Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
The Courts Government Businesses News Hardware

HP & Dell Face Lawsuits From Exploding Hardware 135

An anonymous reader writes "Dell and Hewlett-Packard are both facing lawsuits over catastrophic equipment failures that lead to fires and injuries last year. 'In one case, a North Dakota auto lube shop owner claims that a Dell monitor he purchased caught fire and burned down his business ... meanwhile, an Arkansas man has sued HP, claiming that an HP Compaq Presario PC he purchased from Wal-Mart burst into flames, causing a blaze that destroyed his house and seriously injured his daughter.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

HP & Dell Face Lawsuits From Exploding Hardware

Comments Filter:
  • HP Compaq Presario PC he purchased from Wal-Mart burst into flames, causing a blaze that destroyed his house and seriously injured his daughter.

    Ah the price of shopping walmart. But on a serious note, these cases are so small and lacking airflow it doesn't really suprise me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snl2587 ( 1177409 )

      Still, I assume many average users really don't think a computer is going to catch fire...if the PCs are pre-built, they should include some sort of failsafe.

      • by morcego ( 260031 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @12:47PM (#22051566)

        they should include some sort of failsafe

        They do. That was the "self destruct" failsafe.
        • Time for slogan changes:

          Dell could have "Dell's Hells"

          HP INvent needs to be PREvent (fiery laptops; incessantly, infuriatingly jamming duplexer HPLJ 2340...)
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by trum4n ( 982031 )
          A girl i know brought a 19inch HP LCD over to my dorm room, saying "FIXIT!!!" No backlight, but the thing still had a picture, and it smelled like sulfur. "Erin, what happened when it quit" "it filled my room with black smoke" "oh...." *unplugs* so i popped it open, The transistor that does the DC to AC conversion in the back light inverter had exploded. I mean, really, like took out the Cap next to it, and cracked the PCB. The thing was 9mo old, with a 6 month warranty. BTW, it was nice and clean insid
    • by qortra ( 591818 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @11:52AM (#22050766)

      these cases are so small and lacking airflow it doesn't really suprise me.
      The article isn't very clear on what exactly caused the fire in the presario, though it does use "electrical system to malfunction" in the case of the monitor that burned down the business. Suffice it to say, this might not be an issue of ventilation. More likely, they were severe electrical problems in all cases. I would bet money that the cause of the Compaq Presario "bursting into flames" was the power supply, and not a poorly ventilated processor. When they overheat, things just tend to melt. No low-voltage IC should ever "burst into flames", even in a poorly ventilated case. In fact, the poorer the ventilation, the fewer the flames.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        And a properly-made power supply should never burst into flames. Normally, a power supply has a fuse in it that will blow to prevent the circuitry in the PSU from becoming overloaded. Sounds like there is a serious product liability issue with the PSU in the Presario in question.
        • by qortra ( 591818 )
          I might be willing to acknowledge that, though it really is well outside my area of expertise. On its face though, it does seem possible for a few hundred watts of power to ignite something. As long as the power supply maintains a nominal power consumption, the fuse won't blow. Also, if you are right, there must be a very decent number of improperly-made power supplies out there. On several occasion I have experienced (or have friends who have experienced) power supplies that have literally flamed/spark
        • by Intron ( 870560 )
          In order to get UL approval, it is OK for your electronics to explode or burn up as long as it is contained inside the case. To burn down a building, either there was something on fire that dropped out of the bottom of the case, or somebody left flammable stuff blocking the air vents on top. If the former than the manufacturer is at fault. If the latter, then the user violated the manufacturer's instructions. Fire investigators should determine which it was. I know that monitor manufacturers will never
      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        You are entirely correct. I've had two chip fans fail, and in both cases all that happened was that the PC stopped working when the CPU died from overheating. Nothing close to a fire.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        CPUs won't overheat anymore anyway; they cut their processing power until they reach an acceptable temperature. If they still can't cool down, there are failsafe mechanisms in place that shut down before any true damage can be done. Modern PCs won't even boot if they're too hot.

        The PSU is the most likely culprit -- although its only job is to regulate power (which you'd think wouldn't be so hard), when things go wrong in the PSU, they go very wrong.
        • I have to agree. This applies at least to Pentium IIIs or IVs because I had an old PC that refused to boot up in summer because the fan wasn't working properly. It would go a little way and then halt.
      • by RattFink ( 93631 )

        No low-voltage IC should ever "burst into flames", even in a poorly ventilated case. In fact, the poorer the ventilation, the fewer the flames.

