Flaming Notebook


The Official Dell Corporate Blog

Flaming Notebook

Beyond what you've seen in the blogosphere, there is no update on the now infamous "flaming notebook" from Osaka.  We replaced the customer's computer and are still investigating the cause.  We think it was a fault in a lithium ion battery cell

Update (8-14): Alex Gruzen just published a post that outlines the details of our battery recall program.

Dell's engineering teams are working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and a third-party failure analysis lab to determine the root cause of this failure and to ensure we take all appropriate measures to help prevent a recurrence.  By the way, lithium ion batteries are used in billions of notebooks, mp3 players, PDAs and cell phones these days.


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  • We posted on this (see above) a while back and wondered when you folks were going to join the conversation.

    And now here you are, blogging about it. I almost never thought I'd see the day.

    So now that you're out here, what do you guys think about the idea that's been raised in the blogosphere of granting Jeff Jarvis an interview with Michael Dell?
  • Big kudos for starting the blog. Glad to see you join the conversation(s) that have so frequently revolved around you but have not been able to include you.

    A word of advice - no need to remind us of how many batteries there are... Just saying you're looking into it is good enough for me. Otherwise you just sound defensive.

    Adding you to my feed reader now!
  • Excellent. One perfect example why Dell should continue utilizing a blog format. The accountability of an issue.

    Good job clarfiying that!
  • Why should Jarvis get an interview with anybody, let alone Michael Dell? You people jumping on Dell for "not joining the conversation" properly have zero sense of what's really important for their business -- and pleasing Jeff Jarvis and his sycophantic know-nothing followers isn't on that list.
  • Woah. You guys are serious about blogging. Now I know where to come to find out about Latitudes going supernova and anything else I come across in the blogosphere. We should have this posted on slashdot.
  • Lionel,

    Great job on joining the conversation!   It's a great start...

    Here are a few thoughts on how you can make upgrades to corporate blogging activities based on your post about the flaming laptop:

    1.  Make Your Posts Actionable.  The post on the burning laptop (flaming laptop) missed a window of opportunity in terms of creating an actionable framework to deepen dialogs with individuals that have an interest in these issues.   The longer term corporate blogging strategy is to connect this group to future Dell corporate communications efforts.  You can do this by:

    A. Encouraging individuals to sign up for your RSS feeds
    B. To include a specific date on when you’re going to provide an update.  This is incredibly important.  It’s like scheduling a message board forum with a guest speaker.  
    C. Provide people with your email address.  One-way lists don’t work for long.  The new communication model is about being of service rather than just servicing a list for corporate gain.  The “being of service” message is Web 2.0/Word of Mouth marketing industry fluffy messaging.  The bottom line is Dell is a business.  Now that Dell is blogging, you have a great opportunity to create your own viral audience platform to support message distribution or corporate communication goals.

    2.  Follow the Conversation.  Two key takeaways here:
    A. I would strongly recommend that you tags (use keywords to help with indexing posts in search results for phrases people are using) for every post in addition to category or top tags.
    B.  Dell needs to be doing outreach and commenting on blogs that are talking about the flaming laptop with links back to your site.  Even simple “thank you” posts to bloggers can go a long way in starting new relationships.

    Again, congratulations and welcome to the future.

    Todd Tweedy
  • Something tells me this is going to end up being a faulty component purchased from a vendor whose bid came in tons lower than the competition.  Sadly, Dell has experienced this before with the infamous GX270 capacitor issue, which I have to deal with at work (before I was hired there, someone purchased hundreds of them).  It's a bad situation - the product works when it's manufactured and continues to work for months after that, only to have some form of utter meltdown.  At least my GX270s don't catch fire.

    Solutions... I'm going to say that what Dell needs to do is work harder on quality control with third-party component vendors.  Make a design spec, and do checks to make sure that spec is being met by the vendor.  Right now it seems like a case of "lowest bid wins the contract."  Dell has the market muscle to ensure both low prices and high quality (although your continuing use of zip cords instead of real cable puzzles me).  Hopefully, Dell is going to use that muscle to drive quality up for a while - it's about time!
  • I don't know if this quote is going to work so...
    "By the way, lithium ion batteries are used in billions of notebooks, mp3 players, PDAs and cell phones these days."

