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Dell Knew Of Burned Laptops Before Recall: Source

Dell grappled with apparently severe overheating problems in scores of notebooks for at least two years before it announced a recall of 22,000 notebooks last year, according to a source close to the company.

Dell grappled with apparently severe overheating problems in scores of notebooks for at least two years before it announced a recall of 22,000 notebooks last year, according to a source close to the company.

The source allowed CRN to review documentation of investigations into the notebook problems, and the source said that documentation was supplied to Dell executives.

The evidence, which included photographs of damaged notebooks, came to light in the wake of reports of one Dell notebook exploding in front of cameras during a conference in Japan.

The documentation included detailed evidence, on a notebook-by-notebook basis, of which component areas suffered the brunt of the overheating. The documentation showed the following:

• One notebook was charred black for several inches on the bottom corner of the unit, about one-half inch from the system fan;

• Another notebook with a two-inch hole showing where a section of case had melted away, charred black and brown on the bottom of the unit, on the side, about half-way between the fan and the battery;

• More than a dozen notebooks where an inch or two of casing had melted away in the right-hand corner above the keyboard and just below the LCD;

• One system that was melted, mangled and charred black on the bottom corner of a notebook;

• More than one notebook with black charring around the Ethernet port;

• Several units that had melted and warped in the area immediately surrounding the cooling fan;

• Several units that had melted or burned away in the area covering and surrounding the laptop battery unit.

The safety recall focused on notebook batteries. In that recall announcement, on Dec. 16, 2005, the CPSC said "Dell has received three reports of batteries overheating. The incidents involved damage to a tabletop, a desktop, and minor damage to personal effects. No injuries have been reported."

The overheating laptop issue involving Dell has grabbed headlines at a time when the company has been working to rebuild its reputation after some well-publicized earnings disappointments, as well as knocks against declines in its customer service and support.

Dell is currently working with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in an effort to find out what caused the laptops to burst into flames in front of a customer attending a conference in Japan earlier this year.

A Dell spokesman, Jess Blackburn, said the company would not comment on the number of notebooks that have been returned to the Round Rock, Texas-based company with burning or overheating issues.

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