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Dell Selling Faulty PCs 484

An anonymous reader writes "PC maker Dell has been accused of selling thousands of desktop PCs despite knowing the machines contained faulty components, according to recently unsealed court documents first reported about on Tuesday by The New York Times."
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Dell Selling Faulty PCs

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  • Yep (Score:3, Informative)

    by TrisexualPuppy ( 976893 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @12:58PM (#32732926)
    I bought three last week, and their customer service already knew what was going on. A tech already came out next-day to replace the faulty components. No questions asked. Next?
  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Informative)

    by TrisexualPuppy ( 976893 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:03PM (#32732998)
    Also, as a follow-up, at my company where we were running a few dozen GX270s which we purchased in the 2003-2004 timeframe, we had similar problems. Machines dying which ended up being faulty capacitors, of course not manufactured by Dell. (I had the same problem on an Abit motherboard from the same time period.)

    Call up Dell tech support, tell them what's going on, and bam! Motherboard either overnighted, or a tech sent out within two days to replace the board at no cost. They knew what was going on, and it never took more than five or ten minutes to get things rolling. I'm not a Dell fanboi by any means, but every company is going to have supply problems.
  • Different measures (Score:5, Informative)

    by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:03PM (#32733000) Journal

    Well, after so many years seeing software makers get away with it, I can understand them trying it out.

  • Re:obQuote (Score:5, Informative)

    by StuartHankins ( 1020819 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:03PM (#32733010)
    True. Unfortunate, but true.

    Maybe one day we will evolve to the point where people realize money isn't everything, but in the meantime I'd like to see criminal charges able to be filed against corporations. They want to be people, you say? Fine, let them be people in every legal sense too.
  • Re:No surprise (Score:2, Informative)

    by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:06PM (#32733058) Homepage Journal

    Uhh, that's not a Dell issue.

    I'll give you a hint, hit up Google for: Windows 32bit 4GB memory

    Should get you on the right track.


  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Informative)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:07PM (#32733076)
    You might try Ring TFA. This is in regard to the bad capacitor debacle of 2003-5. Dell was knowingly replacing bad cap boards with boards known to ALSO have bad caps, knowing that the failure rate was over 90%. You might think twice about how valuable your service contract is when you realize that it was standard procedure to 'service' machines with parts that were virtually guaranteed to fail in weeks or months.
  • Re:Yep (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:09PM (#32733106)

    You think you would get a tech to come out if you have only ever purchased 1 machine from them?

    Yes. It's called a support contract.

  • Components? (Score:2, Informative)

    by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:13PM (#32733184) Homepage

    "Dell has been accused of selling thousands of desktop PCs despite knowing the machines contained faulty components"

    I didn't realize that the Windows installation was considered a component.

  • by WarlockD ( 623872 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:14PM (#32733188)

    I cannot tell you how many times I have replaced the boards off an OptiPlex 270 and then the 280. It was just freaking insane. Dell's response was just horrid as well.

    I mean, the sales people could blab all they want, but one look at the board and it was evident from a layperson that something was wrong. The best we could do as contractors is to just state its an "industry wide problem" (true) and that Dell will fix any system affected (partially true). I might like Dell, but I am not getting lynched by an irate manager because their sales team can't tell a straight lie.

    I mean hell, there was not a DAY that went by that I didn't have 2 of those boards to be replaced. Not a week went by when the board sent that was "refurbished" didn't have the same issue. Toward the end, we started having motherboard swapping contests and I could do a 270 in under 5 min, if it was in front of me.

    I do like what one client did. He apparently worked on the old XT systems and once he found out about the problem, he just replaced the affected caps himself

  • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Informative)

    by XanC ( 644172 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:14PM (#32733194)

    I'll give YOU a hint, Google for M90 4GB. Because I've got a 64-bit CPU and I'm running Debian Lenny 64-bit.

  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Informative)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:14PM (#32733198)
    So... considering that bad boards were used to replace bad boards, how many of those GX270s are still around? I too worked at a company that bought that model. When I left there were more GX260s and GX240s, even GX150s in circulation that GX270s, and it was dept. policy not to ship GX270s to any of our satellite offices because they were too likely to fail. What does a service contract matter if they're just going to dump in more bad hardware? RTFA.
  • Re:Mod parent up (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:15PM (#32733212)

    It should be noted that the article indicates Dell went to great lengths to avoid telling customers about the problem.

