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View Poll Results: Have you seen or experienced a cap-related motherboard failure on a Dell system?
Yes 173 86.93%
No 26 13.07%
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Old 02-14-2005, 01:46 PM   #1
blandoon
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Default Dell OptiPlex GX270 - multiple bad cap failures

I work as a network engineer/administrator at a company in Washington DC, with about 600 installed workstations. As many as 200-300 of those are the GX270 models, which are 2.4-2.8GHz P4 machines.

We've had a rash of motherboard failures on these machines. I only recently had a chance to inspect a dead board before it was returned to Dell, and it turned out to have swollen Nichicon caps.

I finally had a Dell tech admit that they were aware of the problem and were replacing boards under warranty (the corporate machines usually have 3-year extended service plans). As of today we have 7 new boards on the way to us and at least 15-20 more have already failed. (I'm pretty sure that the GX270 boards are OEM-built by MSI.)

I'm just posting this for information, and to see if anyone else has seen this in a large-scale IT operation, especially with Dells.
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Old 02-14-2005, 01:58 PM   #2
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I just swapped out a PCI card in mine on Friday, all clear, all looking good so far.

Thanks for the heads up.

MD
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Old 02-14-2005, 02:19 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forums.

Can you please get the series of the Nichicon caps. It is written on the side of the caps. We need this data.

A pic of a large number of boards with failed caps on them would get you instant fame here. 8)

Thats a pretty bad situation to be in, many machines must be getting unstable. the IT dept must be quite unpopular with the users. Dell is really letting you down cos it must be also eating up time/money in the helpdesk support and also the reinstalling of machines.

You should start collecting data of the series of failed caps. You want to be checking that the new boards do not have the same caps in them and then you get in the same situation again.

What is the timeframe for the failure of the caps? How long from new before the computers start getting unstable?

What happens with the 3 year service plans? can you extend them?

I dont think that anyone on this forum handles large installations. You might try also to post on http://www.dslreports.com/forums/all
there are some people there handling large installations and a lot of dell fanatics. They drool over server room pics also

we have not seen much dell activity on the forums but i guess we will be seeing some more soon.
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Old 02-14-2005, 02:24 PM   #4
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We have over 600 Computers at work, mostly Dell...the IS/IT guys think I'm not on the ball with bad cap suggestions here at work...

MD
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Old 02-14-2005, 02:34 PM   #5
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if you google for GX270 capacitors there is quite a bit of stuff.

MD : maybe they dont get so intimate with the computers as us enthusiasts do, when they have a service contract and the computers are not built from parts. it is suprising how many people dont know about badcaps. if they did this forum would be so busy.

Actually my uncle works for a big drug company. they got fed up with the IT dept, everything is such a PITA to get them to do, like hook up a Palm even. Lately they made a LAN in their lab themselves, avoiding to ask IT/IS. Some people are hogging all the good jobs. (no offense to blandoon who seems on the ball).
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Old 02-14-2005, 03:55 PM   #6
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I here you...I recapped my workstation with my boss's permission...I have all the gear here at work to do it anyway, did it on my coffee break.

MD
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Old 02-15-2005, 02:52 PM   #7
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This is a beautiful symphony of failures, the amount of Dell GX270's and now GX280's we have rolled out in our council is tremendous, ahh yes, I see the badcaps failures now...

Truly stunning. I just pity the helpdesk who have to deal with this, I'm guessing hardly any of them know about this issue.
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Old 02-15-2005, 03:17 PM   #8
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Roadkill : what is your job?

are we going to see blandoon back or did we scare him away?
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Old 02-15-2005, 03:21 PM   #9
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I work for Atkins: http://www.atkinsglobal.com

More specifically, Management Consultants.

Either why, that all sounds like waffle, I work on a site which provides IT services and supports IT services for our local council.

We roll PC's out, install software, manage their servers and network, support the users, create bespoke apps for them, etc etc...

I don't do all that, but that's what we do on our site.
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Old 02-15-2005, 03:28 PM   #10
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Well, the plot sickens... we're still compiling information but so far all of the affected machines are relatively early-run 270s, all with service tags that end in 21 (newer ones end in 41).

