30 June 2010

I sit here on a Dell Optiplex 755 and wonder.

According to company memorandums and other documents recently unsealed in a civil case against Dell in Federal District Court in North Carolina, Dell appears to have suffered from the bad capacitors, made by a company called Nichicon, far more than its rivals. Internal documents show that Dell shipped at least 11.8 million computers from May 2003 to July 2005 that were at risk of failing because of the faulty components. These were Dell’s OptiPlex desktop computers — the company’s mainstream products sold to business and government customers.

A study by Dell found that OptiPlex computers affected by the bad capacitors were expected to cause problems up to 97 percent of the time over a three-year period, according to the lawsuit.

As complaints mounted, Dell hired a contractor to investigate the situation. According to a Dell filing in the lawsuit, which has not yet gone to trial, the contractor found that 10 times more computers were at risk of failing than Dell had estimated. Making problems worse, Dell replaced faulty motherboards with other faulty motherboards, according to the contractor’s findings.

Carey Holzman, a computer expert who investigated the capacitor problems and collected photos from people with broken motherboards, had a different take on the safety situation.

“Of course it’s dangerous,” Mr. Holzman said. “Having leaking capacitors is a huge problem.” He found that the capacitor problems could cause computers to catch fire [emphasis added -BF].

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