AfterDawn: Tech news

Dell employees knew about faulty computers

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 30 Jun 2010 19:45 User comments (29)

Dell employees knew about faulty computers In 2007, Dell was sued over selling faulty computers to not only individual consumers, but also to corporations and big Universities who needed Dell's OptiPlex business units.
New documents, finally unsealed in the long-standing case, show that Dell employees knew that the company was selling faulty units, and decided to instead play off the issues, allowing the corporations and schools use the computers, at risk to their business.

In a twist of irony, the firm defending Dell in the suit had 1000 Dell computers run into trouble, and the PC manufacturer refused to fix them.

Internal documents also show that Dell shipped almost 12 million computers from May 2003 to July 2005, knowing full well they were at risk of failing.

In 2005, the company took a $300 million charge to fix and replace faulty computers, and will pay up to $100 million this year to settle with the SEC for shady accounting practices.

The problems affecting the millions of computers had to do with bad capacitors found on motherboards being built by Taiwanese suppliers. After three years, the capacitors had a 97 percent chance of popping and leaking fluid.

Making matters worse, explains The NYTimes was that Dell, when they did choose to fix faulty units, would replace the motherboards with other motherboards with bad capacitors, delaying the inevitable.

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29 user comments

130.6.2010 20:34

And the glorious build your own computer race lives on.

230.6.2010 20:52

Originally posted by ROMaster2:
And the glorious build your own computer race lives on.
Building your own computer is a fun experience. However, Universities and corporations usually don't have the option to build the massive amount of servers they need.

330.6.2010 21:10

The company I had previously worked for used Dell computers which had a great amount of issues. I told management about the issues that we were having in the field and we pulled over 100 dell computers from clients and trashed them (sorta, parted them out).

Just to add, im glad something was (is) finally said and done about these faulty Dell computers. I never trusted Dell and warn others from buying Dell.

430.6.2010 22:48

I have built my own since 1997. The last time I bought a manufacture PC was a Packard Bell. I will never do that again. The sound card and modem card were one card.

530.6.2010 23:33

And that answers my question on why i dont like Dell at all.
I am fixing soo many dell machines atm i dont wanna see another one. the word Dell is like the F word at the moment for me :P

630.6.2010 23:39

Originally posted by Pop_Smith:
Originally posted by ROMaster2:
And the glorious build your own computer race lives on.
Building your own computer is a fun experience. However, Universities and corporations usually don't have the option to build the massive amount of servers they need.
I call BS...anyone can get a high school student to do the building for minimum wage, and at a rate of about 4-6 systems per hour. With the current job market, you could probably get someone with a degree to do it for minimum wage! Building HP-style systems does not take any skill at all, and is therefor unskilled labor. The only potential problem is that when you build a lot of systems at once, it becomes very tempting to take quality shortcuts, as a savings of $5 per system is a lot more noticeable when you are building 1,000 systems, and someone else is providing the repairs.

On a side note, this seems like common knowledge. Every major corporation takes shortcuts to save money, often with terribly horrific results. Anyone who works with those systems frequently will find out all the common problems with all the systems, and they are usually not allowed to tell people about said problems. This is why so many people have started building their own systems; it is the only way to know that no one cheaped out and installed a $50 mainboard under their $1000 processor, with a $15 power supply getting ready to kill the whole works.

71.7.2010 4:35

Biggest problem with dell is every few years some idiot design student who knows nothing but how to use a pencil, comes up with a case design that looks great but does not bend its self well to thing like air movement and heat dissipation.

To be honest ive seen lots of systems fail in the past at around 3-4 years due to capacitor buldge/leak, but the main reason for this is something either not moving the heat from that area or in the case of many p4 boards and earlier amd boards the main caps were next to the CPU socket, so as you cooled your heat sync the now warm air just got blown at the board and the caps and heated instead.

Ive a fair few customers with systems in machine workshops and high dust enviroments, the best way to keep a system going for longer is fit a tower fan or some heat sink cooler that blows across the board and stright out of a back vent, instead of cooking the board.

And I think ive seen the problem optiplex range, a few customers have a few from this time. The PSU was mounted right at the bottom of the case... like thats going to help and then dell decided that despite it was primarily a steel based frame they would do the clever thing an clamp it all in a mile of nice black plastic... cus that doesnt act as an insulator.

