Dell Blames 97% Optiplex Failure Rate on Everyone Else

Last week, we discussed new documents that had been unsealed in Advanced Internet Technologies' ongoing lawsuit against Dell. The newly public evidence was fairly damning, as it showed Dell was aware that the Nichicon capacitors used in 2003-2005 OptiPlex machines had an astonishing 97 percent failure rate according to the company's own internal study. When Dell hired an indepedent contractor to evaluate the situation, the company reported 10x more failures than the OEM had previously estimated.

Lionel Menchaca, a spokesperson for Dell, has since written a rebuttal to the various negative conclusions this new evidence supports. In it, he makes five specific points, which we'll address in turn. They are:

  1. This is an issue we addressed with customers some years ago. The Advanced Internet Technologies lawsuit is three years old and does not involve any current Dell products.
  2. Dell did not knowingly ship faulty motherboards, and we worked directly with customers in situations where the issue occurred.
  3. This was not a Dell-specific issue, but an industry-wide problem.
  4. Dell extended the warranty for up to five years for customers who had affected machines.
  5. This is not a safety issue.
One and three are uncontested. The suit refers to events of some years ago, the problems have all been resolved, and Dell wasn't the only company affected (although it may have been hit much harder than certain other OEMs). Five is a matter of debate.

The second and fourth points are a different matter. First, Dell claims it never knowingly sold faulty components. AIT's primary complaint, however, isn't that Dell knowingly sold bad hardware, but that the company deliberately lied to its customers regarding what it knew about system failure rates. Menchaca's use of the word "knowingly," is also a bit of a dodge; In PR-speak, it's absolutely normal for a company to quietly, unofficially acknowledge a problem, while simultaneously denying that an issue exists.

See, those aren't official failures. Your eyes are deceiving you, unless Dell says so.

Next we've got the phrase "worked directly with customers." 'Worked with' doesn't mean "resolved to the customer's satisfaction;" AIT is noticably unsatisfied. In this context, 'worked with' could mean anything from "We delivered two thousand brand-new Optiplex systems within 24 hours," to "we let you attempt to explain the situation to one of our fine customer service reps for six hours straight."

Finally, there's the issue of the extended warranty. Again, no one is arguing that Dell didn't extend it out to five years for customers with affected machines, but who got to decide if a machine was affected? Dell. The same company which allegedly instructed its sales staff to blame failures on anything but the motherboard, and who instructed them to "emphasize uncertainty." Dell representatives are on record warning other staff not to talk about the issue, even obliquely. In one email that went out to customer support, a Dell worker stated: "We need to avoid all language indicating the boards were bad or had ‘issues’ per our discussion this morning."

You're Doing It Wrong

Companies faced with this sort of disaster always have two choices:  Go public, or attempt to cover it up. Time and time again, the companies that attempt to stonewall end up taking a more severe beating than those who admit the problem. Dell's choice to emphasize uncertainty was prophetic; corporate customers that feel they can't trust their preferred system provider waste no time finding different solutions.

The financial impact to Dell if AIT wins or settles its lawsuit will be minimal, but the indirect affect on business relations could be significant. Thanks to AIT's lawsuit, we have a window into how Dell dealt with a major technical problem with major implications for the company's bottom line from 2003-2005. Faced with a disaster that could cripple several million customers (Dell sold an estimated 11.8 million OptiPlex systems during this time period), Dell cut its losses, threw its customers under a bus, and point-blank lied about its knowledge of a problem. That's not the best way to instill confidence in ones clientele, and it doesn't engender brand loyalty. 
Via:  Yahoo
TheKillerPiglet 4 years ago

Ah, the tried and true Apple approach.

crowTrobot 4 years ago

Yes I remember this. IIRC these were with the GX260 and GX270 Optiplex with the "whistling" capacitor problems.  They released the GX280 to replace those systems later on and even that thing had its own set of problems, it ran pretty damn hot for one (I'm talking you will burn your hand if you touch the heatsink hot) and poorly ventilated.

digitaldd 4 years ago

[quote user="crowTrobot"]

Yes I remember this. IIRC these were with the GX260 and GX270 Optiplex with the "whistling" capacitor problems.  They released the GX280 to replace those systems later on and even that thing had its own set of problems, it ran pretty damn hot for one (I'm talking you will burn your hand if you touch the heatsink hot) and poorly ventilated.



Yup the GX280's also has the same issue. Funny thing One place I did some consulting work for only bought Precision Workstations [the WS360/370 models @ that time] and none of their Precision Workstations ever had the capacitor issues. maybe if you paid more you side stepped the problem because they used better parts?


Chainzsaw 4 years ago

I used to work on those god-awful GX270's....We had a string of 10 computers that all died around the same time...the capacitors were bulging and one even exploded (thank god no one was around when it happened).

