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IBM's Secret Recall
by Warren S. Levine

Over the past four to six weeks I've had to replace motherboards in three IBM NetVistas, and my colleague in a remote office has had to replace a couple as well. In each case, IBM sent out new motherboards, because the machines were all still under warranty.

 But, it wasn't until last week, when I received a DOA replacement board from IBM in eastern Canada and had to spend hours on the phone with various people there, that I learned there was apparently a "known problem" with some of the capacitors in thousands of their computers.

 The person who told me about this is an employee of IBM. Let's call this person "Serge Strippe" to protect his/her identity.

 Serge said that IBM would not recall the units which are doomed to fail at any time, and that they would not replace these motherboards until the original ones failed. Signs of failure are indicated by the computer spontaneously rebooting, rebooting itself in a loop, or locking up repeatedly at random times.

 Physical signs of failure are indicated by cylindrical capacitors (usually pink ones) on the motherboard becoming "bloated" or "bulged" and by the appearance of a battery-acid like substance oozing from the tops thereof. The faulty capacitors are easy to spot, because they are stamped/scored on top with a shape that looks like the letter "K", whereas the good capacitors are stamped with a "+".

 The above is reportedly not endemic to IBM computers -- Serge also said that Dell and Gateway bought some of the faulty components, and that some of their desktop computers are susceptible to the same failure.

 I think it's important that readers and fans of The Network Administrator know about this problem, and that they inspect the motherboards of NetVista desktops and mid-tower units that were manufactured within the last two years. Similarly, I would put out a call to the readership that, if anyone has experienced the same problem with Dells or Gateways, they should report those instances to The Network Administrator as well.

 




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