I don't think the GX280s are likely to be affected, and even when I opened a later-run GX270 I found all the large-value caps in the same locations were Rubycons.

Of the boards I've seen, they all have six caps that exhibit visible bulging. It's not that extreme, and none have burst yet, but each PC has already been showing signs of instability. Here's the data on the swollen caps from one board:

3 x 1500mfd, date codes 0311, 0311, 0316
3 x 1800mfd, date codes 0316, 0316, 0317


I also put up a quickie web page with some info and a few of the photos I took: http://www.monkey.org/~blandoon/gfx/caps/

Willington, it doesn't surprise me that nobody's interested in listening to the bad cap theory. A lot of IT types are people whose training comes from certification classes, not well-worn troubleshooting skills. Personally, I'm only interested in this stuff because I started doing it for fun, then for a living.

As far as the other things... in my experience most IT departments are somewhat unpopular by default; it comes with the territory. But my philosophy for keeping downtime to a minimum has been to treat the PC as disposable: enforce policies to keep all important data on the network (and be able to migrate the rest) and standardize applications. You need good desktop management and imaging software to do this, but you can then be prepared to replace a machine with a new or repaired one in a few hours if necessary.
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Old 02-15-2005, 03:34 PM   #11
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Aw, it seems we might be alright then. I can check the service tags instantly in our asset database when I go to work tomorrow, but I don't think they're old run GX270's.
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Old 02-15-2005, 04:00 PM   #12
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blandoon : those are nichicon HN(M) series right? just like on the intel board they are the same colour. Are all the blown caps HN(M) series?
http://www.badcaps.net/forum/viewtop...48&start=0

looks like theres gonna be more bad nichicons coming here soon. Looking more unlikely to be a QC or contamination issue, bad design of the series? cheaping out?
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Old 02-16-2005, 08:13 AM   #13
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Yes, all the ones I've seen are HN(M). I did notice they seem to have the same colors, etc. as the bad Nichicons I saw elsewhere.

I found a page on how to measure ESR using an oscilloscope and a signal generator, but unfortunately my 'scope went belly up before I could try it out.

The Dell tech will be here today to swap out the boards... not that I couldn't do it myself, but they cover it, and I don't have that much time to screw with it anyway - I just have to make sure I get a look at the boards before he takes them back and throws them in the Dell gulag.
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Old 02-16-2005, 01:55 PM   #14
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Well, we did 12 boards today, and we have 6 more to call in. I spot-checked some of the bad caps, and they all seem to be Nichicons with the same lot numbers and about the same date range (early 2003). All the replacement boards that were installed had Rubycon caps instead.

I did notice a few boards where, while the caps looked identical, not all of them were bulging. There is a picture of this here: http://www.monkey.org/~blandoon/gfx/caps/

I'm starting to agree with the idea that this is Nichicon's own quality control problem, rather than the same batch of bum electrolyte as last time. I also think that the lousy ventilation inside the Dell small-form-factor case speeds up the failures, since they don't like to waste money on things like fans.
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Old 03-09-2005, 05:48 PM   #15
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I work for a school (as some of you may remember... i've only posted a few times, tho), and last year's batch of computers was the GX270's. The year before that, GX280's. So far, no problems with bad caps. I'm going to guess that we have 150-200 270's.

blandoon- I hear you about the ventilation. Does the power supply fan in these things actually _do_ anything? I can't feel air coming out of either end of the PSU on these things... the only ventilation is the CPU fan, which only really does much if you get the processor hot, which then raises the internal temp even more.

I've found that if I open a gx series up right after shutting it off, I usually can't touch the PSU case or even the HD without being in a reasonable amount of pain.

