Good Timing

Something to be said about good timing… it’s saved me a whole lotta time and panic on this fine Thursday.

About a week ago a new machine landed in my lap at work. I was surprised and sorta thankful. I mean, I’d had the same 3.2GHz P4 for over a year and it was still doing well, so I didn’t really plan on replacing it. In fact, it usually takes me a few days to get a new machine “just right” and, well, after installed XP at least over 100 times since it’s beta cycle, I would say that I’m “tired of it”.

But it was shiny and double-wide in bit size… in spite of the additional work, I was still excited, and how could I say no? So, under the occasional glare from co-workers [that didn’t get new machines] I started to configure it last week. Then moved my dev environment from my 1.8GHz to my 3.2GHz. And turned my 1.8 machine into a quasi-lab box, so that I could have a clean machine for particular tests… those are hard to come by, without taking a lab box offline.

The good timing part of it? The CPU fan has crapped out in the 3.2GHz box. Ever wonder what a P4 HyperThreading CPU will do if it’s uncooled? Hah! Every Geek in the reading audience just cringed and went “oooOOOooooo”. Well props to Dell for having a fail safe: it just shuts down the box, instantly. Then reports a Thermal Failure. Which is an error that sounds like your mom forgot to twist a cap tightly and you’ve got soup in your sandwich don’t it? Or maybe that trick where you put your friend’s sleeping hand in warm water and he pisses himself?

I digress.

Anyway, it’s good timing. The dev box is now waiting for a new fan, and life will continue, since it’s not my primary box… which would have been offline now… in the middle of a ship cycle… erm.

Good timing, indeed.

29 thoughts on “Good Timing”

  1. I wonder how many thermal events Dell covers every month. At work we have several GX270 Optiplex boxes and I’ve noticed that in most cases if both RAM slots are filled, then a thermal event is bound to happen. The amount of RAM doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve seen this on atleast 15 machines that I have worked on personally. Unfortunatly, by the time you notice it had a thermal event, the motherboard is toast – the little capacitors have goop coming out of them. No good.

  2. Got me. My machine looks OK (seeing as it boots into windows and all) and it’s run OK for over a year now, mostly 24/7… I think the fan just gave out on it. We’ll see. At least the HD is OK :)

  3. I just ran across this.


    I doubt its memory. I’m a dell tech, and there is a known issue with capacitors on GX270 mainboards. According to Dell, it only affects older SFF models, but from what I’ve seen in the field I highly doubt that claim. It’s more common on the SFF, but it does happen on other 270 variants more often than it does on completely different Dell models.

    What happened was a batch of capacitors was overfilled. This leads to them swelling up and quite possibly bursting after about 10 months. This happens all the time- I’ve had sites in my service area that have lost as many as 6 GX270 motherboards in a single day, and some are approaching a total of 20% or more of their 270’s that have died due to this reason alone(one place has lost 7 out of 20 due to bad capacitors). On some rare occasions, the motherboard has taken the CPU and/or RAM with it as it died.

    The SX270 is also apparently affected by this problem, though it does not seem to be as severe a hit as the GX270.

  4. This is just the info i have gathered on the subject: The issue is to do with Nichicon HN(M) and HM(M) series capacitors which fail early. Previously Nichicon was known to be a trusted brand. Crucial elements were missing in the chemical that makes up the electrolyte inside the capacitor. The capacitor would then emit hydrogen gas and burst after a short operational lifetime. They then leaked electrolyte onto the motherboard, creating all sorts of electrical and chemical havoc. The failures were from caps with date codes of early 2003, and later, Dell boards and also replacement boards used good quality Rubycon capacitors instead. (Nippon is good too) HP/Compaq and IBM (ThinkCentres and NetVista A40) boards were using well known crap caps as well as Intel and Dell. The repair records on GX270s show they were purchased at exactly the same time frame. The GX270s with Nichicon capacitors have a certain number in the Service Tag/Tags which should contain the code “Y791” Capacitors with X on the top are Nichicon and the ones with K on the top are Sanyo and have not failed. Rubycons just say so on them. No one expected bad caps from this maker, but all were affected. Hope this helps you.

  5. Hello, I have a new Dell System(Dim 3000) that I had for a month now and now it sometimes just turns off on its own, when it turns back on, it says something about previous shut down due to thermal. can someone help me in this situation?

  6. I JUST bought a Optiplax GX150

    And noticed that the approx 1.5 x 2.5 inch power vertical board has two laeking capacitors

    well they are actually crusty

    I expext they will fail some time soon

  7. I work with these Dell boxes every day, and the number of “thermal events” that occur is unbelievable – the motherboard dies straight away, or slowly; worst of all, the processor sometimes gets sealed, due to the design, to the fan, and so it has to be replaced as well.

    Not good.

  8. I have a Dim 3000 and it will sometimes just shutdown with the message thermal event. any ideas the processor has been replaced and the heat sink around it. but it is still shutting down. i see nothing wrong with the capacitors could i just be losing my motherboard? its past warranty with dell.

  9. Either the motherboard or the CPU itself… no way of knowing just by looking at it. In fact, there’s going to be no way to “fix” either: you’d just replace the entire part (either CPU or Motherboard) and call it good.