    BTW, Dell, you s**k for saying something like that. There are millions of cars on the road too, but if GM came out with a model that was a defective do you think they would be like, "By the way, there are millions of cars out there. It's cool, just relazzzz."[/quote]
    Actually it's not saying something likr that. It's like GM saying BTW there are millions of cars with Bridgestone Tires on the road and only a very small percentage have had a problem so there is no need for concern about all the rest or about tires in general. Dell doesn't want to start a consumer wide panic about LI batteries in general.

    Also the GX270 caps issue is not a Dell only issue. This affected the entire electronics industry affecting microwaves, vcr's, set top dvd players and many other consumer electronics as well as PC's and not just Dell PC's. Dell has just been nice enough to absorb the cost themselves when replacing these motherboards. Dell did not buy the defective capicators from that manufacturer. The motherboard manufacturer bought the capacitors and used them on motherboards they sold to Dell. Dell had no control over the vendors these MoBo makers used for their parts. Maybe instead of blaming Dell for this you should be grateful that Dell is not saying, contact the MoBo manufacturer, it's their problem, not ours.
  • "By the way, lithium ion batteries are used in billions of notebooks, mp3 players, PDAs and cell phones these days."

    This is similar to when a Dell tech explain to me the number of years he had been working for Dell and never heard of the NIC ever failing in a computer.  Regardless of how often this happens, it doesn't change that a customer was sold a crap that does not function correctly.  Would Dell have choosen this same language if it's laptop had produced fire on an airplane in flight?  These types of Dell bombs may still out there.

    "Maybe instead of blaming Dell for this you should be grateful that Dell is not saying, contact the MoBo manufacturer, it's their problem, not ours."

    As part of getting OEM pricing on parts, the OEM becomes responsible for customer service on the part.  Despite that fact, I have had Dell technical support staff before tell me if I think there is a problem with a computer they sold, then I should talk to whoever made the part (doing exactly what you say I should be grateful Dell supposily does not do).  I have had more problems getting a RMA for problems with Dell machines than when dealing with hardware faulures for IBM or HP.  In one case, the home PC was covered by one-site support so Dell provided someone from BankTech to replace the motherboard.  When the tech contacted Dell back to let them know the replacement motherboard had not resolved the issue and that there was evidence the CPU was bad, Dell argued with their own contractor on if another motherboard should be shipped to confirm it wasn't the motherboard.  I have a journal of issues showing why getting any extended warrenty on a Dell is worthless and the time involved in getting an RMA is on average worse than just paying for the replacement parts yourself.

    This is also not the first time Dell has had a problem with "their" (or the OEM parts making up the product) equipment going up in smoke.  One  customer I assisted with had multiple PowerEdge 1650 servers catch fire in the period of three months.  Dell's initial responce was to scape-goat on the UPS vendor used for the operations room.  Also, it turned out for problems where the PowerEdge smokes that "4 hour on-site support" just means that withen 4 hours you will be told that they need to ship a server in a 1-2 week period.

    Eventually the assigned Dell salesman for the organization made a bunch of promises of free replacement equipment to help phase out use of the model 1650.  Shortly afterward, the organization was assigned a new salesman that "could not honor" any previous promises.  The organization now uses primarily IBM bladecenters.  Any problems that can't be fixed in 4 hours result in the blade being replaced the same day.  And as a piece of comic relief, the organization now refers to Dell as "SMell" because of the smoke smell that is left behind after using the product.

    I'm curious to know how many of these laptops have done this but where it was never caught on film.  I can easily see Dell's support policies and procedures resulting in a claim that a customer can't prove the fire was because of the laptop and without accidental damage coverage Dell does not owe them anything.  While in this recent case the laptop was replaced, it seems to me that getting a picture of the laptop exploding played a roll in accomplishing getting such a customer friendly responce from Dell.  How many people are left with an extra crisp "laptop" from Dell?  Actually, nevermind--don't answer that.  I probably should ask the MoBo manufactor instead.

  • What can you tell us about the laptop that caught fire? What have you learned so far about it?
    Was it turned on at the time?
    Is there any danger of a battery catching fire if the laptop is turned off?
  • I recently purchased the Dell Latitude D820.  This was a personal purchase and love the machine.  It does get quite warm on occasion so I thought I'd ask what the tolerances should be for this unit.  It is the D820 with the T2500 Core Duo.  I think much of the heat is coming from the Seagate Momentus 100gig 7200rpm drive.  I have a Hitachi 100gig 7200rpm drive on order so we'll see if that drive is better.

