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Dell Defect Turning 2.2GHz CPU Into 100MHz CPU? 314

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the making-the-pr-department-work-for-their-paycheck dept.
jtavares2 writes "In what is being dubbed Throttlegate, scores of users on many message boards have been complaining about nexplicably aggressive throttling policies on their Dell Latitude E6500 and E6400 laptops which cause their CPUs to be throttled to less than 5% of their theoretical maximums even while at room temperatures. In many cases, the issue can be triggered just by playing a video or performing some other trivial, but CPU intensive, task. After being banned [PDF] from the Dell Forums for revealing 'non-public information,' one user went so far as to write and publish a 59-page report [PDF] explaining and diagnosing the throttling problem in incredible detail. Dell seems to be silent on the issue, but many users are hoping for a formal recall."
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Dell Defect Turning 2.2GHz CPU Into 100MHz CPU?

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  • First Post (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:06PM (#30274700)
    Comes a bit slower at 100 MHz. I'll probably get second or third, damn Dell laptop.
  • by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:07PM (#30274728)
    Hope they're scourged thoroughly.

    I'd happily scour a user. :-)
  • by NoYob (1630681) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:08PM (#30274746)
    I click on the link and well, I think it's being hosted by one of these Dells
    • MIRROR (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:03PM (#30277376)

      I click on the link and well, I think it's being hosted by one of these Dells

      At the end of one of the forums, someone links to a mirror. You can find the report here:

      http://www.sigmirror.com/files/44490_iweoz/throttlegate.pdf [sigmirror.com]

  • by 0racle (667029) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:10PM (#30274762)
    Seriously, just STFU.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:10PM (#30274770)

    I hear Dell is planning to issue a complimentary turbo button for any user experiencing the problem.

  • FTW (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:11PM (#30274778)

    Energy Star Compliance at it's Best.

    • Related: How's the battery life on those things?
      • by springbox (853816)
        Not very good. It drains really fast even when casually browsing the web (aggressive power profiles enabled.) Nowhere near the 3 hours claimed by Windows when the battery is fully charged..
  • PDF Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:11PM (#30274784) Homepage

    Here is a mirror of the PDF: mirror [randallcotton.com]. It was put up by the guy who discovered this, I'm just copying the link.

    User/password is "guest" and "guest".

    Be warned, it's about 25MB.

  • by MarcQuadra (129430) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:12PM (#30274794)

    I had a pre-release e-series machine from Dell on my desk last year. It's like they built the thing from the outside-in. Even on a 'release' E6500, Ubuntu seems to halt and die on full-screen video, Windows AHCI drivers that work everywhere else cause BSODs, and the power management firmware seems like it was written by a roomful of meth-addicted monkeys.

    I've never been more disappointed with Dell as I was with the E6500. At least when the Optiplex GX260 power supplies all failed a few years ago, it was easy enough to fix them. These things are abhorrent.

    • by powerlord (28156)

      Even on a 'release' E6500, Ubuntu seems to halt and die on full-screen video

      Even the HCF [wikipedia.org] instruction isn't properly implemented? What were these people thinking?!?!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The E6500 I had prior to about 4 months ago was a good machine (for the most part - I still agree with the "Designed from the Outside In" comment, though). This 6400 that I have now is JUNK. The E4300s I'm getting in are even worse than that.

      SLOW!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'm lost. Doesn't Dell take a standard Intel/AMD CPU and pair it with a standard Intel/VIA/SIS/Nvidia chipset? What is there to go wrong? I can understand if the thing is improperly cooled, but beyond that, aren't they just selling us the same crap that HP/Lenovo/your pick are, but inside a Dell laptop case?
    • My friend brought over an E series latitude laptop the other day. What a piece of trash compared to the D series. I was shocked at how shitty they are. Took out most of the ports so he has to have this weirdo port replicator plugged into the expansion dock, and its not pass through so he has to take it off if he wants to dock at the desk. Its ALL plastic and flexs easily. Just terrible design.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ickpoo (454860)

        I have this exact same issue on a Dell D620 Latitude. It typically happens when compiling code. The exact same symptoms - machine is working hard, begins to heat up, machine gets really slow and cools off but remains glacial slow. I've ran one of the speed / temp sensor plotting tools and can see the result CPU running at half speed but working at 100%. System is so slow that moving the mouse and the like around is practically impossible, only a hard reboot clears the machine, if I soft reboot the probl

        • by tsm_sf (545316) on Monday November 30, 2009 @11:22PM (#30279266) Journal
          The most annoying thing, is when the problem happens and you call Dell up they are always - please reinstall the operating system. I know it isn't the operating system, I can reproduce it in the bios. But they still persist in believing it is the OS (and yes, they are trying to blame Microsoft, this case, purely Dell's problem).

