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Faulty battery sparks Dell recall

Dell Computer will recall about 284,000 Inspiron notebook batteries due to a flaw that has caused at least one notebook to catch fire, CNET has learned.

Dell Computer will recall about 284,000 notebook batteries due to a flaw that has caused at least one notebook to catch fire, CNET has learned.

The recall centers on a design flaw in batteries incorporated in Inspiron 5000 and 5000(e) notebooks, according to sources. The flaw resides in the battery packaging and can cause the notebooks to overheat, sources said.

To date, one notebook has caught fire because of the problem, prompting the recall. Panasonic manufactured the batteries.

The models came to the market in January 2000 and were retired in March 2001. The flawed batteries are found in some, but not all, Inspiron 5000s.

A Dell spokesman contacted late in the day confirmed that a recall announcement was forthcoming.

The recall will no doubt be an embarrassment to Dell, which prides itself on service and reliability. The company often ranks first in customer-satisfaction surveys, a fact that Dell markets aggressively.

In the first quarter, Dell also became the world's largest PC company in terms of PCs shipped, according to Gartner and IDC.

Last October, Dell voluntarily recalled approximately 27,000 batteries found inside certain Latitude notebooks because of an overheating problem. In that instance, Sanyo manufactured the batteries. The batteries, but not the notebooks, were replaced.

Gartner analyst Mark Margevicius says with this event?Dell is recalling more than 10 times the number of computers it did in last October's recall.

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In the October recall, Dell created a Web site in 13 languages that identified by serial number the defective batteries and informed customers how to get repairs. The recall was performed in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Similar programs will likely be instituted for the current recall.

Latitude notebooks are generally sold to the business market, while Inspiron notebooks are sold to consumers and businesses.

In the past two years, Dell has grappled with other recalls and repairs as well.

This past February, the company discovered a problem with the way a graphics chip from Nvidia interacts with the motherboard in the OptiPlex GX200 corporate computers.

In March 2000, Dell found that it had incorporated faulty memory in several thousand Inspiron and Latitude notebooks manufactured in 1999. Dell agreed to replace the memory free of charge.