  • Re:Yep (Score:3, Informative)

    by Seakip18 ( 1106315 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:15PM (#32733220) Journal

    I remember this exact issue!

    Whenever we had an issue with these damn 270's, first thing we did was check the mobo.

    It was incredibly easy to identify. The capacitors almost always had a domed top or actually leaked some dielectric fluid onto the mobo.

    Dell was good in that the overnighted the mobo with a guy to install it the next day. It's not an excuse for Dell, but they did what they were supposed to.

    It was actually a great learning experience for college-age me. I learned alot about software deployment scripts and all that fun stuff to build a stock of machines so that I could easily swap out a machine when the mobos inevitably failed.

  • give em a break... (Score:2, Informative)

    by COMON$ ( 806135 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:18PM (#32733264) Journal
    At the time I was a tech for an organization that bought a series of optiplex 270s (I think). had a guaranteed failure. At first dell techs did deny a problem, but after about the 10th failure (of 20) it got to the point where I would just tell the tech capacitors, and they would ship the new mobo. There was a lot of "unofficial" verbage I received from dell saying that there was a problem with the 270s but nothing official was mentioned until a few months later when Dell admitted the problem.

    However, that being said, my dell PCs and Servers are extraordinary with support with 4 hour support in my area I often have part in hand less than 2 hours after the phone call. Dell has always done a good job here, and also does a great job of chassis design with the end tech in mind. They also design items that, in my mind, are more intuitive and have practical purpose. No weird theoretical "everyone should be doing this" nonsense...ahem I'm looking at you IBM. Dell R&D has always seemed to have a good line on what the SMB market wants. I cannot speak to big business though, try to stay away from there :)

  • Re:Yep (Score:3, Informative)

    by TrisexualPuppy ( 976893 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:18PM (#32733274)
    As of 2009, all of the motherboards were still working. We basically had to replace *every* motherboard after some amount of time. Some of the machines worked for four or five years before having to get a new board. We were running legacy accounting software on locked down WinXP machines, so a 270 was absolutely fine until our software vendor refused to support the legacy accounting system anymore.

    I still have two 270s at home. One is powered down, and I suspect that it still works, and the other is used full-time as an OpenBSD firewall running PF running off a CF card. Not a hiccup.
  • This is news? (Score:4, Informative)

    by nilbog ( 732352 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:22PM (#32733324) Homepage Journal

    Has Dell ever sold anything but faulty machines?

  • Re:LOL (Score:5, Informative)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:25PM (#32733376)
    What happens to the data in memory when your computer is crashing all the time? Data is not exclusive to the hard drive. And guess where the hard drives connect on virtually all Dell desktops? The motherboard! When the largest caps on a mobo fail, where do you think those are? They're at the power input mains and play a part in voltage regulation... and in the moment where they fail and go out of specifications / operating parameters, what do you think can happen? Voltage spike through the circuit, conceivably even up to the hard drives.
  • Re:Yep (Score:4, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:33PM (#32733506) Homepage Journal

    I work in computer repair and can tell you this sort of thing is nothing new.

    The capacitor plague of the early 2000s affected most manufacturers, just as the nVidia and bad BGA soldering (XBOX 360, PS3 etc.) plagues are now. HP and Microsoft have been the worst hit, with every HP laptop made in about the past 3-4 years having a faulty nVidia chipset and most early 360s eventually getting RROD problems.

    Microsoft, to their credit, replaced the faulty motherboards with fixed ones. HP on the other hand just kept stuffing ones with identical faults in until the warranty period expired. They rely on people not knowing their rights as consumers, but if you are in the UK and bought one from PC World just call them and mention the Sale of Goods Act and "lasts a reasonable time" which is generally 5 years for a laptop.

    The problem is that in the UK it is up to individuals to seek legal remedies on their own. We need a government body to look into these kinds of manufacturing defects and deal with them en-mass. At the moment the best we have is BBC Watchdog.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:54PM (#32733848) Journal

    They didn't all pass on the screwage to customers, lie about it, and replace bad parts with more known bad parts.