          *clickity clickity* "Ok, I've reinstalled the operating system." I think there was a Dilbert about this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151)

      "At least when the Optiplex GX260 power supplies all failed a few years ago, it was easy enough to fix them. These things are abhorrent."

      When the motherboards failed on GX260s a few years ago, it was a monumental pain in the ass.

  • by Dan East (318230) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:14PM (#30274816) Homepage Journal

    At least the batteries will last for 50 hours.

  • Bad Summary? (Score:3, Informative)

    by clang_jangle (975789) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:15PM (#30274832) Journal

    scours of users

    That would be "scores of users", assuming submitter meant to indicate a number equaling or greater than a multiple of twenty. Of course it's hard to say really, as the link provided (the "many message boards" link which links to a single message board) doesn't say anything remotely resembling the claims of the submitter -- it's people complaining about "freeze/lockup".

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:15PM (#30274836) Homepage Journal
    you just have to hit the turbo button! Duh!
  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:19PM (#30274878)
    Windows 7 on a blazing fast 100mhz CPU. Suck on that /.ers. And hey it does Aero too! At least I think it does, bought mine last week and just got to the login screen.
  • by 1080bogus (1015303) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:25PM (#30274956)
    I called their Pro Tech support to help diagnose a very similar issue. The CPU's were running at 6-700Mhz. I spent 45 min on the phone with them until I finally found a forum explaining it had to do with the Intel SpeedStep feature. When you go into the BIOS, go to Performance, SpeedStep, and disable it. They said thanks, added to their Knowledge Base and gave us one more reason to get away from them.
    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:50PM (#30275308) Journal

      Yeah, great, except disabling SpeedStep kills battery life and otherwise sucks power.

      I don't mind my laptop throttling itself when I'm not using it. My current Dell (XPS M1530) throttles itself to 800 mhz when it overheats because I'm doing something strenuous -- like, I don't know, Duke Nukem 3D.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fulg (138866)

      When you go into the BIOS, go to Performance, SpeedStep, and disable it.

      My brother's E6400 fixes the speed at 1GHz when SpeedStep is disabled in the BIOS (i.e. NOT at 100% - CPU is rated for 2.0GHz), so that's not always a solution. Is the thermal design so bad that they can't actually keep the CPU at full speed all the time?

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:42PM (#30277742) Journal

        Almost certainly. I doubt any of the modern laptops can run Core 2 Duo CPUs at full throttle without it going supernova. Laptops are just plain too thin to dissipate that much heat through mere air cooling of CPU heat sinks. The only reason we have laptops that come anywhere close to this level of performance is because the cores are going to be in an idle state 90% of the time and they can throttle the bajeezus out of them if they get too hot when you run them too hard for too long. That said, this report suggests two things:

        • Windows throttling is way too infrequent and not nearly aggressive enough at the onset, leading to way-too-aggressive throttling later on.
        • The NVIDIA graphics drivers are broken and are throttling the CPU instead of the GPU upon exceeding thermal limits (which are themselves way too low, probably as a result of paranoia over the solder bump problems in previous generations of NVIDIA GPUs).

        Of these, the second one is the more significant problem.

    • by Plekto (1018050) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:36PM (#30276146)

      Disabling Speed Step and power management/power saving/etc in BIOS and the OS(whatever one is installed) is the very first thing I do on any machine. I want it at full power all the time. This also makes it easier to keep my fans at a constant speed as well, which makes for a quieter work environment. Similar to how a clock ticking is filtered out after a few hours or days, a constant low drone from the PC is as well.