But who really buys dell anymore, all my customers have learned the hardway, bespoke builds the way forward... beter support, lower faliure rate and longer lasting systems, not to mention they are normally quicker as I refuse to use substandard parts/makes to cut a few pounds here and there. Using crappy tech to save money only bites you as you have to replace it when it fails inside the warwanty and the customer who has to go through the heart ache of a system going down.

There is also another dell a customer has, not sure of the model its later than the effected optiplex, but that had a PSU mounted upside down, normally the PSU is mounted with the board inside at the bottome and the heat sink being the highest thing inside the psu. Nooo dell decided to fit it upside down, oh and although it was essentially a normal atx psu dell offset the holes so it wasnt anymore.

So the psu got hot, kicked out heat and then cooked its self from within.

Solution, 1x drill, 1x tin snips, 1x atx psu, 10 minutes later problem sorted.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 01 Jul 2010 @ 4:41

81.7.2010 7:26

on one of the other forums i use to go on the biggest joke going around was"why dont you buy a dell"


custom built gaming pc from early 2010,ps2 with 15 games all original,ps3 500gbs with 5 games all original,yamaha amp and 5.1channel surround sound speakers,46inch sony lcd smart tv.

91.7.2010 8:50

This is sad news since I have owned many Dell computers for almost 10 years at home and use them at work everyday and have not had one single problem with any of them. They have been extremely reliable. Although I did build them myself from their website and always upgraded all the important parts. I have nothing bad to say about their products. If this story is accurate then to their management I say "not cool".

101.7.2010 9:11

Originally posted by Pop_Smith:
Originally posted by ROMaster2:
And the glorious build your own computer race lives on.
Building your own computer is a fun experience. However, Universities and corporations usually don't have the option to build the massive amount of servers they need.
RoMaster2, you are dead on bro, I've been building my own since I bought my last retail PC, an AMD 486-SX 25 MHz that was out of date within three months of buying thanks to a sudden "evolution" in software.

Pop_Smith, that's not true at all. Universities would stand a far better chance of having systems that not only meet their needs, but would be far superior, easily upgradeable, and by far cheaper in the long run. It takes at the most three hours to build and load a PC with everything it would need to run. And you can buy the parts in bulk from many reputable online vendors who stand by the merchandise they sell, and would honorably provide friendly customer service. I have yet to run into any major problems after more than 20 years of building my own systems, and when one of those rare instances arise, the vendor I purchased the part from took care of it without a hiccup. And if it was out of warranty, then you just buy a new part and move on, usually in 1/10th the time it'd take just dealing with a retail computer companies customer service system.

Hell I wish that universities and businesses did just this, I'd have a job for life!

111.7.2010 9:15

This capacitor issue is exactly what happened to my Dell XPS motherboard. How do I file a claim now that Dell was found guilty?

121.7.2010 10:06
djc74
Unverified new user

Originally posted by rick930:
Pop_Smith, that's not true at all. Universities would stand a far better chance of having systems that not only meet their needs, but would be far superior, easily upgradeable, and by far cheaper in the long run.

There is no chance a private organization can build a large number of mid-level computers and be price-competitive. I dare you to build a half-decent computer for $350 including OS... and account for repairs in this price. Then there is the issue of having the same parts down to revision if possible. That involves working with wholesalers and maybe even directly to manufacturers, no retailer is going to have 3000 motherboards in stock (we are talking same version!!).
Cheaper??? Pay someone $20/hr to assemble & test computers, take 2.5hrs including imaging and that's another $50/unit in costs...
Now do you see the big picture????

131.7.2010 10:23

LOL .. I or the company I work for never trusted dell PC or servers. I would go for HP servers and workstations. Cheap AZZ dell parts.

141.7.2010 10:48

Originally posted by djc74:
Originally posted by rick930:
Pop_Smith, that's not true at all. Universities would stand a far better chance of having systems that not only meet their needs, but would be far superior, easily upgradeable, and by far cheaper in the long run.

