I have been use a Dell Optiplex GX270 at work for almost 2 years now. This has been a very stable machine, powered on 24x7.
Last week, the machine just shut itself off by itself. After powering it on, the colors on the monitor were off (no greens nor yellows). I notice that if you wiggle the monitor cable the colors will change, although the green/yellow will never reappear. The machine has an nVidia video card with DVI output, and a connector for DVI to VGA.
After calling Dell, they said they are going to send the video card and "cable". Overnight, the machine powered itself again. And then again every night afterwards. Then it would only stay powered to the login screen only, then power off.
Upon receipt of the video card and "cable" two days later, the cable was wrong (not DVI).
The local PC repair guy (Jeff) said it is not the video card, and probably a motherboard issue related to leaky capacitors. The field engineer (Tyler) said that he replaced dozens of motherboards in the lab for GX270. They opened my PC and looked at the capacitors and found that they are bulging.
They called Dell on my behalf, and asked for a motherboard. Dell said that they will not ship the mothernoard since I have another part on order (the video cable), and it is their policy not to partial ship. Jeff cancelled the cable, so we can get the motherboard shipped ASAP.
The new motherboard fixed the reboot issue, but the colors were still off. Jeff replaced the DVI to VGA connector, and everything was fine.
As for the root cause, it is known that many motherboards suffer from electrolyte leaking from capacitors, and they bulge or even explode.
Links and Resources
- BadCaps.net: a web site on leaky capacitors, providing technical solution by repairing the motherboards.
- Research report on leaky aluminum electrolyte capacitors (PDF).
- ZDNet article on Dell planning to replace motherboards on GX270, but no general product recall.
- CNet article on Dell's leaky capacitors, causing Dell to announce a $300 million charge for the quarter. And a Slashdot discussion.
- Slashdot article on Taiwanese capacitor leaking and exploding 3 years ago!