  • by yknott (463514) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:29PM (#30275002) Homepage Journal

    Here's a post on Dell's forums describing the issue [dell.com]

    From the link:

    Some key points from the report (keep in mind this is specifically for the E6500 with the NVIDIA graphics option, but much of this likely applies to the E6400 and/or the Intel integrated graphics option):

    1. The problem is NOT an overheating problem - the system simply does not overheat. It is due to premature and overly aggressive attempts at thermal control, invoked at what are NORMAL processor operating temperatures (65-80 Celsius), possibly due to faulty ACPI "passive cooling" parameter definitions and/or control methods.
    2. The problem is substantially more pronounced when the system is docked.
    3. The problem is aggravated somewhat by the use of dual monitors when docked as opposed to a single monitor.
    4. Since the problem is all about temperature, the higher the surrounding ambient temperature in the room, the sooner and the greater the performance loss.
    5. The symptoms are much more highly correlated to elevated NVIDIA GPU temperature than elevated CPU core temperatures.

    Some miscellaneous corollaries:

    1. Any blockage of air inlets or outlets (including, of course, dust) will aggravate the problem.
    2. The reason people report shockingly high percent CPU utilization statistics when their system slows down is that the overall capacity of their processor is degraded by the throttling mechanisms. The same processes running on a CPU that is subsequently throttled necessarily will demand a higher percentage of the processor's remaining capacity.
    3. The reason some folks report persistent slowness even after installing software to prevent CPU downclocking is that more than one throttling mechanism is in play here. In particular, Software-controlled Clock Modulation (also called On-Demand Clock Modulation) occurs in an almost completely invisible manner, as opposed to performance state changes (which are usually monitored by common utilities). Another often-invisible throttling mechanism is Dynamic FSB Frequency Switching (where the FSB frequency is slashed in half), though if you prevent performance state changes, that takes care of preventing this too (since it's part of state P3).
    4. The reason there aren't more complaints (though many are accumulating these days) is that users who experience this problem simply have no way of knowing what the cause is and are likely to blame the wrong thing (Windows, recently installed software, cooling hardware, etc.). Untold masses may be adversely affected by this problem, but nearly all of them wouldn't know it because there's no way for them to tell. Also, the problem is at its worst only when in a docked configuration, which may not be common.
    5. The reason complaints are escalating now more than before is that this is the first summer that people have had this system (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway). I think it's safe to say that ambient temperatures are higher for most E6400/E6500 users now.
    6. The problem can be substantially mitigated by pointing an external fan at the system.
    7. The problem can also be mitigated by software, such as RMClock, that can override the throttling mechanisms in question, at the expense of negating all passive thermal management (though critical temperature shutdown mechanisms may remain in place).

  • by karcirate (1685354) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:31PM (#30275032)
    Actually this used to happen to me on my old Inspiron (think, 4 years old). It has a 1.6 Ghz 1st gen. Pentium M, but most of the time my sys info would report it running at only 800 mhz, even though the processor was maxed out, and the system was completely cold, etc. The only way to get back to full performance was to plug in, and even that wasn't foolproof. Really pissed me off that there was no setting for "don't regulate my damn processor when I need it most, even if you are just saving my battery."
    • Except there is a bios setting to switch off speed step.

      Every Pentium M laptop I have seen runs at reduced speed on batteries, ususally between 600-800MHZ.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mirix (1649853)
        But they kick up to full speed when you need it, provided the CPU isn't on fire.
  • Step one: speak to class action lawyers

    Step two: subpoena contact info for everyone who bought these

    Step three: contact a subset of the owners to see if the failure rate is high enough to justify a suit

    Step four: profit?

  • Just like Apple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kimvette (919543)

    After being banned [CC] [PDF] from the Dell Forums for revealing 'non-public information,' one user went so far as to write and publish a 59-page report [CC] [PDF] explaining and diagnosing the throttling problem in incredible detail.

    Wow, so they're just like Apple!

    • Yeah, and the attempts to squash the knowledge will be just as successful as Apple. When will they ever learn?

      • by idontgno (624372)

        What do you mean? We're at war with Microsoft, and always have been.

        Weren't you at today's Two-Minute Hate? You were supposed to get your reinforcement exposure to the Realty Enhancement Field.

        On a less-trollish note, I read with some interest that a critical factor is the presence of an Nvidia GPU, and that the improper downclock seems to be more closely correlated to GPU temp than CPU temp. NVidia "Bumpgate", anyone?