There is no chance a private organization can build a large number of mid-level computers and be price-competitive. I dare you to build a half-decent computer for $350 including OS... and account for repairs in this price. Then there is the issue of having the same parts down to revision if possible. That involves working with wholesalers and maybe even directly to manufacturers, no retailer is going to have 3000 motherboards in stock (we are talking same version!!).
Cheaper??? Pay someone $20/hr to assemble & test computers, take 2.5hrs including imaging and that's another $50/unit in costs...
Now do you see the big picture????
Exactly, it's great when posters who don't work in an enterprise environment give their uninformed opinion. When I order 450 PCs from Dell they are delivered within 10 days and I have had very little issue with them. Bad capacitors is an industry wide problem and not just a dell issue. We had a good amount of Asus Mainboard Caps go on about 4 year old PCs; so much so that out of the initial 100 there are may be 10 left.

151.7.2010 11:45

This isn't the first time Dell has done this; this is a repeat tactic because they make huge amounts of margin off their low end models they'd prefer to settle a lawsuit in court which they know would pay out less then replacing each faulty unit they distributed at the time of complaints.

It may be illegal, but all they would end up doing is paying out a hefty fine, and keep going about the standard business model that works for them with no other repercussions. If people were simply smart, they wouldn't by into DELL at all; but every major brand of PC has the same issues, hell even Apple. And thus why the smart ones learn to build their own.

Also employees for Dell 3rd party contracted out or not; are sworn to not let company issues be known to the public, even if there is something wrong with their unit, they are to deny it or find a reason the client made it faulty. If anyone is morally inclined, they should not work for Dell, cause Dell will fire you for being honest with the customer.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 01 Jul 2010 @ 11:53

161.7.2010 12:29

Originally posted by KillerBug:
Originally posted by Pop_Smith:
Originally posted by ROMaster2:
And the glorious build your own computer race lives on.
Building your own computer is a fun experience. However, Universities and corporations usually don't have the option to build the massive amount of servers they need.
I call BS...anyone can get a high school student to do the building for minimum wage, and at a rate of about 4-6 systems per hour. With the current job market, you could probably get someone with a degree to do it for minimum wage! Building HP-style systems does not take any skill at all, and is therefor unskilled labor. The only potential problem is that when you build a lot of systems at once, it becomes very tempting to take quality shortcuts, as a savings of $5 per system is a lot more noticeable when you are building 1,000 systems, and someone else is providing the repairs.

On a side note, this seems like common knowledge. Every major corporation takes shortcuts to save money, often with terribly horrific results. Anyone who works with those systems frequently will find out all the common problems with all the systems, and they are usually not allowed to tell people about said problems. This is why so many people have started building their own systems; it is the only way to know that no one cheaped out and installed a $50 mainboard under their $1000 processor, with a $15 power supply getting ready to kill the whole works.
I totally agree with you man... The technicians get paid way way way more than what the hardware actually cost. Think of schools! Man, those cheap, crappy computers cost a small fortune (government grant or private donation) and they're already outdated when finish installing. It's all about greed and greasing the wheels to collect the fats.

Building a computer is not rocket science. If you want a cool/expensive computer, then you might need to do some research (ahem, those with Advanced Hobbyist Syndrome). Otherwise, anybody with Lego skills can do it.


171.7.2010 15:23

Originally posted by Pop_Smith:
Originally posted by ROMaster2:
And the glorious build your own computer race lives on.
Building your own computer is a fun experience. However, Universities and corporations usually don't have the option to build the massive amount of servers they need.
Most Colleges and Universities buy from Reason/Nor-Tech and not from Dell. They build custom servers and PC's with excellent support unlike Dell. There are a hand full of companies that can do this so if a Corporation is smart they won't buy Dell, HP, Compaq, Lenovo (IBM), Toshiba and so on. Dell has been horrible for many years but like some others, started out good and now survive on their Loral’s. Sad!
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 01 Jul 2010 @ 15:25

181.7.2010 15:26

Dell sucks. Period. I've read they are #1 in customer support: BS!! I've had issues with mine since I got it and they won't do squat to fix it, or even give advice. Once my car is fixed, I'm building my own PC that will kick the crap out of any Dell PC. And now that Dell owns Alienware, I'll be staying away from those as well.

191.7.2010 15:29

Originally posted by Gnawnivek:
anybody with Lego skills can do it.
That settles it, I'm a shoe-in then, lol.

201.7.2010 16:06
psp world
Unverified new user

This is not surprised by Dell. My friend has a Dell XPS M1330 laptop and I discover she had a GPU heating issue. Before things got worst I installed my own heat sink made out of pure copper. And temperatures dropped down by 35 to 40 degrees. Thanks Dell you just gave me more of a job as an IT Professional.

