Brown noted that replacing the caps is more economical than replacing entire boards. "I work during the day for a large nonprofit hospital, and that's were I first ran into this issue. I have made our director very happy with the amount of money we have been able to save by not buying refurbished replacement boards from Dell at $200-plus each or scrapping the machine for a new one."
Capacitor-replacement kits range from $7 to $25, Brown says, depending on the size and quantity purchased.
Unfortunately, some sellers are reportedly hawking machines that they claim have replaced caps but don't. eBay user bill820buys has written a guide on the auction site titled "Capacitor issue with Dell SX280," which has been viewed 1,481 times. The guide was created in April of last year and was updated as recently as last February. The author wrote, "[A]s usual, 'let the buyer beware.' Many, many [eBay] listings state 'working, boots, boots to BIOS, whatever.' This is meaningless. Buy from a seller you can trust who will provide proof the [motherboard] has been re-capped. You may buy an SX280 for $180 and in a few months buy a new [motherboard] for $130. Not an especially good deal.
"I speak from experience," he adds. "I own a beautiful SX280, warranty expired in January, 2008. [C]aps die in February, 2008. Dell will sell me a new [motherboard] for $280."
Postings about the problem have appeared on other Web sites, too, such as FixYa. One poster wrote in October of last year, "I have a GX280 and when you power it on, it has no video and the CPU fan runs wide open and is very loud. Is it a processor problem?"
He followed up earlier this month: "I found out I have bad caps."
Used and useless
In all fairness, it's not just Dell machines that are now failing users years after manufacturers acknowledged capacitor problems. Apple and HP also produced machines with faulty capacitors that are just now affecting some consumers. Those systems include iMac G5s and HP xw-series workstations made in 2004.