        Heck no anything electronic should burst into flames. There is so much fire retardant in modern lectronics they have trouble 'bursting into flames' even from outside sources let alone themselves. What I have seen is counterfeit electrolytic capacitors vent flame, but never any amount that could start a house fire. Then again you never really know what they put in t

      • Likewise, even a power supply would smoulder for hours if not days before it stood a chance of bursting into flames. Silicon doesn't burn quite as well as, say, oil. And unless there's a massive overvoltage on a wire, even the plastic insulation will smoulder a while before it reaches its flash point. That smouldering would produce a distinctive smell that would have anybody who's even halfway sane calling tech. support. If there's a massive overvoltage on the line, good luck suing them for defective hardwa
        • by redxxx ( 1194349 )
          Ehh... if the wire is mostly frayed, due presumably to improper installation, it could have the same result, without actually producing an over volt/amp situation. The power supply is putting out the right electricity(but the wire can't dissipate the heat generated by the added resistance(your effectively running a smaller gauge wire). The power supply would have no way of knowing where the load is coming from, and would not generate a fault.

          Tied in with poor quality control and rough handling during ship
      • When they overheat, things just tend to melt. No low-voltage IC should ever "burst into flames", even in a poorly ventilated case. In fact, the poorer the ventilation, the fewer the flames.

        ICs are not immune to manufacturing defects and some manufacturing defects can lead to working ICs that develop into spontaneous combustion months later. One of my friends had a DRAM chip burst into flames in his (back then) year-old 486... the flame scorched the montherboard, second DIMM and the computer casing. The damn

      • Unless I missed it, TFA didn't even say the fire started IN the computer.

        Let me see, on one sircuit we have an office refridgerator, the office microwave, the coffee maker, the desk lamp, the phone base/charger, the fax machine, and the pager charger. I added the computer, monitor, and printer and got a fire. OMGWTFBBQ THE COMPUTER WAS DEFECTIVE!! GOTTA SUE SOMEONE!!1!ll

        Or maybe not.

        See the sig.
      • the air intakes or the CPU cooler getting clogged with dust and dirt. I noticed my CPU running a few degrees higher than usual... a few minutes of brushing out crud made the problem go away. Perhaps the owner didn't know that this is a problem.

        However, the way I avoid the problem is building my own boxes and avoiding $10 "500W" PSUs. (IMO, anyone who buys one should put part of the savings into a fire extinguisher)
    • by gnuman99 ( 746007 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @01:35PM (#22052456)
      The problem is almost exclusively the power supplies.

      Over the last few years, I had 5 power supplies fail, 2 of them with a giant bang. Heck, I'm sure that they would result in the place being burned to the ground if it wasn't for me pulling the cord out of the wall. The culprit in both cases was a cheap-ass power supply that came with the case of those $50 deals.

      Scenario one. The box (P3-450) was powered off. Was changing the network card though I noticed the power supply was suspiciously warm even though it was off. When I plugged the box back in (didn't had time to turn it on), caps popped in the PS with 3 large bangs and 12V rail became 120V AC rail. Yanked the cord out of the wall within about 2 seconds but the damage was done. Everything connected to 12V was fried. Sound gone. CD/HD fried (CD drive opened spontaneously like in those horror movies and the CD that was in it flew out, hit the wall and shattered!). The mobo/CPU/ram survived as only the 12V rail was affected. Later, I plugged in the PS on the workbench and within 2 seconds there was a fire inside the power supply. I didn't wait longer to see what would happen, but I can image that the place would burn down if that PS popped in the middle of the night.

      Scenario two. A different power supply. This was an old ATX power supply I was using for a different purpose - powering some equipment 5V equipment on stand-by power rail (yes, less power than it was rated for at that rail :). Was working fine for a long time. All voltages were fine. Then one day it just exploded in flames. Now, this PS was not in a PC at the time, so maybe not worthy of "burning the house down" scenario as it was only plugged in when someone was around.

      The last 3 cases are power supplies that died or were about to die. One of a Antec 300W PS - that one worked fine then just stopped working. Another was an HP propriatory PS - working fine then not. Died the Right Way. And the third one was an unnamed PS that just stopped giving right voltages. The 12V went down to 9V over one year and system stability was gone.

      So, at least 1 in 5 cases so far would result in "house burn down" scenario. Now, I do not keep any but the best PS boxes (Enermax) anywhere where a fire would destroy they house. The cheap ones are relegated to the concrete basement.

