The New York Times has reported that as a result of a North Carolina lawsuit, Dell Computer revealed that it hid a serious problem with faulty components and replaced faulty components with known faulty components. The components were capacitors — used to filter AC ripple and noise from DC (Direct Current) supply lines on motherboards. This was an industry-wide problem when a capacitor manufacturer produced millions of faulty capacitors throughout the early 2000’s. I wrote about it in 2008, when I was asked to repair a failed PC. (The computer wouldn’t boot — no display at all. Examination revealed bulging capacitors. I replaced the bad caps with capacitors that I bought from Radio Shack: physically, they were a sloppy fit, but they worked electrically and got the customer back on line by day’s end.) Bad capacitors were a problem with many motherboards — but the capacitors would look and function fine when new; they’d start to bulge, leak, and fail only after months or years.
I can see how these bad capacitors slipped by traditional quality control source inspection and incoming inspection: I’m sure that they passed physical inspection and electrical tests . . . when they were new. I can’t fault Dell for installing the faulty capacitors in new product. I do fault Dell for replacing bad capacitors with known bad capacitors. This strikes me as a cynical business decision:
“This failed motherboard is already xx months old . . . it’s likely to be scrapped before the replacement capacitors fail, so let’s just replace them with more bad capacitors (which we should have scrapped). Most of our customers will never know the difference, since they’ll probably scrap their computer before these capacitors fail.”
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Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695