  • Re:Mod parent up (Score:4, Informative)

    by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:12PM (#32734148)

    And yet, back in 2005 when I was dealing with this issue, the FIRST thing the Gold Support reps told me to check was the Capacitors. The reps (I spoke to several) were quite candid about there having been supply issues related to the capacitors and motherboards, and always overnighted new ones out.

    Should Dell have been more careful about testing it's supplies? Yes.

    Should Dell have been more proactive in replacing known faulty systems? Maybe.

    Was Dell negligent or unresponsive towards it's customers? No.

    This lawsuit is yet another waste of time. The Market has already punished Dell for it's failures by stripping them of a large portion of their market share. No need for the legal system to get involved. That's just kicking Dell when they are down.

  • Re:Yep (Score:4, Informative)

    by WarlockD ( 623872 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:20PM (#32734256)

    Just one of many Dell related storied I can tell.... The one with them moving Gold support to India with no warning was another fun one..

    Oh GOD don't get me started on that one. They moved part's dispatch the same day. It went from talking with a previous field technician to talking with someone with less experience in computers than a bag of rocks.

    I think they moved it back to Austin, but it was a good year or so before that.

    PS - I am not faulting the phone support in India. They just have the same 60% turnover rate we do here so you never have experienced staff that you expect to pay for on Gold support:P

  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:26PM (#32734352) Homepage Journal

    It was mostly laptops, but some desktops that used nVidia chipsets were affected.

    The problem is similar to the XBOX RROD and PS3 YLOT problems. Repeated heating a cooling cycles causing the soldering on the nVidia GPU (often combined with the Northbridge) to fail. Typical symptoms are no output to the screen (but still boots, you can hear the Windows start-up jingle etc.), wifi or USB devices dropping out and constant overheating.

    Actually nVidia made the problem a lot worse by stating that their chips would run okay up to 100C. In fact their 8800 Ultra would easily hit 110C under load, but the laptop chips were not quite as bad. Still, 95C under load is not uncommon and makes the problem occur much more quickly. HP tried to "fix" it by releasing new BIOSs that underclocked the GPU, but of course people are upset that they are now not getting what they paid for. Oh, and the laptop still fails, it just takes longer so it is usually outside the warranty period.

    If you are wondering why nVidia said 100C was okay it is because manufacturers like HP wanted to make quieter and thinner laptops, which means lower speed fans a smaller heatsinks/vents. Thus a chip that can run very hot without problems is ideal, except that as well as causing the soldering to fail it makes the laptop case so hot it can burn you. In fairness under normal circumstances the cooling system works well enough to prevent injury to the user, but where the heatsinks are small and made up of closely spaced fins they tend to clog up with dust very quickly. Sonys and older Toshibas are terrible for that too, but it is becoming more and more of a general problem with laptops. Naturally dust clogging is not covered by the warranty.

  • Re:Mod parent up (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jicehix ( 778864 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:41PM (#32734558)
    I work in a french college, and a two co-workers (who had ordered more than a hundred of those faulty PCs) had a hard time convincing their bosses that it was Dell's fault when the desktops suddenly started to go down one after the other. The common reaction was along the lines of "well if ALL of these computers were at fault, obviously there would be some media coverage about it". Also, there's no such thing as "class action lawsuit" here in France so the college would have had to build its own legal case, which was not an option against such a company. There was immediate need to replace the broken desktops, but Dell also delivered broken motherboards as a replacement. Kudos to the Dell commercials / techs, which were, then, VERY effective defending the "uncertainty" line depicted by TFA.
  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:50PM (#32734704) Journal

    Yea, except in Dell's retail machine support contract (differs from contract for business systems), it;s at "dell's option" to send a representative onsite, and entirely within their option to ship you a component and ask you to install it for them. When they do need to send someone, its some local crackpot sub-contracted, who's company (not even him) is paid somewhere between $60 and 80 for the job, regardless of how long it takes, and they only get paid that one time, even if they have to make several trips. Dell also tries pretty hard to make the time as inconvenient as possible, with a big window. For business, yea, not too bad service. They have to be good or companies won;t buy the stuff to begin with.

