Intel Cougar Point Chipset Issue: How Dell is Supporting Affected Customers Worldwide

Intel Cougar Point Chipset Issue: How Dell is Supporting Affected Customers Worldwide

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Intel Cougar Point Chipset Issue: How Dell is Supporting Affected Customers Worldwide

I first blogged about the Cougar Point chipset issue in early February, and a second time on March 1st. Some customers received their system orders before the Cougar Point issue was known. The point of this post is to explain how we plan to support those customers.

XPS 8300, Vostro 460, Alienware Aurora desktops or Alienware M17x R3 laptops that were received prior to March 1 are potentially affected by the chipset issue. Dell plans to offer all worldwide customers who received one of these systems prior to March 1 an option for a new replacement motherboard.

Our teams will begin contacting customers with affected motherboards this week to offer them a new replacement motherboard that corrects the Cougar Point chipset issue. The replacement motherboard and the associated service (service options may vary by region) will be provided to affected customers at no charge.

Update: My previous paragraph has caused some confusion. To clarify: we have worked to inform affected customers throughout the process through various channels including my post on Feb. 2nd and information on support.dell.com which outlined our approach with customers based on different scenarios. We've contacted customers to work through pending orders and as I mentioned, this week we've begun reaching out to customers who kept their affected systems to replace motherboards with new ones.

Update 2: Over the last couple of months, the team continues to make progress. One area that’s slowing things down is that machines being purchased from retail outlets are not registered to an owner. If you purchased one of the following four systems from a retail outlet on or before February 15, you may be affected by the Intel chipset issue.

Our technical support team can determine if you are affected, but before they can, we need you to register the system in your name. To do so, please visit: Dell.com/register. From there, choose the country that you purchased in (click on the image below to go to the US registration page). From there, choose the retailer you purchased from:

Dell.com/register

This will take you to the form where you can enter your personal information:

Dell customer registration form

The registration process will take about 24 hours. After you are registered, please contact Technical Support. Customers in the United States can use phone numbers on this page to do that.

For customers outside the United States, here’s the best way to find pertinent Technical Support details:

  • Go to support.dell.com
  • At the very bottom of the page, select your country in the Choose a Country/Region field
  • Choose Support for Home Users, Support for Small Business Users, or Enterprise IT (if you’ve visited support.dell.com in the past, you may not even see this page)
  • Choose Contact Technical Support under the Contact Us section
  • Click on the green Telephone button under the Call Tech Support section

If you have any questions about the registration process, please let me know in the comments below.

In case you haven't dug into the details until now, here's a quick recap. According to Intel, SATA ports within the chipsets may degrade over time. This means they may never degrade, or if they do, it may take a few months for them to do so. If the issue does occur, it affects the functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD drives. The issue can prevent access to SATA devices inside the system or attached externally. These devices include hard drives and DVD/Blu-ray optical drives. The Cougar Point chipset is embedded on the system motherboards that provide support for second-generation Intel Core Sandy Bridge processors.

I know several of you have been asking for details on how this process will work. Bottom line, we will start contacting affected customers this week and will work through these motherboard replacements over the next several weeks.

Until then, thanks for your continued patience. 

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  • Hi Lionel,

    Can you confirm if the XPS L702x is affected by this issue?

    Many of these units were also received before March 1st and have the cougar point chipset.

    TY.

    P.

  • @PontiusP: No... the Sandy Bridge version of the XPS 17 is not affected by this issue. Those systems all shipped with updated versions the Cougar Point chipset.

  • Thanks for the update Lionel, I was the person(from the previous blog yesterday) who stated that I called Dell this past weekend to set up a Mobo replacement. The CS rep on the phone who set up the dispatch was well aware of the Chipset issue, but the actual service tech who will be coming to my home to do the replacement was completely in the dark. I have a home appointment set up for this coming Tuesday. The tech has told me he was shipped the new Mobo from Dell via FedEx(which he received this tuesday-7/22/11). Can you please assure me that the Mobo he was shipped is, in fact, a NEWLY manufactured Mobo with the NEW , Fixed chipset. My assumption is that it must be as Intel recalled all the old chipsets, and the phone CS agent who set up the dispatch(and, presumably, set up the new mobo shipment to the technician) was aware of the chipset issue and knew exactly why I was calling. Any feedback you could give would be appreciated.

