Bulging capacitors haunt Dell

PC maker plans to replace components on some of its Optiplex business PCs but will not issue a product-wide recall.

Michael Singer Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Singer
2 min read
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.