Bad Caps in Dell Computers

Just last week, Dell computers announced it was taking a financial charge on it’s earnings, a $300 million dollar charge, to help cover costs that it incurred do to replacement of motherboards with bad capacitors.

Capacitors are an inexpensive little component on a PC motherboard, but they can be a costly headache for manufacturers when a whole bunch of them go bad.

Last week, Dell announced it was going to take a $300 million financial charge on its earnings to cover costs associated with the replacement of motherboards with faulty capacitors in some of its Optiplex workstations. The Dell system boards in question were manufactured from April 2003 to March 2004, according to several contract computer repair firms that are starting to replace the systems.

The Round Rock, Texas, computer maker is expected to provide more details during its quarterly earnings call on Thursday.

Luckily, I myself haven’t had any problems, I purchased two Dell XPS machines last year, but apparently, lots of people have, and not just from Dell computers, the bad cap problem has plagued HP and Apple as well.

At issue are faulty capacitors on motherboards that store power and regulate voltage. Defective capacitors found in the Dell Optiplex workstations, some Apple iMac G5s, HP xw-series workstations made in 2004 and PCs with the Intel D865GBF motherboard have been found to bulge, pop, leak and crust over, causing video failure and periodic system shutdowns.

Photos showing Dell’s Optiplex GX270 and Optiplex GX280 with defective capacitors have been widely reported on Web sites such as, Pictures of other faulty capacitors have been spotted on Apple’s own discussion boards,, and

Usually, data loss does not occur as the system will generally just shut down, not affecting the hard drive. If you think you could be experiencing a problem with bad caps, then you should look for swelling on the tops and along the base of the capacitors, and check to see if there is a brownish substance oozing from the bases. If you find some problems, check your warranty and contact your manufacturer for parts replacement. Capacitors are usually expected to last about 7 years, and experts say if they are not made right, they will start to deteriorate after 3 or 4 years.

Various postings on message boards claim the trouble was caused by capacitors that were overfilled with a liquid electrolyte that helps the component protect the processor from excess power; convert energy from 5 volts to around 1.5 volts; and deal with current surges. The PC makers have not confirmed that that was the problem.