Joel H 4 years ago


That's part of the reason I said the safety issue was debatable. I personally saw two systems fail while I was in the immediately vicinity. In one case, it happened as the system was powering on--there was a minimal "pop" and the system died.

In the other situation, the internal components *smoldered*. I don't know that anything actually caught fire, but the CPU was so badly baked in the socket that the substrate layer (this was on an Athlon XP) had cracked. I pulled the chip out bit by bit using a screwdriver to lever the pieces out of the socket.

Chainzsaw 4 years ago


Yea I agree with you. The safety issue is debatable. When I did contact dell around that time period...I had to deal with a horrendous accented person who knew ENGRISH. Yes I said ENGRISH and not english. Basically they told us to ship back the bad motherboards and they would sent us new ones. We got the new ones, but didn't bother sending back the old ones - we just threw em out. They never did contact us back or charge us back for the bad motherboards - which I was happy about lol (I think this was cause they probably had so many complaints at the time).

animatortom 4 years ago

Destroyed Electronics Leaking Lithodes?

twistedfate 4 years ago

everybody elses fault.... dont buy cheap parts and charge alot for them

ClemSnide 4 years ago

@TheKillerPiglet: Huh? Patellar reflex acting up again?

Not to worry anyone, but Dell Co. may want to install security bars on those upper-story windows. Just in case.

Inspector 4 years ago

[quote user="ClemSnide"]

@TheKillerPiglet: Huh? Patellar reflex acting up again?

Not to worry anyone, but Dell Co. may want to install security bars on those upper-story windows. Just in case.


LOL, don't worry they are getting them installed as we post :P.

I had never had a dell computer and i never plan of getting one from them, well main reason is i would like to build all my computers and i just hate dell for some unknown reasons... This makes my hate to them that much deeper :P...

crowTrobot 4 years ago

I wish Dell didn't make good monitors so I could boycott them completely. lol

acarzt 4 years ago

I remember working on a dell and the capacitor burst into flames and then went out lol

I wonder if it was one of these?

Joel H 4 years ago

I don't hate Dell--I think hating is a general waste of energy, 99% of the time. I will say, however, that I've always been suspicious of the company. I don't believe it's possible to run a business on a model that prioritizes and demands the cheapest price, while simultaneously maintaining quality.

Even if Michael Dell always and resolutely believed in cutting cost only when quality was constant, you can bet that someone down the line--someone ambitious, or trying to keep their job, or trying to move up a rung on the ladder--didn't feel that way. At the very least, they were able to rationalize the situation, and why a given price cut wouldn't hurt.

That's how good intentions turn into nightmares.

slugbug 4 years ago

They can play the blame game all they want. The bottom line is their name is on the product so they are/were responsible.

acarzt 4 years ago

yea, nobody is gonna care what the excuse is... it shipped with Dell all over it so that is who the public is going to blame.

oldbozo 4 years ago

I have a Dell Optiplex small form factor 740.

I found that it got hot  internally in anything other than email or web surfing.

The original power supply had no extra connectors to connect an extra fan to.

I ended up putting all of the components into a full size

BTX computer case with better ventilation, and room for standard size video card,

and a standard size power supply with extra connectors for fans etc.

The BTX case was hard to find online but I located an old  leftover Gateway FX,

Steel BTX case.

I Used a dremel to cut the front panel circuit boards out of original SFF case.

Used a 4 inch cutoff wheel to cut into Gateway FX BTX case to mount

the panels into the top of Gateway case, (instead of the front,

as the Gateway case did not have room for everything without breaking it up),  with original brackets and power switch etc.

I Got the SFF Dell as a gift, I would've bought a full tower if I had bought it for myself.

It was A lot of work, but well worth the effort.

My computer's temperatures are now very respectable on all components.


Here are some specifications of my modified Optiplex 740 Small Form .Factor:

Gateway FX Steel BTX case, minus front bezel.

Seasonic SS500ET OEM 500 watt ATX12V v2.31 80 plus Bronze  Power Supply.

Western Digital Caviar Black OEM 500GB SATA Hard Drive, 32mb cache.

Asus GT240 512mb GDDR5, Fan speeds set to Smart Cooling, lowered from Default settings.

2GB PNY PC5300 DDR2 running at 800mhz

AVC 120mm front CPU fan (came with case) for BTX, replaced stock 60mm CPU fan.

Stock Dell BTX CPU heatsink..

Antec Tri-Cool 120mm rear fan

Dell 740 SFF BTX  M.B., with AMD Athlon X2 5200 Brisbane, and stock heatsink,( polished a bit for good contact)

High quality theramal paste for CPU

XP Pro SP3


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