      There is NO OTHER component of any electronic device but the power supply that can destroy your house. And yes, a monitor also has a power supply, though a bit safer than the PC box.

      Of course, there is no 100% fire proof anything so the only way is to mitigate the problem, and also mitigate the energy waste problem at the same time. Unplug your devices when you are not using them. Unplug the TV/DVD/computer when you are not around. If you need the box up 24/7 (eg. server running your home phone system, bt, etc.), put that box in the basement on a concrete floor without flammables around it. For the rest, keep it unplugged when not using - surge protected works great here. This may save your house, and maybe $100+ in wasted "stand-by" power per year.
      • Actually your motherboard would have been spared due to it being on a different rail.
        Motherboards do get 12v.

        I've had three explode in my care. All of them were rather old.
        I never got any conditions you had though. They all went with one big bang and then they were completely dead.

        The funny thing is I opened one of them up and there was nothing visibly wrong with it. :?
        No dust, the pcb didnt have any scorch marks and the capacitors were all intact.
        With that particular one blew with a massive flash of white
    • by kellyb9 ( 954229 )
      Ironically enough, i've read that Walmart shoppers tend to equate size with computing ability. Bigger is better.
    • They have to pay for the $7,000,000 jet and the various other expenses to keep unions at bay somehow. All that expense wasted when they could just go with a fair negotiation and perhaps bring back what was lost to NAFTA.
  • 'In one case, a North Dakota auto lube shop owner claims that a Dell monitor he purchased caught fire and burned down his business'

    An electrical device starting a fire at a place loaded with flammable materials? I loathe Dell, but this seems like it could have happened due to any number of other reasons. Unless of course the monitor was in an office far away from the shop.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You ever had a monitor with a bad flyback transformer? The sparks that some of those things make are insane. I'd easily believe that one could start a fire if you had something highly flammable located near your monitor.
    • by King_TJ ( 85913 )
      Not to mention, a "Dell" monitor is imperceptibly different in design than a monitor of same type and screen-size made by any number of other manufacturers. The LCD panels in Dell panels are made by companies like Ben-Q, for example. The supporting electronics are probably OEM'd from other vendors too.

      One has to wonder if the shop would pursue a lawsuit with the same fervor if said display that caught fire was one of those Chinese off-brands like "Niko", with a far more difficult-to-contact business?
    • type. CRTs and places with flammable gases (e.g. gasoline vapor) do not mix.
  • Hello. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Fear the Clam ( 230933 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @11:47AM (#22050692)
    I'm a Mac.
    And I'm a Oh my God, I'm burning!
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It'd be even funnier if Macs didn't catch fire too [].
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Same company makes your mac laptop that made my dell laptop. :)
        • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
          Same company makes your mac laptop that made my dell laptop. :)

          laptop? *shudders*

          I'm your genitals.
          And I'm a Oh my God, I'm on fire!
    • I am sure PC can get a shot for the "burning".. but if he doesn't pay his monthly recurring charge, he will most likely relapse and/or get something even worse!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Mac:I'm a Mac
      PC:And I'm a PC and I'm the hottest thing going.
      Mac:Ah, PC you're on fire.
      PC:Sales up 2% you bet I'm on fire.
    • I'm a Mac. And I'm a Oh my God, I'm burning!

      Aside from jokes about the prototype 5300 that caught fire because Sony fibbed about its specs (leading to a recall of a few dozen machines that had shipped- few hit customer hands, no "incidents"), Apple has a less than glorious reputation when it comes to power adapters.

      I was on a business trip once when the black, pencil-case power supply for my G3 Lombard suddenly made a crackling noise and I smelled smoke. Turned out that the 2-prong AC connector (the

      • I had a similar problem with my MacBook recently. Unfortunately, I had the bad luck of having this problem over christmas, so they directed me to tier 1 instead of tier 2. They had me run Apple system diagnostics after I reported an ozone smell coming from the brick...

        But hey, it's fixed now.

        • Be happy it wasn't AOL tech support back in the day. If you were to tell them you had smoke emanating from your PC, they'd tell you to reboot.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jollyreaper ( 513215 )

      I'm a Mac.
      And I'm a Oh my God, I'm burning!
      And even though he's scarred and disfigured like Freddy Krueger, 9 out of 10 people surveyed still find him more personable than that smug Mac twat.

      (relax, mac jihadis. Due to vista, my next laptop is going to have to be mac. I'm just getting my snark out of my system now before I'm forced to convert.)
    • by delire ( 809063 )
      Hehe, that's a good one.

