Documents recently unsealed in a three-year-old lawsuit indicate that Dell attempted to cover-up widespread component failures which affected a number of its OptiPlex computers from May 2003 to July 2005.
According to Ashlee Vance of the New York Times, Dell shipped at least 11.8 million computers that were at risk of failing due to faulty capacitors manufactured by an Asian PC component supplier known as Nichicon.
"Capacitors are found on computer motherboards, playing a crucial role in the flow of current across the hardware. They are not meant to pop and leak fluid, but that is exactly what was happening earlier this decade," wrote Vance.
"Am [emergency] Dell [study] found that OptiPlex computers affected by the bad capacitors were expected to cause problems up to 97 percent of the time over a three-year period. [And], making problems worse, Dell replaced faulty motherboards with other faulty motherboards."
Unsurprisingly, employees routinely "went out of their way" to conceal the capacitor meltdowns, with one Dell rep even going so far as ordering others to "avoid all language" about bad boards or related "issues."
"They were fixing bad computers with bad computers and were misleading customers at the same time," explained Ira Winkler, a former computer analyst for the National Security Agency and a technology consultant.
"They knew millions of computers would be out there causing inevitable damage and were not giving people an opportunity to fix that damage."