  • @markarich159: Bottom line, I'm working with our teams to understand the easiest way to confirm that you have the latest motherboard stepping (the new motherboard with the updated chipset that corrects the problem).

    Several others have asked me the same question. Will let you know when I have more details.

  • Thanks for the response Lionel. As a correction to my previous post. I , of course, meant the tech received the new Mobo from Dell through FedEx on 3/22/11(not 7/22/11). I appreciate you looking into this. Just as a suggestion; the easiest way to possibly confirm the latest stepping(at least from the end consumer standpoint)  would be to check with your teams to see if there would be some obvious marking(i.e. date stamp, serial #, code #) located on the new, fixed mobo's that would allow the end consumer or technicians to verify the mobo is indeed corrected. If there was a marking such as this on the new, corrected mobo's; it would certainly go a long way to assuage the end consumer that they are, indeed, receiving a mobo with the updated stepping. Thanks again & I will await your next update.

  • @Lionel Menchaca:

    I have some further questions to the stepping in XPS 17 with Sandy Bridge chipset.

    In the other blog you wrote as response for my post with the B2 stepping after checking with cpu-z: "Bottom line, our teams are still looking into it, but software tools that people are using are not updated to show the latest stepping. I'll see if there is an easy way to identify."

    An other way (and more reliable) to find out, which hardware-revision is used is the comand  "wmic idecontroller get deviceid".

    this way doesn´t use any third-party tool like cpu-z or something.

    it shows the pci-identification of the HDD-Controller used by the chipset. Intel has the PCI-Vendor-ID ("VEN_") 8086. if there is shown "REV_04", B2 stepping is found.

    At this point, people in several forum report something mysterious: if the BIOS-Version A04 is in use, this comand shows "REV_04". But after an update to version A05 it shows "REV_05", ore something else and also tools like cpu-z are reporting B3 stepping.

    Can you tell me, how a bios-update is able to change the hardware?

    And at last: i talked with several dell-staff on phone an in chat about this issue. they told me, the new chipsets will be shiped at the end of march/early april. if this is the truth, how can they already be build in notebooks now?

  • I received a telephone call about the issue. I was told that I would need to back up my data before the tech arrived and that more info would be in the follow-up email. The email said little, however.

    1. What exactly is involved in replacing this part? (pop out a chip and replace it? Major disassembly?)

    2. If it is a motherboard part, why does data need to be backed up?

    3. What needs to be backed up and what does not?

  • Does the replacement motherboard now support usb 3.0 ?

  • @jbaaremartin: I don't believe any of the new motherboards will add more functionality compared to the original motherboard.

    What system do you have?

  • Lionel - I'm back in Canada until May when I'll be down for a week.  No call from Dell as yet for MOBO replacement on my XPS 8300.  Also, I'm in a rural area just 45 minutes from a major metrpolitan center so hope this doesn't affect my replacement either.

    I will remain patient but hope the tech folk can work around my being there for a week in May otherwise we need to wait until November.

  • Thanks for the update.

  • @Richard Yates: The fix requires replacing the motherboard. It should not involve the hard drive at all. Will check with the team for more.

    Update:  Fixing the problem requires a motherboard exchange only. Hard drives are not part of the fix. 
    Backing  up personal files (the My Documents folder, files on the desktop etc.) is a precautionary measure, but hard drives themselves are not a part of the fix.
    Hope this helps.

    @raydeo: I'll ping you separately to see what we can work out.

  • Hi Lionel,

    Could you please address the point made by Thomae. i.e. There is anecdotal evidence that early XPS L702x units contain the affected cougar point chip.

    TY.

    P.