IT Associate degree, A+ and N+ certified.

211.7.2010 16:30

At one time, back when the internet was still new and 1 Gb was a *huge* amount of storage, Dell actually made good computers. In fact, while pricey, they were almost always nicer than the competition. Hell, even 7 years ago, when I bought a Dell desktop - they gave me credit lol - they still had pretty good production values and US customer service. Now... Bleh. Sayonara, Dell, I'm sooo glad I built my own after that.

222.7.2010 0:34

Dell's consumer customer service is horrible. VOIP line to India that's full of static. However, if you are a business customer you get great US-based business support. Never had a problem getting parts in. Our servers and Dell desktops/laptops were pretty solid. That being said...I supported them when the capacitor issue happened...and yes...it sucked. The WHOLE INDUSTRY had this problem, though. Many, many, many mainboards were made with a rash of faulty capacitors that expanded and leaked. This wasn't a Dell issue. EVERY computer maker at the time knew this was an issue.

Personally, though, I built my own boxes...for home use I hate all the proprietary stuff companies do to make your stuff hard to repair or upgrade (ie, weird hole patterns for securing motherboards-power supplies-etc, custom motherboard sizes, custom size power supplies, etc). Nearly all the big manufacturers are guilty of this.

232.7.2010 10:11

97% failure rate. That was no accident, those were designed to fail. Dell most likely SPECIFICALLY specced those capacitors, wanting to sell new unints when those died out of warranty, or when people weren dumb enough to not make Dell stick to their obligations

242.7.2010 17:13

there was an issue of 1 or 2 companies in the asia area making bunk caps. many big companies including asus and abit got caught up in the mess. i would imagine dell found the super cheap deal and bought up several million of them.

they now own a hardware production plant now, right?

252.7.2010 22:58

Originally posted by djc74:
Pay someone $20/hr to assemble & test computers, take 2.5hrs including imaging and that's another $50/unit in costs...
Now do you see the big picture????
Afraid not; universities can get people to do it for free, and corporations can hire any idiot off the street, give him 10 minutes of "put this here, put that there, type this" training, and pay minimum wage. Line up a few of these people in a row, and your average "Man hours" per system drops to about 45 minutes...or less than $5 per system. Plus these people are all expendable; use them hard for two weeks to build you 300 systems, then let them go...in this economy, they will be glad to have gotten 2 weeks work. Want 3000 systems in 2 weeks? Hire more people!

Originally posted by Chroma45:
Exactly, it's great when posters who don't work in an enterprise environment give their uninformed opinion. When I order 450 PCs from Dell they are delivered within 10 days and I have had very little issue with them. Bad capacitors is an industry wide problem and not just a dell issue. We had a good amount of Asus Mainboard Caps go on about 4 year old PCs; so much so that out of the initial 100 there are may be 10 left.
Yeah...Asus is an OEM now, and OEM parts are trash...so even their "DIY" gear is trash now. Thankfully, we still have Gigabit.


It is a bit unfair to trash Dell like this...every OEM PC maker releases a super-high-failure-rate system once in a while, and they always try to cover it up. I can understand the lawsuit; that is how you have to deal with something like this...that is why every OEM has at least a dozen class action suits against them...often one OEM will have a dozen suits against them just for one product.

262.7.2010 23:59

So my question still stands: How do we, the consumers who are the ones who were wronged by this negligence, get restitution/compensation for hundreds of dollars put out in repair costs because of the faulty part?

273.7.2010 23:28

This was a known fault over 10 years ago on many boards sold by Abit amongst others!!!

Abit KT7A was a bad example I know I had one!

Back then it was all down to the manufacturer of the capacitors using cheap cost cutting filling for the capacitors that expanded during use - usually appearing as a popped cap after a year or so of use!

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 03 Jul 2010 @ 23:30

286.7.2010 21:35

Never been a fan of Dell or MircoSuck. So, no surprise here.

2926.4.2011 12:22

Actually, the bad caps were due to a faulty electrolytic mix that was sold to most of the big Asian capacitor manufacturers; that's exactly why mys desktop has solid caps ^^' ... The damn things STILL keep popping up. Likely some shady bastich doesn't wanna throw away his entire defective stock =p .

Back in the day, Dell was actually a quality choice, but that hasn't been remotely true for a good number of years. Ah, well, we won't miss ya, Dell.

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