      Sadly I wouldn't get too smug, Apple, HP, and Sony portables are made by the same company [] and have almost identical parts in most cases.

      Apple doesn't 'make' hardware, Taiwan does.
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @11:47AM (#22050698) Homepage Journal
    Chip vendors should disable the HCF [] opcode unless either the GURU or IDIOT jumper is set.
  • by KublaiKhan ( 522918 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @11:48AM (#22050716) Homepage Journal
    It's my understanding that walmart habitually insists on lower prices from its suppliers than they provide to others--inducing a corresponding reduction in quality of the product at times, e.g. using plastic rather than metal gears in power tools and the like. I'd not be surprised if HP cut corners for the 'Walmart edition' of its computers.

    That "made specially for walmart" logo on the box is more a warning than an endorsement in my mind.
    • The Walmart box probably overheated because in place of what should have been the heatsink was a block of lead.
    • Does this mean I should throw away my Wal-Mart© papier-mâché monitor? It only smokes occasionally...and it only cost me $4.88!
    • Seeing as Quanta makes all notebooks for both these companies, i doubt a wal-mart version would be any different than that at best buy or online. Quanta makes most all notebooks available from these brand name companies. This includes you apple fanboys as well.
      • True, Quanta makes them, but they are still built to the specs of the designer...HP, Apple, etc. It is still very possible for a computer company to ask their contractor to use a cheaper part for something destined for Walmart.
    • I work in computer repair, although I haven't been able to tell which HPs are direct from walmart, and which ones are from different retailers, but the computers that I see the most quality problems on are the emachines.

      People bring in a computer, say it's not turning on- so I suggest it could be a number of things, but typically a power supply problem. Except if it's an emachine from walmart. I instantly know failed motherboard. (and often times power supply as well).

      I mean, they're priced to be disposa
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      e.g. using plastic rather than metal gears

      Hey ya old geezer, you might enjoy an article I wrote a few years back Useful Dead Technologies []. From the article:

      Steel gears
      During the 1950s when I was a young boy, machinery was made of steel. Not just machinery, but almost everything. Even my toys were made of solid steel. I learned at an early age not to drop things on my foot.

      All the mechanical parts in your automobile, your washer and dryer, your furnace, etc were made of solid steel. Good strong durable stee

      • Actually, round shoelaces work fine. I agreed with you for a while, until I tried some alternative solutions. Specifically: If your flat shoelaces get all tangled up in any kind of knot that isn't a bow, they're very difficult to untangle. If your round shoelaces are tied in a bow, they will almost immediately become untied.

        But if you put a square knot (two overhand loops in opposite directions) in round shoelaces, it's like magic. It holds tight and never slips. BUT they're so slippery you can still
    • I can back that claim up having been a programmer for Wal-Mart in the past. All salaried employees in Bentonville are considered management, and are required to attend 2 Saturday management meetings a month.

      Starting with the corny cheer, management meetings move on to Billy Mays styled new product demonstrations, which end with how much they got the vendor down in price and how. The large number of "hows" are how they convinced the vendor to set up shop in China. More often than not, they also include
    • There are a number of issues here. Power supplies and electronics are required to conform to certain standards for safety to be sold in Europe. In the US, there are almost no requirements for off the shelf equipment(barring FCC Part 15). There is UL marking(and other companies that provide the same testing) that covers issues like this.

      There are a few problems with this. As stated above, the US doesn't have requirements for this. Also, many products that have the CE mark are in fact improperly certifie
  • Dude, you're getting a hell! (Fire that is)
  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @12:00PM (#22050860)

    HP & Dell Face Lawsuits From Exploding Hardware

    I hate it when my computer sues me!

  • Any other geezers out there remember how computers in movies and TV shows from the '60s (Star Trek, The Prisoner, James Bond) would explode and burn at the least provocation? A phaser shot would cause a Star Trek computer to explode and burn, and in one Prisoner episode a computer was made to explode and catch fire simply by asking it "why?" (rather than having it give the correct answer, 42).

    It seems that Dell and HP are making the 1960s science fiction a reality!

    (latest journal is in 5 parts)
  • Walmart is releasing their new line, the Adobe PC - C4 edition
  • by TheKubrix ( 585297 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @12:11PM (#22051022) Homepage
    HP & Dell Seek Patent For Exploding Hardware
  • That's ok... (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by sinthetek ( 678498 )
    if there's one thing society continues to prove, it's that endangering the general public is completely justifiable as long as it is done by a big business.