    Of course, there could be a problem where a fan just isn’t spinning so the thing is ligitimately overheating…

  10. I have the same problem to. My dad bought a few optiplex gx270’s for his company and decided to give one to me (legally) on my birthday. Recently i started getting the thermal event error and now i have to sit there turning to comp on/off for about 30mins to get it started up, and then i have to keep the computer busy (playing a game or watching a dvd) with the green cover thats supposed to go over the fan off (basically deliberatly “slighlty” over heating the processer) if i put on media player and just leave it fan on or off it switches itself off. ive tried everything and the thing is i dont have a warranty so how do i fix this? im really desperate and i dont earn much money so i can go out and buy another comp. email me if anyone has any ideas. **


  11. har i spent an hour trying to get through to dell and evntually i did, and they sent an engineer out today and replaced the motherboard and heat sink. yipee now back to listening to music in my room. Also the engineer offered me a job (he was so stupid i knew more about computers than him) lol he forgot to plug in the power button (the cable that also connects the 2 usb outlets at the front of the computer to the mother board) he couldnt undo the fan AND he could even open the bloody computer (it quick release) but apparently they get paid well! £30 and an extra £9 for every call out they take, he said you could earn £80 a day and still be home by 2pm lol i think i might take this job lol i just need a driving licence

  12. Have you received one of these?

    Dear Customer –

    Dell has recognized a motherboard component issue that may affect a portion of the OptiPlex™ GX280, GX270 and SX270 desktops.

    The failure mode may manifest as an intermittent system problem where some users may experience a failure to boot, a thermal shutdown or intermittent lockups when using the affected systems. Users may also notice that capacitors on the system board are bulging.

    Although not all systems are affected, Dell has implemented a unique program in North America to provide out of warranty coverage for motherboard failures related to the leaking or expanding capacitors on the affected OptiPlex™ GX280, GX270, and SX270 systems.

    If a desktop computer listed in the “Products Affected” section has a failed motherboard exhibiting expanding or leaking capacitors

    and is within the time period described below, contact Dell Technical Support to have the motherboard replaced at no charge per

    Dell’s Next Business Day service coverage program.

    This motherboard replacement program is valid for 5 years from the original date of purchase of the system or January 31, 2008, whichever occurs first. Systems that fall outside the motherboard replacement offer terms may be repaired under Dell’s Out of Warranty service program.

    Products Affected

    SX270 USFF Ultra Small Form Factor

    GX270 SFF, SDT, SMT All Form Factors – Small Form Factor, Small Desktop, Small-Mini Tower

    GX280 – SFF, SDT, SMT All Form Factors – Small Form Factor, Small Desktop, Small-Mini Tower


    Dell Inc.

  13. oh !@#$

    happend to a dimension 2400 as well i can smell the caps burning but the fan is fine. is dell doing a recall on the MB with the bad caps

  14. I just used the post by blarg! what can I say, FANTASTIC! I recently got a Optiplex gx270 from a friend who got it from his work who was throwing it out. I found that the caps were blown on it. So I did some research and found out about the cap problem. I figured 24 bux and i’ll have new caps, but i’ll have to put them in. found this post, called Dell tech support. They are sending me a new one over night for FREE! TOO COOL!

  15. I got two dell gx 270 I believe the capacitors went bad. I would like to have the correct capacitors to replace by myself. What is the part number of the capacitor.

  16. I just got through chatting with a dell tech and he told me that this out of warranty does NOT cover thermal events.

  17. I have seen soooooo many of these GX270’s going to shite, sometimes I wish I could tell the world just how shite DELL really is!!! Anyhoo, the letter from DELL states “This motherboard replacement program is valid for 5 years from the original date of purchase of the system or January 31, 2008” so you should still be able to get a replacement MB.

  18. I just got off the phone with dell and they are sending a new mobo overnight for free. They had even offered to send an onsight tech to do the repair first and didn’t give me any grief. Whole call was like 7 minutes. The extended warranty is good till 2008. Since this box was a giveaway from a client I can’t really complain as the replacement part is also free. This is why I buy ibm and apple.

  19. I just had the same experience with the gooey capacitors. I called Dell, provided them with my information, they are sending a new motherboard overnight! Yipee! As well, they mentioned that the extended warranty on these board is valid until January 2008.

  20. I have had that capacitor leaking issue with a Dell Optiplex GX-270, i chat online with a Dell technician and he is sending a new motherboard overnight, and i am in El Salvador Central America!!. I think thats really cool.

  21. Thank you very much for this information! Having 11 boards replaced and they’re being sent overnight!

    Now for the install…

  22. offers the highest quality replacement kits and loose caps to fix your dell motherboards

  23. > Ever wonder what a P4 HyperThreading CPU will do if it’s uncooled?

    yeah, not much, just clock itself down to prevent letting the magic smoke out.

    an older AMD athlon however will continue to run at full blast till it dies.

  24. I have had a gx150 and a gx280. The latter gave me all kinds of thermal ‘nuclear’ event warnings. It would not boot up – then only from the boot disc then only from the windows disc etc, etc.

    My solution was to not listen to the ‘capacitor stuff’ but to open the case and look at the gubbings.

    No surprise that (although the machine looked dusk free and clean) the sink (is that what it is called?) below the fan was gubbed up with dusk and yuk. I presumed that it was all clean when it left the factory and that the warning indicators might have been a bit premature about their warning of world war three. I guessed that the warnings were generated incorrectly and the machine was probably OK.

    Then I consulted my wife and asked her how to use the vacuum cleaner. That was the hard bit (they are tricky blighters you know!). I used its wonderful sucking ability around the dusty areas (look to both sides of the ‘sink’ below the fan – it is easy to miss the inside). If I had had the time I might have used my screwdriver to take the fan off and really clean the gunk below but, as a man, I prefer to do things fast.

    No screechy fan, no massive times of ‘noise larging it’, no thermal nuclear events, no world war three.

    I don’t expect it will last forever but it has for the past 2 years.

    Actually – it needs a nother vacuuming – where is my wife?

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