  • Yes, I understand that "fixing the problem requires a motherboard exchange" What I do not know is how involved that operation is. Is it as simple as pulling out a chip and replacing it? Pulling a card? Soldering? Removing other components to get to it? Disconnecting the entire computer from peripherals?

  • @ Richard Yates. I have since spoken again to the tech coming to my home this coming tuesday for my XPS 8300 Mobo replacement. He assured me that he's done hundreds of  mobo replacements , and as long as it is simply a replacement (with the same model mobo - rather than an upgrade) there should be no problem with existing OEM OS or  installed software. He said I should be up and running in less then an hour. I'll keep everyone informed as to how it goes.

    @ Lionel  As to my recent post regarding identification of fixed chipsets. I found this link showing the new Series 6 chipset B3 Stepping Spec code #(as compared to the older B2 Stepping):

    hw-lab.com/batch-numbers-of-intel-6-series-chipset-b3-revealed.html

    for me the H67 mobo code would be the applicable one.

    Unfortunately, as the article states, the chipsets are usually covered by heatsinks making spec code # reading difficult at best, impossible at worst.

  • Hello, I haven't received any communication yet but I am wondering when I do will I be able to just have Dell send me a replacement motherboard so I can swap it out myself?  I have built computers before and have actually opened up my current XPS 8300 to swap out the video card and optical drive so don't feel it necessary for someone to come and do it for me.

  • @ zer0future  . I agree, I have done work on previous computers(swapping out hard drives, memory, video cards , etc...).But  I've never actually done a complete mobo replacement. I am sure(as the technician told me) it is a fairly simple process. However, in this case, where Dell is willing to send a tech to you home for free; I would rather have an authorized Dell tech, at least, be there. Just in case some unforeseen problem occurs with the process(i.e. OS activations issues, installed software/hardware problems, driver issues,etc..) you will not absorb any liability that may void your warranty. If you go it alone and something off the wall does happens, you may be left holding the hot potato.

  • @markarich159: Thanks for the details on the identification piece. I've definitely flagged the topic with our engineering teams and hope to have more information that will help customers confirm more easily.

    FYI @Thomae and PontiusP... more to come on the B2/ B3 topic.

  • I agree it is great that dell is sending techs to do the swap, I just have an odd work schedule so it would be easier for me to do it myself but not a big deal.  I will ask when I receive my call/email.

  • @zer0future: What markarich159 said is accurate, but yes, if you'd rather do the motherboard replacement on your own, we can ship the parts directly to you.

    I'll send you my contact info via e-mail so you can proceed down that path if you want to.

  • Thank you Lionel, I received your email and have replied.  Just in case anyone else is thinking about asking for a replacement motherboard, I do think it is a good idea to have the dell technician service your machine.  However, I work irregular hours at a hospital, and have experience taking apart / building computers (it helps my best friend is a desktop engineer also) so am okay with doing the swap myself.  Thanks again for the help and replies Lionel / Mark.

  • I contacted Dell Customer Support after learning about the XPS8300 chip-set problem back on 2/4/11. As requested, I submitted a Hardware Support Warranty request that was acknowledged by Dell. Today, 3/25/11, a Dell-affiliated technician came to my house and replaced the motherboard. It took about an hour and only the motherboard is replaced as he used the same Intel I7 2600 chip from my old motherboard. After installation my computer booted up OK with no OS (Windows 7) problems are data loss. I used Priiform Speccy to identify my motherboard before and after the installation and the only two things that changed was the motherboard model number and Southbridge Revision number changed from 04 to 05. The BIOS Revision remained the same at A03 (2/15/11). There was not cost associated with this replacement.

    Note:  I had to reset my computer time and some drivers were automatically re-installed by Windows 7.

  • Thanks for sharing those details, @crescentchase.

  • Thanks Lionel.

    I got your email last week & am looking forward to getting my replacement mobo.

  • @cresentchase   Thanks for the info (& reassurance). The tech is coming to my place 2morrow to swap out to Mobo. Hopefully it goes as smoothly as your's did. I'm downloading Piriform Speccy right now, Thanks again.