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Dell played dumb over capacitor falure rates

Legal papers unsealed last week after a three year legal battle have revealed how Dell tried to cover up catastrophic defects in may of the computers it sold between 2003 and 2005.

The documents, which were seen by the New York Times, show how many Government departments, schools and companies were sold PCs with sub-standard components, and that when Dell discovered the dodgy capacitors, it tried to hush the whole sorry mess up.

This is the second batch of documents to be unsealed that show Dell was seeing massive failure rates on its Optiplex lines but tried to act as it nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

One Dell study included in the court papers showed that a sample batch of SX270 Optiplex computers had a predicted failure rate of as much as 97 per cent within three years.

Dell's policy at the time was to wait until the computers failed and then fix them under warranty rather than recalling hardware it knew to be substandard.

Other manufacturers including HP and Apple also received shipments of the capacitors - which were made from an incorrect chemical composition and prone to overheating - but did everything they could to prevent the resultant hardware from getting into, or staying in, the supply chain.

According to the NYT, Internal Dell presentations from this time and later about the capacitor problems suggested that employees, "Don’t bring this to customer’s attention proactively” and “emphasise uncertainty." The paper posted a Dell pdf which shows how the company chose to promoted doubt to play down the issue.

Dell replaced the motherboards on 22 per cent of the 21 million Optiplex boxes shipped between 2003 and 2005 and took a $300 million charge to cover the cost of fixing or replacing the blighted PCs.