Court documents show Dell knowingly sold faulty computers

By on June 30, 2010, 3:03 PM
Those of you who have been around the computer scene for a few years might remember a period in the early 2000s when a large number of motherboards from almost every vendor began to fail far and wide. The problem stemmed from the use of faulty capacitors produced by Asian suppliers, which were prone to pop and leak fluid, causing computers made by Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and others to break. Among them it appears that Dell was most affected, though.

According to recently released documents stemming from a three year-old lawsuit, the company shipped "at least 11.8 million computers" with potentially faulty components between May 2003 and July 2005. Unfortunately, they didn't discover this until it was too late and they had manufactured and distributed millions of systems. An internal study at the company showed that OptiPlex PCs containing the suspect capacitors had a 97% fail rate. Their solution? Play it cool and telling employees to "avoid all language indicating the boards were bad or had issues."

Dell's business model relies on a just-in-time assembly process that lets it get cheaper parts as they become available. The company was indeed able to undercut rivals and quickly became largest PC vendor in the world. But their leadership at the time was extremely focused on cost, and as a result they failed at being proactive and addressing customers concerns before they spun out of control. Poor decisions like this and several other problems that have plagued Dell in recent years (including fraud charges) really help explain the decline of the company and its tainted image.

Dell eventually admitted to the issue and in 2005 set aside $300 million to mend and replace computers, but that did not stop Internet services company AIT from launching a lawsuit two years later. The lawsuit is still pending.

User Comments: 14

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Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

I've recapped allot of Dell mainboards

They do work fine with components that are up to spec

They have done some other silly things though, some of their SFF chassis become so hot that they bake the capacitors, even known good brands...

But I wont complain, it gives me an extra source of income by fixing them

Route44 Route44, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

Per, sounds like the serious heat issues HP had with their DV6000 and DV9000 series from the recent past (though due to the chipsets). Have you found the same thing in any other laptop chassies?

Guest said:

I had a Dell Inspirion 9100 all upgraded.. worked for four years and took a dump out of nowhere. I took it apart per instruction from dell since my warrenty had just ran out.... lol cleaned everything use electrical cleaner by buttons on my laptop. I came back to life for about 4 minutes... then it wouldn't charge or turn on anymore. the only reason it did turn on for a minute was the 25% left in the battery. Its dead now and feel I got screwed. I did not run around with my cool laptop... It should still be running and I didn't get much help from Dell, they just said the motherboard was probable burnt out... Yeah.. thanks Dell. we paid a pretty buck for that...

Guest said:

oh yeah and my laptop had four fans in it and it vacumn d them all the time so my laptop would have to work as hard also bought a laptop cooler for it.... I got screwed. any info on that lawsuit would be nice. We paid almost $4000.oo for my special order.. and I got burnt...

Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Eventually we will hear similar things about Nvidia GPUs on notebooks. Those are well documented on HP and Dell official forums. Over the last two years I have had three such laptops fail on me with the integrated graphics being the culprit...

Route44 Route44, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

Eventually we will hear similar things about Nvidia GPUs on notebooks. Those are well documented on HP and Dell official forums. Over the last two years I have had three such laptops fail on me with the integrated graphics being the culprit...

Do you know how the ATI integrated graphics fair? In the next year I am going to have to purchase three notebooks and after having been burned by the HP 6000 series I've become almost paranoid.

pounder said:

Now the Light why my Refurbished DELL Optiplex GX620 Shows More Bsod's than a lightening Storm.

Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

The capacitor issue mainly affects desktop systems (big or small)

Because the beancounters can't spec the usage of cheaper electrolytic capacitors for laptops due to their bigger size compared to the much better solid polymer capacitors that are both smaller in size and offer much improved ESR characteristics and longer life

As for the video card failures due to nVidias faulty GPU's yea that sure has turned into a big problem, I sure wonder how long Dell is gonna deny their paying customers support on that!

Case in point; I got a free laptop at work, a Dell XPS M1710

It had a known faulty video card (They give me stuff because they know I am capable to repair it so it does not have to end up at the landfill )

Anyway Dell has yet not acknowledged that this is a problem, even tho you can find dozen refurbished replacement cards on eBay... (I wonder how that works Dell...?)

Not wanting to be burnt by the crappy nVidia GPU's I did my research and replaced the faulty Geforce 7950 GTX with a ATI X1400 GPU which fits this laptop, Dell part number CG108

It's by no means fast but it works well and wont fail in 30 days due to the poor underfill like nVidias cards



tengeta tengeta said:

This is a surprise how? HP, Apple, and eMachines have been doing this for over a decade so why wouldn't they try and play it the cheap way...

Guest said:

damn, and here i am with an optiplex 280 gathering dust. I suppose its just a matter of time before it fails

Guest said:

Sony is not much better. I am currently using a 2005 VGC-RB 40 and not more than 1 1/4 years after purchase in 2005 the capacitors went out . I contacted Sony concerning The defect, they didn't care one bit. Big surprise, I know. I replaced them with rubicons and am using it to this day. I still have machines from the 90's that still operate with no signs of damage to the capacitors (visual) this is what i expect from a machine for as much as you pay for some of them.

But guess what? I no longer even consider a Sony product for purchase at all. Period. All existing Sony products that I own are slowly being fased out and replaced with better brands. PS also had a Sony camcorder and within 1 year it died. Only got maybe 10 Hrs. use out of it altogether. I will never buy another Sony product as long as i live. Take that , Sony.

End of off-topic rant.

Appzalien said:

This is the main reason I have always built my own systems, besides the proprietary aspect of those machines (you couldn't just go out and buy a new power supply for them you had to use theirs at exorbant pricing) they have a tendency to use everything as cheap as possible to keep prices down. They want you to buy a new machine every few years so who cares if the caps only last three. But those cheap chinese caps are everywhere, I have replaced them in power bricks for my router/modem combo and even in Antec low cost power supplys ( the Basic versions use crappy caps and most of my supplys died after four or five years) and part of the problem is finding replacement for them, I searched everywhere and the only good Japanese caps I can find will not fit into the cramped space of the supplies board. They are either too big around or the leads are too different to properly mount without the risk of shorts. I have two antecs, a True 430watt and Basic 350 on the shelf waiting to find caps either from scrap supplies or other sources, but I hate to trash them they were good clean power when they functioned. My latest mobo, made by Gigabyte, has all Japanese solid caps throughout the board and was not expensive at all. Some things you can look at, but others you cannot see inside to tell if the caps are good or crap before you buy.

Guest said:

I got blamed for breaking a dell with motherboard issues, am I going to be reimbursed? I guess that is why they stopped the "Dude you're getting a Dell Commercials"

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