One problem we are having with the Dells that we have, is with the HD's. Maxtor drives are failing left and right.... and we're not getting maxtors as replacements. They're sending us all WD HDs. Perhaps a bad thing for Maxtor...
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Old 04-07-2005, 05:56 AM   #16
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Hello all,

I would like to add my two cents here. We have over 300 machines here and only two techs. He are having both the Maxtor slime line drive problem and the caps problem.
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Old 04-13-2005, 12:40 PM   #17
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Default late-model gx270s

We here at a university in Kansas are seeing several (so far 7). We have 63 of these 270s. They are much more exapnded than the ones shown in the pictures posted here. Maybe I'll have to get the camera out? All the gx270 service tag numbers end in 41. All with the maker of nichicon, from the looks of it. when this is done and all are out of warranty, I would imagine that some lawyers will be making out well! This is costing Dell plenty!!
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Old 04-17-2005, 09:15 PM   #18
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Hello, everyone. Just wanted to add my almost two cents worth to the mix...

I'm a contract technician with Qualxserv, doing mostly Dell and IBM warranty break/fix work. I've replaced almost 70 GX270 motherboards at a single location in the past three and a half months, and they have another 230 at the site. There are other scattered occurences in my territory, but I haven't had any other large-scale problems such as this one.

Here are the common factors I've seen in the failed units:

- All of them are small form factor cases.
- All of them were service tags ending in 31.
- All of them were bulging Nichicon caps.

Most of the failures seem to be the cap line between the CPU socket and the rear of the board - they seem to be the ones that spew their innards out the most. The rest have almost always been the three caps out by the DIMM slots; they usually haven't burst, but are noticeably swollen. I do think that the form factor contributes to the problem - to date, I've never seen a midtower GX270 failure due to bad caps.

Dell doesn't seem to be helping larger customers with this problem - the site I go to regularly has to go through the troubleshooting nonsense with level 1 support...even though they tell the support person that I've already shown them what to look for, have advised them that it's a known issue with this model, and that they (the customer) actually know what they're talking about.

Sure, all the failures put money in my pocket, but the fact that Dell hasn't recalled all of the suspect boards in one fell swoop says a lot about how well-informed and responsive they are to customer needs.
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Old 04-18-2005, 03:29 AM   #19
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is there any public documents regarding the issue?

Quote:
the site I go to regularly has to go through the troubleshooting nonsense with level 1 support
that would definately make me completely miserable if i was a tech there

good luck with your job. i bet you are making workers very happy when their possessed pc is restored to perfect operation.
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Old 04-23-2005, 07:50 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogPatch1149
- All of them were bulging Nichicon caps.

Most of the failures seem to be the cap line between the CPU socket and the rear of the board - they seem to be the ones that spew their innards out the most. The rest have almost always been the three caps out by the DIMM slots; they usually haven't burst, but are noticeably swollen. I do think that the form factor contributes to the problem - to date, I've never seen a midtower GX270 failure due to bad caps.

Dell doesn't seem to be helping larger customers with this problem - the site I go to regularly has to go through the troubleshooting nonsense with level 1 support...even though they tell the support person that I've already shown them what to look for, have advised them that it's a known issue with this model, and that they (the customer) actually know what they're talking about.

Sure, all the failures put money in my pocket, but the fact that Dell hasn't recalled all of the suspect boards in one fell swoop says a lot about how well-informed and responsive they are to customer needs.
I can't say how many of these we have had. We have at least 100 Dell GX270 PCs at my work and plenty more GX280 machines. I've been told that the later GX270 machines switched to the motherboard used in the GX280.

I and my coworkers were just using the Dell diags to find bad systems as the problems happened but I hit a system a few weeks ago that would only give errors booting W2K when the MB was first powered on. You couldn't boot into the os on the first try but after the board had "warmed up" it would boot fine.

I finally out of frustration decided to try non dell diags like memtest32 and mbm (motherboard monitor, just to see if the reported votages were within spec). In the process of trying to figure out what motherboard the GX270 actually had so I could configure MBM I accidentally found badcaps.net. Imidiatley after opening the case I found the bad caps.

The one at the intersection of the AGP and ram sockets had what looked to be orange powder on the top and all the caps of the same size/brand/specs were bulging. Dell sent a replacement motherboard with the same Nichicon caps, not the Rubycon caps I expected to see.

If I had to guess I'd say that Dell is trying to sweep this one under the rug.
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