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:49PM (#30275276)

    So do I get this right? As soon as I actually need my CPU to do some work, it starts to slow down? While it's quite able to run at full speed as long as it's idle and not doing anything sensible?

    Computers get more and more human every day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Yes, thats correct. Intel's new SlowStep technology saves you power when you waste it most: watching youtube videos, playing games, etc. The industry, along with your parents, just want you to read a book now and again.

  • by kimvette (919543) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:53PM (#30275358) Homepage Journal

    'non-public information,'

    Non-public information? How can such a thing exist on a commodity good that has already been released to the public, and especially when they are trying to cover up a defect which renders their product offering as fraudulent (because it doesn't work as advertised) and not fit for sale? Did they expect this to NOT blow up publicly when they ignored user complaints?

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      How can such a thing exist on a commodity good that has already been released to the public

      For that matter, in my organization, something can be not releasable to the public, but it can lose that status if somebody independently obtains that information. We don't release it, but if somebody else does, it loses it's status as secret.

      Doesn't mean that we won't simply say nothing - especially on the internet people say many things, and we don't want to collaberate the information.

  • 100Mhz? (Score:3, Funny)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:07PM (#30275622) Homepage Journal
    Is just the perceived speed of Windows Vista running at 2.2Ghz
  • by torklugnutz (212328) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:28PM (#30275990) Homepage

    People get too excited about product recalls. It just means the manufacturer has to eliminate or at least mitigate the failure. In this case, Dell will issue Firmware A.02 or whatever and the problem will vanish. Not a big deal.

    I've had a lot of product recalls in my life because I drive a car and I have a baby. Apart from a few rare instances from Kodak and Honda, this doesn't mean the consumer gets a full refund and all of the products wind up in a landfill.

    • If they are hoping for a recall, it makes me wonder how terrible the machine must be in the first place.
  • Now- how many more posts before this thread gets Godwined?

  • Now where do I shop for a PC? This is a serious question. For all the faults of Dell, I've had nothing but positive experiences with them, and, if nothing else, they at least warranty your computer for a year. Even so, they do seem to be at the end of the line as far as putting out quality product.

    I've never had any luck with computers out of a box and I lack the skillset to put a PC together myself. Since the reviews online often are conflicting from site to site (and half of them read more like paid adver

    • by treeves (963993)
      I don't know about desktops but for notebooks, at least, I'd recommend Lenovo.
      • I wouldnt.
        • by slaker (53818)

          I would recommend a Thinkpad (not Lenovo generally, though), simply because everything else is worse in my experience.

          Latitudes haven't been all that good in years, and Macbook Pros have god-awful thermal design.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zaphod-AVA (471116)

      Business systems.

      Systems intended for business use generally come with a 3 year warranty, which increases the quality of the system. If they know it will be their responsibility to fix it if it goes bing in 2.5 years, they must make a more robust system. You will have to pay a little more, but it's worth it.

    • I recomend Polywell. I've gotten great hardware, and fantastic support from them over the last 2 years.

    • by argent (18001)

      The biggest problem for desktops are custom interfaces and components that make self-repair impossible. The ideal solution is build-your-own.

      Options:

      * Build your own using a quality motherboard like ASUS.
      * Get a screwdriver shop like Directron or MWave to build you one.
      * Many HP Pavilions seem to be pretty much "build your owns" using HP motherboards, if you want a name brand.

      For laptops, Thinkpads have the warmest place in my heart, but HP and Toshiba also make decent products, Sony makes great boutique la

    • For desktops, build your own. For laptops, it really depends on what you're willing to pay, combined with what features you want. I've been using a Macbook Pro since late 2006, and I've loved it, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by harrkev (623093)

      It really isn't that hard to build a PC yourself. That is the ONLY route I would go for a desktop. You should try it. The very fact that you read/post on /. makes you qualified.

      Now, building a laptop yourself does not really buy you much. Yes, there are companies out there that sell a "bare-bones" laptop, but that really means that you get to decide how much RAM and what speed processor you want.

