing,
I sent them like 3-4 service tags off of machines that were still working, that way I had the new mobo in hand when the next one crashed.:)
But you can only send one service tag number per e-mail. Don't ask me why, that's the way they do business.
Posted by wayjo (2 comments )
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Ongoing problem with faulty capacitors?
One of my customers has experienced this problem with a batch of HP ePCs, d530s during 2004. Over the past +6 months the same customer has now experienced similar problems (plus others) with the later dc7100, and dc7600 models. Is anyone aware of similar problems being experienced elsewhere currently? Although HP did a proactive replacement for the ePCs & d530s following a customer advisory re the bad capacitors, they are denying any further problems having been reported (worldwide).
Posted by yedeus (7 comments )
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