    It doesn't matter how low Walmart demanded the prices, it is no excuse for distributing dangerous products. Either take the drop in profit or tell Walmart to find someone who can/pay more. Can beef distributors start shipping mad-cow meat because grocery store/shoppers demand lower prices? How about if Valvoline starts watering down their brake fluid be
  • If the monitor hasn't lit, you *must* acquit.
  • Two monitors burnt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by All Names Have Been ( 629775 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @12:17PM (#22051126)
    In our office, we've had two monitors burn - one just with smoke pouring out of it, and one with nice flames coming out the top. They were both old, and it looks like dust inside was the culprit. Unplugging the monitors in both cases pretty much stopped the fire. I'm actually surprised this doesn't happen more often.
    • Funnily enough, back when our company ran on green screen Wyse 60 terminals (sadly this side of 2000), the most likely way for one of them to die was with a very loud *bang* and a significant amount of smoke pouring out the back for some time.
  • by Ranger ( 1783 )
    I do wonder where those components were made. I wouldn't be surprised if those burning exploding items were made in China. It's not like they don't sell us poison dog food, lead coated or date rape drug toys.
  • Works out good for Sony, whose batteries were the ones exploding in their competitors' laptops.
  • I'm sure Sony lawyers could think up a way to Sue them for this also! After all, they are the most leading and on the cutting-edge on this type of ... ee... Technology :)
  • I saw a video for something called a "LiPo Sack", a bad that people who use these high-density batteries can use to keep the batteries in while they're charging. Cool video of batteries exploding! []
    Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. []
  • by codegen ( 103601 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @12:48PM (#22051580) Journal
    I have a friend who had a monitor catch fire. In his words: "There was a pop, a cloud of smoke, and a little flame inside my monitor last night." It was not an old monitor either.
  • This is why Microsoft has a lot of money. While I don't like Microsoft for most of the reasons of their existence, in pure business dollars, they were smart to offload the burden of hardware onto other companies, early on (while they "owned" the distribution and development channels.) Then they would not have to deal with cases such as the ones that Dell, HP, and Apple have had to deal with in the past. In recent years, trying to market the XBOX, they soon realized why they didn't want to get into the hardw
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Because whenever an airplane crashes, every vendor who supplied any component of that aircraft gets sued and loses, regardless of whether or not the component had anything at all to do with why the airplane crashed, even in cases where pure pilot error was the reason, because every component on the aircraft influences how the pilot flies the aircraft.

      MS supplies a component for those computers and the Windows operating system definitely influences the power consumption characteristics of the hardware, so it
  • I worked in their former support department in Ottawa. For us, the "Q" in Compaq stood for "Qombustible".
  • by eth1 ( 94901 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @01:39PM (#22052562)
    ...and the are filth-captial-E! I'm sure the thick layer of dust mixed with oily residue inside the monitor had NOTHING to do with this.

    I'm willing to be the other one is similar... cat or dog hair, maybe?
  • Fight Club:
    A computer leaves a Wal-mart going 40 mph. Once home it bursts into flame, destroying the house and "Fluffy," the family dog. My job is to apply "The Formula." X, the number of cases of this happening times Y, the average lawsuit payout. If X times Y is less than the cost of a recall... we don't do one.
    Which PC manufacturer did you say you work for?
    A major one.

    Or visual:
    User switches on PC (*Click*)
    Cut to stock footage of Atomic bomb exploding.

  • by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @01:54PM (#22052930)

    Anyone know if the equipment in question has been tested by Underwriters Laboratories or the equivalent Canadian/European counterparts?

    I'm wondering if the problem is strictly a design flaw or a manufacturing quality issue (though I would suspect a combination of both). If it's the primarily the former, then I would have to say that the testing firms that put their logo on the case just lost some credibility.

    But then again, I can't say that I know anyone that specifically looks for the UL/CE/CSA logo on the box before they purchase something that they plug into their wall nowadays.

    • That doesn't matter much. I've seen systems go up in smoke and everything was perfectly in order from an approval standpoint. One was caused by one of the infamous electrolytic capacitors we had fun with a few years ago, and one was a manufacturing defect in a backplane that caused a slow short between a power layer and ground.

      I can see a simple solution: Develop a cable that either opens or shorts out hard when it gets too hot. String that next to some of the high power components and in the area where air
  • Well, although I would not expect an off-the-shelf PC to catch fire, I always felt strange about my self assembled PCs. Let's face it, there are components in my server which were never certified to work together. And this machine runs day and night.
    However, there is a simple solution: a small Cyprian company (FirePro []) offers aerosol fire extinguishers. You can basically have a protection solution like it is used in data centers; --- but on a shoestring budget.