      I have no real 1st hand experience (the last "laptop" that I purchased was an Acer netbook that I like), but

  • Mirror (Score:2, Informative)

    by xur17 (835191)
    Here's a mirror of the files. I only have the first file so far, but I will add the other one once it works: http://www.sigmirror.com/browse/admin/4438_NOr20 [sigmirror.com]
  • Here we go again (Score:2, Interesting)

    by get quad (917331)
    In my 15+ year history of dealing with Dell, getting them to admit fault is near impossible. I've been through quite a few such incidents and I have to say, I may never forgive Dell for the Optiplex GX270 SFF. If they would just be a responsible company and fix their mistakes openly I might consider doing business with them again some day.
  • Just as fast, twice as bulky.....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:44PM (#30276272)

    Dell has aggressive CPU throttling in the BIOS. I have an Inspiron 6400 w/ Core 2 Duo 1.83ghz. In XP, Vista, and 7, it would throttle way the heck down and not turn the fan all the way up. Because the fan was annoying. It would go down to around 200mhz.

    I fixed it in software by installing RMClock and i8kspeedfan. But my computer was usually around 55 and went up to 65 playing HD video, and the fan would kick in, and suddenly it's really loud.

    Also helped to get one of those cooling pads with a fan in it.

    So I took apart my laptop. There were 1" thick sheets of dust between the processor and graphics coolers and then between them and the output duct.

    Cleaning them out, put it back together, now at full speed it rarely goes over 55. The BIOS throttling that kicks in at 70C or 75C or so hasn't come on since the software fix. Don't even need the Targus cool-pad anymore.

    So basically, Dell builds a system with inadequate cooling, that is disabled from maximum speed even when system policy is set that way, and instead throttles you down in the BIOS 'til you can't even move the mouse until it cools down. No option to allow the fan to go to full-speed, no way to do it except 3rd-party software, and really darned loud when it happens.

    It must've sucked to have a 2.3GHz in this thing...

  • by syousef (465911) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:03PM (#30276584) Journal

    I use to own a Dell Inspiron 5150 that had to have a motherboard replaced out of warranty. (I've since given it to my wife as she is a lighter user and it'll probably last longer with her). The most likely cause is a known but never acknowledged issue where with normal use the case wears against a component on the motherboard severing it. It's not the first such issue I've heard of.

    My current laptop is a Dell Inspiron 9400. I got it when they were giving away 3 years warranty for no extra cost. I'm so glad I did. I have had 2 hard disks replaced. (Issue finally fixed when I insisted on a different brand). I have had a hinge fixed after it broke (no misuse or abnormal use). I've had 2 screens replaced because they developed large dust bunnies behind the screen. I've had the CPU fan jam. It also has a habit of randomly taking 2 minutes to progress through the boot screen. No idea why. Dealing with warranty has been a hassle - worst experience was when they didn't show up for 3 appointments in a row. My wife or I had to be home to deal with it and then they wouldn't show up. The 3rd time they tried to arrange a technician that was 6 hours away at around 8pm. Well that wasn't going to work. But at least I didn't have to pay for parts for this machine. It's still my last Dell though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by monkeySauce (562927)

      I use to own a Dell Inspiron 5150 that had to have a motherboard replaced out of warranty. (I've since given it to my wife as she is a lighter user and it'll probably last longer with her). The most likely cause is a known but never acknowledged issue where with normal use the case wears against a component on the motherboard severing it. It's not the first such issue I've heard of.

      I too have an Inspiron 5150, and I too had the motherboard replaced past the original warranty; however it was still free as a result of a class action lawsuit over this problem in the 5150.
      http://www.lieffcabraser.com/dell-inspiron-2.htm [lieffcabraser.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:04PM (#30276606)

    As a newly hired Dell Tech support employee starting his 2nd day at work in about 9 hours, I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a looong day.

  • No sympathy from me (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rysc (136391) * <sorpigal@gmail.com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:40PM (#30277728) Homepage Journal

    Don't fucking buy Dell. I thought everyone knew that.

    In before corporate purchase. Fire the guy who OK'd it!

  • Dammit Dell (Score:3, Funny)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @03:33AM (#30280542) Homepage Journal

    "In many cases, the issue can be triggered just by playing a video"

    I bought this laptop to watch porn. Now what am I supposed to do with it, read slashdot or update my facebook with "no porn for me today :("

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