    I've both dealt with, and have been a contractor. Dells policies have always been close to the bottom of the barrel for both us and the customers. They do the absolute minimum needed in order to either claim the issue is not theirs (software, outside issue, lightning not covered, etc), or they do the legal minimum to meet the claims required by state law. (NY won a huge settlement, but others still suffer under the policies that won those NYers money). Bait and switch is still VERY common when ordering Dell systems as well, and some replacement parts are not the originals, and are sub-par (a newer video card may not have the same specs as an older one, or may have compatibility issues, a replacement drive may not be as fast, this is common).

    Dell's retail support contract is almost worthless, and their support staff generally are. Buy a nice high end system, and a low end system. Try calling support and see the difference in how you;re handled first hand.

  • Re:Yep (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:52PM (#32734728)

    You were one of the lucky ones to get warrantied, I dealt with hundreds of these failed machines, and most seemed to fail about 1.5-2 years after build, and were therefore out of their 1 year standard warranty for home users.

    And yes everyone in the industry was affected, Asus, Abit, MSI, Emachines, Gateway, Dell, they all used these faulty capacitors, and none of them extended their standard warranties for average home users. I remember shipping box after box worth of motherboards back to MSI for RMA. For those with Dells or Gateway's they were out of their 1 year warranty and were just screwed.

    I remember reading the story about these capacitors years ago... apparently someone stole the recipe for the chemical formula inside one of the top makers of capacitors at the time, but the formula was not quite complete, and the chemicals would break down shortly after a year or two, and just about every major PC maker was affected by it. And NONE of them admitted to it, and none of them, as far as regular home users are concerned did anything to warranty it.

    This was probably one of the biggest coverups in the PC world ever. It's good to see someone is finally doing something about it.

  • Re:Yep (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:57PM (#32734818) Journal

    I've had 3 Macs repaired out of warranty, and had an iPhone 2G replaced 4 months outside of its. I've also gotten phone support on a mac as old as 7 years, and software support for software that did not even come with the machine. I've even gotten WINDOWS support on Mac hardware, something you can't get Dell to give you on their own machines (support basically ends at "re-install it.") and you have to PAY Microsoft for support on their OS unless you have a token (some editions get a single incident call within the first year after purchase).

    And yes, I've see Dell refuse to come out to service a machine. Many times. They got sued for doing that too often in NY state (and lost) but the practice continues elsewhere. They "offer" to ship you the part so you can put it in yourself. They also insist on you going through exhaustive diagnostics, and re-image the machine, as part of hardware diagnostics (which certainly are not required to find a hard disk faulty, or bad RAM).

  • Re:Yep (Score:4, Informative)

    by Intron ( 870560 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @03:48PM (#32735544)
    You obviously weren't buying parts during that time (2000-2005). All tantalum caps from Taiwan manufacturers were bad because they had all copied the same incorrect information from each other. And none of them admitted anything was wrong. So manufacturers were going nuts trying to figure out how they were getting all these defects that seemed unrelated to component supplier. Then there was a long period where you couldn't get any parts at all, even bad ones.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @03:50PM (#32735586)

    "....because the Power Supply's fan was reversed; instead of pulling hot air out, it forced hot air into the case."

    Wait....somethings wrong there. If the air inside is hot, then the air outside must be cold. If you reverse the fan, it would suck in cold air, not hot.

    Anyway, was your point that it would have no fans sucking out air, thereby creating positive air pressure instead of negative?

  • by tunapez ( 1161697 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @03:53PM (#32735624)

    Capacitor_plague []
    How they handled it is no surprise, it's all about making the bux. Just ask HP [] how to keep the dough rolling in a crisis... at the customers' expense, of course.

  • Re:This is news? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @04:15PM (#32735948)
    Mostly, but then they started offering machines without Windows.
  • by svallarian ( 43156 ) <svallarian@hotmail . c om> on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:20PM (#32737000)

    I had to replace 4 sets on some out of warranty 270s. Those machines were just too nice to scrap. Their form factor, combined with their ability to mount to the back of the Dell LCDs were real nice.

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