    So far
    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      "there are components in my server which were never certified to work together"

      The same could be said about your TV and DVD player. Really, you could say that about any electrical device and your house wireing. So, you should feel just as nervous about that off the self PC. To make matters worse, the plug in your house is generally going to be running with uncertified devices at 120v/20amps. The stuff you are plugging in together in your self built PC is certainly lower in both voltage and amps.
  • Where's the UL (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @02:40PM (#22054038)
    Where's the UL [] while all this is going on? Or the NFPA []?

    Its possible that these incidents are statistically insignificant given the number of products sold that don't explode. Or there would be new rules proposed in the codes to address these problems. These folks just live for writing new rules. In fact, there are some pretty strict rules covering electrical installations in hazardous locations like gas stations. Its just that no construction code can keep someone from running an extension cord and plugging in a PC around gas fumes.

  • by Whuffo ( 1043790 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @03:49PM (#22055688) Homepage Journal
    I've seen a desktop PC or two ignite - not just smoke, but a nice flamey burnout. The source of the problem in every one I've inspected was an electrolytic capacitor failure. Those components are under a lot of stress when they're used in switch-mode power circuits - such as the main power supply or the CPU voltage regulator.

    Fortunately, these fires self-extinguish very quickly when you disconnect the power - if your PC (or whatever random piece of tech) starts smoking / burning, pull the plug. These failures are only really dangerous in unattended machines - then this failure can and does result in a fire.

    Those little capacitors are relatively expensive, and manufacturers who are doing everything they can to shave costs discover they can replace the low-ESR computer grade electrolytics with cheap aluminum electrolytics - and then take it another step by sourcing the cheapest cheap caps they can buy. They manufactures know that this choice will result in a much shorter life for the equipment but those failures will occur after the warranty has expired so it's OK with them.

    Remember this next time you buy yet another power supply for your computer. It could have lasted 10 or more years, but the manufacturer saved a couple of bucks on the components so it died after a year or two. A fire caused by these cheap parts is actually fairly rare - less than one in a thousand machines (probably much less).

    The way to eliminate the majority of these fires? The manufacturers should spend the money it takes to use the right components - capacitors designed and rated for high temperature / switch-mode operation. That would also make power supplies last the life of the machine, slightly reduce power consumption, etc. But as long as consumers insist on the lowest price for products the manufactures will continue to give them what they are asking for.

    Imagine a shelf at the computer parts store: there's two different 400 watt PC power supplies for sale. One sells for $40 and the one next to it speaks of high quality parts and long lifetime and sells for $60. Which one do you think most consumers would buy?

    • A fire caused by these cheap parts is actually fairly rare - less than one in a thousand machines (probably much less).

      In 2001, 10% of the 100+ new Dell monitors burst into flames within the first two months. Because of very high ceilings, there were no real damage. And because we were a very big customer anyhow, they were falling over themselves to replace all the monitors, throw in plenty of extra equipment for free, and give us their bullshit form speech about how they take safety seriously, so there w

    • I see your point, but consumer electronics are not EVER supposed to catch fire. When's the last time you heard of someone's razor, blow dryer (1500 Watts and gets hot enough to glow inside) etc. catching fire when less than 5 years old (or ever for that matter). Price pressure is no excuse to create a situation potentially hazardous to life. If fire safety means the PS can't cost less than $60, then that's what it should cost.

      I imagine a few big dollar settlements will apply some correction to the problem

  • I had a several year old Dell 21" LCD monitor catch on fire. Luckily I was in the house and awake at the time, so I smelled the smell of burning plastic and found the monitor sizzling inside and emitting smoke.

    After unplugging it and setting it outside I called Dell support and after finally getting a real human to talk to told them my monitor caught fire. Apparently they were not paying attention because I was told I had to turn it on and run some diagnostics to make sure it wasn't my computer that was a
  • Television sets used to be a major source of fires until they were redesigned to be safer. Soviet-era Russian television sets were infamous for starting fires.

    Outsourcing manufacturing to countries with limited or non-existent standards for safety and dysfunctional legal systems is a recipe for disaster. There is an enormous pressure to cut costs by any means necessary. Counterfeit components are ubiquitous. Safety and regulatory approvals are often forged, and the product that is manufactured isn't alwa

  • someone ordered laptop batteries, and the order was accidentally filled by the munitions division.
  • They will go up in smoke along with the rest of your house.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming