Dell Inspiron 5100/5150 Design Flaw sign now

Over the years, Dell has been known to have top-notch customer service, and as such, you have always been my first choice when purchasing a computer for myself or recommending to family and friends. Hopefully, this commitment to customer service has not changed and Dell can help me with my problem, frustration, and anger, and maintain my family, my friends, and myself as loyal customers. Prior to purchase of a Dell Inspiron 5150, I felt like a loyal customer who would always recommend your company to family and friends. Heck, I would jump at the chance to recommend Dell, so much so, that friends would joke with me, saying that I was a Dell salesperson. And my recommendation mattered, because I have always been known as "the computer guy," as I have build, maintained, and repaired computer hardware and software for years. However, after my purchase of an Inspiron 5100 and dealing with the following problems, my opinion has greatly changed; perhaps you can rectify that.

Approximately three months after purchasing my Inspiron 5150, it began to automatically shutdown. No warnings. No messages. No beeps. No nothing. Just shuts down. I called Dell technical support, only to speak to several technicians who wanted to have me test this, and test that, and test this, all of which was mere shooting in the dark. In the meantime, I visited Dell's community forum, and to my surprise, and thankfully, I found several posts on the subject of the Inspiron 5150 overheating. What I found was horror stories of people who had the same problem, called technical support, spoke to incompetent technicians who suggested replacing this part and that part, all to have their computer, six months later, still experiencing the same problem. Most users explained how technical support was recommending a motherboard replacement. And several users explained that they had a motherboard replaced, then computer works fine for three months, then the auto-shutdown problem would return, then call Dell support, have another motherboard replaced, then computer works fine for three months, then the auto shutdown problem would return, then call Dell support, have a third motherboard replaced, along with a cpu, video card, and other misc. "shoot in the dark" parts, then computer works fine for three months, then the auto shutdown problem would return for a fourth time.

Honestly, it was terrifying to think of myself experiencing this same problem, having to do deal with techs who are just guessing, replacing parts several times, and all to just end up a few short months later with a, for all intensive purposes, dead laptop. Luckily, several Dell users, NOT Dell technicians, came together, diagnosed this problem and found a "solution", mind you, all the while, Dell technicians were still suggesting motherboard replacements. You can read the solution to the overheating 5100/5150s at the following web address:
http://forums.us.dell.com/supportforums/board/message?board.id=insp_general&message.id=144502
What is the problem? Dust. Yes, dust. For further information, please refer to the above mentioned post. Bottom line, the problem is that dust collects inside the computer, on the heatsink, thereby inhibiting its ability to transfer heat off of the processor. As such, the computer overheats, and for safety reasons, automatically shuts down. So what is the solution, blow compressed air through the computer in an effort to remove the dust off of the heatsink. However, blowing out the computers would not totally fix the problem. Why? Simple. By blowing the compressed air through the vents, we have successfully ridden our computers of the loose dust on and around the heatsink. However, imagine if you have a dirty desk with layers and layers of three to four month old caked on dust. Then you use compressed air to blow off this dust in an effort to clean the desk. Would your desk be dust free? Would it be clean? No, of course not. The loose, lighter dust would be gone. However, the thick, now dense, caked-on dust would remain, and even if that were to have been blown away, at the very least, small remains of dust would still remain on the desk. The same goes for the heatsink, and as such, although the auto-shutdowns do stop after blowing compressed air through the vents, the computer temperatures are still 15-20 degrees (Celsius) above normal. The only solution to this is to have the heatsink replaced or cleaned by a Dell technician, and then upon receipt of a new or cleaned heatsink, we, the customers, must "air" our computers weekly in order to avoid this problem in the future.

So after spending weeks talking about and diagnosing the problem, all of us were excited to have the problem halted and partially "solved"; however, the overwhelming consensus among 5100/5150 users was that weekly "airings" of compressed air through the computer is not a solution and is not acceptable. Why? Well, we shouldn't have to air our computers in order to have them working efficiently, but more so, compressed air costs money, and it is totally unacceptable for Dell users to spend $1500+ on a new computer, only to then have to spend $5, every two or three months, on compressed air, in order to keep their new, $1500+ computer working efficiently. Also, a few Dell supervisors have acknowledged the bad design problem, and said that Dell is working on a fix for it. Was this the truth? Is Dell really working on a fix? I don't know, as the fix would have to include a redesigned heatsink or a new filter, which would then prevent dust from accumulated on the heatsink. Most customers have felt that Dell is ignoring the problem, waiting for our warranties to expire, thereby leaving the customers to deal with a faulty computer. If this is the case, then Dell, according to the statements of hundreds of users, will lose the business of thousands and thousands of current customers. Dell has always been a company known for its customer service, and as such, I do not expect that this would happen. I do expect that Dell will make a solid attempt at rectifying the problem.

So at this point, the ball is in your court. What can Dell do? Well, hopefully they can think of that. Here is a suggestion. Immediately send ALL 5100/5150 users a letter explaining the problem in design with the 5100/5150, apologizing for the inconvenience, and stating the normal stuff about how you want to make the situation right. Offer to have a dell technician come out to their house to replace the cooling assembly and completely clean the unit. This should happen for all users, regardless of the level of support the purchased, because this is a Dell design flaw, and they should go above and beyond to fix it. Send a $50 check to all 5100/5150 customers, which at $5 per can, would allow for several years of compressed air. Since this is Dell's fault, the user should not have to purchase compressed air with their own money. At this point, Dell would have shown me that they have satisfactorily tried to rectify the situation. The have fixed the machines and paid for a couple years of compressed air. HOWEVER, they would not have re-earned my business, simply because of the LARGE inconvenience that we were put through. As such, if you wanted to earn our business once more, you should lastly do something more, something extra, something that will possibly prompt me to order from you again. What is that something? I don't know. That is for Dell to figure out. Perhaps a gift certificate, valid for one or two years, for $200 off your next Dell purchase over $1000. Perhaps free upgrades, over and beyond the typical "sales", on your next Dell purchase. These are just ideas. Really, it is up to you guys to make the necessary decisions that will hopefully lead to Dell's re-earning of my business and the business of thousands of other users.

That's about it for now, Hoping to have Dell satisfactorily rectify this problem and retain one of their most loyal customers.

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Tricia SanfordBy:
Transport and infrastructureIn:
Petition target:
Dell Inc.

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