    At what temp should I get worried?  
  • You know by you saying that million of notebook pda etc have the same batteries doesn’t make me feel better, please do a thorough search of what actually happened so that more people are aware of any concerns…

  • The Dell that went off was in a conference room.  Usually the temp. in these rooms are controlled to keep them at a comfortable room temp.  The PowerEdge 1650 I saw blow smoke out the front when being turned on had been powered off for a couple hours and was in an operations room that is kept below 60F.

    If you bought the laptop in the last 30 days then you should be able to return it to Dell.  This is one of the nicest features of Dell policy and one that you should take advantage of given the lack of information Dell has released about the laptop that exploded.

    Otherwise, I recommend that you periodically remove the battery and look for early warning signs.  Is the case cracked anyplace?  If you lightly apply presure to the plastic, is there someplace that the casing used to give that now something on the inside seems to be bulging into.

    I would also strongly recommend getting a wireless keyboard and mouse.  Avoid putting the laptop anywhere near your lap and whenever possible, use it at 10 or 15 feet away.

    Lastly, if you are conserned about heat being a trigger, then replace the hard drive with a 5400RPM drive instead of yet another 7200RPM.  There are also a couple companies that make cooling "pads" made up of two fans that you place your laptop on top of and plug into the USB port for power.
  • What model caused this story?
  • There are indications that it may be mostly the battery that was at fault, not the notebook or charger.  It may not been a Dell battery according to this article:  http://www.crn.com/sections/hardware/hardware.jhtml?articleId=190700059
  • Is there something you folks at Dell are hiding from us?


    Is the CPSC acting on your behalf by helping with damage control?
  • I own a dell laptop and I have been frightened a few times by how hot my laptop got just sitting closed in its case....I have the docking station at work and a few times I didn't realize that by undocking the computer without turning it off, makes it get really hot. You think its not on and running but it is. It got so hot it almost would burn my skin just by touch.
  • I hope you guys find what fully caused it and can find what to do to make sure it never happens again. I have always been a big promoter of Dell (My old high school and current employer use them) and they have always worked good. I was in the market for a notebook computer and was going to go thru you guys but this really set me back from buying a notebook ( Desktop bring on the XPS 700) if you guys can fix it you will have a new notebook customer
  • Since I didn't get an answer, I checked the specs at http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/latd820/en/ug/specs.htm for my machine.  Apparently 95 degrees is the top end of the specs for the operating temp.  I'm guessing mine is running hotter so I'll have to measure it over time to see.
  • I'm not ready to believe the laptop fire was due to a battery issue - I saw the photos of the incident. I saw a laptop plugged in and therefore running on high power sitting on top of a table cloth which would easily be sucked up against the air intake and also plenty of water nearby on the table it was sitting on.  Having taught thousands of students in conference rooms just like this, I would say the conditions I described above were more likely responsible than a battery.  The article I read said that the laptop burned and popped for over 5 minutes.  WHAT??? Something definitely sounds wrong here and I will wait for better information to make any conclusion to pass to all of my laptop users. Of course, anything is possible and I like others would be interested in the post mortem.  I would like to remark that those using the phrase "Dell Bomb" are being childishly irresponsible and needlessly inflammatory.  This is not DailyKos or some other politcal blog.  If you can't disprove spontaneous combustion of human beings, YOU are also a potential "bomb".
  • This blog is a nice move by Dell, well done.

    I hope you get to the bottom soon of why this notebook went up in flames. This story is all over the web like a cheap suit:

  • Ben said: "Avoid putting the laptop anywhere near your lap and whenever possible, use it at 10 or 15 feet away. "

    Uh.... 10 or 15 feet away? I hope that was sarcasm...
  • Here is another link to a burning Dell notebook:


    What is the deal guys?  How common is this?
  • Well not many ppl take the trouble to clean the heat sink for a desktop/laptop.. could be sucking up dust and larger particles after 1 yr... Laptop on lap is ok but sometimes clothing get in the way of the intake fan.. is like a blocked radiator... something gotta give..
  • I appreciate the ‘early warning.’  We are aware of the incident described on the Tom's Hardware forum. I wanted you to know that my colleagues have been in contact with the customer.  We are confirming the details of the event and have been taking the appropriate actions.  I assure you that Dell takes any incident like this very seriously.