Dell on the Nichicon Capacitor Issue

Some of you may have been reading about faulty capacitors in some of our older OptiPlex desktops. Before I get into more details, I want to make some points clear:

  • 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.
  • Dell did not knowingly ship faulty motherboards, and we worked directly with customers in situations where the issue occurred.
  • This was not a Dell-specific issue, but an industry-wide problem.
  • Dell extended the warranty for up to five years for customers who had affected machines.
  • This is not a safety issue.

Update: Many customers who bought systems with Nichicon capacitors during the 2003 – 2005 timeframe did not experience an issue. In other words, the overall failure rate of systems with Nichicon capacitors was dramatically lower than what's being reported.

We understand that our company’s continued success is based on a common theme—putting customers at the heart of everything we do. We’re proud of our recent strides in service, such as Gartner ranking us as the leader in global enterprise desktop PCs, No. 2 in the x86 server sector, and as the leading PC supplier across all professional segments. And just today, TBR survey results show that Dell ranked No. 1 for customer satisfaction among corporate IT users. While this reflects our progress, we understand that we must continually improve.

As noted in a New York Times article about the lawsuit, faulty capacitors were manufactured by Nichicon, a respected, long-term supplier to many industries. These capacitors were used by Dell suppliers at certain times from 2003 to 2005. The faulty Nichicon capacitors affected many manufacturers, including Hewlett-Packard, Apple and others, as discussed in the initial story and several blog posts afterward. Again, this was an industry-wide problem.

Dell suspended use of Nichicon capacitors after we discovered a problem in its manufacturing process. As we routinely do with product issues, we actively investigated the failures, audited the Nichicon plants and worked with customers to fix OptiPlex computers on a case-by-case basis. Beyond that, Dell voluntarily extended the warranties on all potentially affected OptiPlex motherboards up to January 2008 to address the Nichicon capacitor problem. The capacitor failure rates varied depending on customers’ environments and the number of Nichicon capacitors in the customer’s motherboards.

It’s also important to note that AIT was using the OptiPlex systems as servers, a use for which they weren’t designed. The company also admitted in its complaint that Dell fulfilled its warranty obligations to AIT until AIT decided to stop paying for the OptiPlex computers.

We know that some of you may have questions or concerns related to this issue. We welcome your comments here.

Update: If you are a customer (US) who has questions or needs support, please use the following Technical Support numbers:

  • Small Medium Business (1 – 499 employees): 877-293-1196
  • Large Enterprise (500+ employees): 877-671-3355
  • Public (Government, Federal, Healthcare and Education customers): Go this Dell.com link, Choose Business Product, then chose Public Sector Customer, then choose the respective link to get the specific number.

Outside the United States who has questions, you can also contact your sales teams or technical support. To contact support, customers outside the U.S. can do the following:

  • Go to support.dell.com
  • Choose your country or region from the drop-down list in the top left banner of the Dell.com masthead.
  • Choose Contact Us
  • Choose Technical Support
  • Choose Call Technical Support

Update: Whle looking through Dell's case studies site, I came across one that feated the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center report from August 2008. Since it focused on how we supported a customer through this issue, I thought it made sense to include it here. I've also added the PDF as an attachment to this post.