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How to Tell if Your Computer Has A Bad Capacitor

Do You Have the Plague?

You may have heard about certain hardware manufacturers’ problems with faulty computer components… Besides the Dell OptiPlex line, defective capacitors have been found in some Apple iMac G5s, HP xw-series workstations made in 2004, and PCs with the Intel D865GBF motherboard.

If you think your computer might be affected, here are some signs of a bad capacitor.

Physical Signs

If your computer has failed and you have the option and expertise to poke around in it, you may see:

  • Bulging of the vent on the peak of the capacitor
  • A capacitor sitting crookedly on the circuit board base
  • Electrolyte, which looks like a dark, crusty substance, may be leaked onto the motherboard from the capacitor

If you see these physical signs, you almost certainly have a bad capacitor.

Operational Signs

If your computer is acting up but has not yet failed you, symptoms of a faulty capacitor include:

  • Difficulty turning on your computer, frequently having to hit reset or restart
  • Instabilities (hangs, seeing the “Blue Screen of Death,” etc.), especially when the symptoms get progressively more frequent over time
  • Memory errors, especially ones that get more frequent with time
  • Spontaneous reboots
  • In case of on-board video cards, unstable image in some video modes
  • Failing to complete the POST (Power-On Self-Test) or rebooting before completion
  • Never starting the POST; fans spin but the system appears dead
  • Power system malfunctions, fluctuations in system voltage, possibly with an increase in CPU temperature as the core voltage rises
  • In the case of Dell Optiplex GX270s, often a “Thermal Event” is brandished in white on a very dark computer display when rebooting.

However, the above operational symptoms could be caused by a number of factors other than a faulty capacitor, including power supply failure, a clogged fan, or other hardware problems. System instability may be caused by faulty software such as some types of malware, or poorly written device drivers or software.

What can you do?

Check your power source first, and always contact your computer manufacturer before diagnosing or attempting to repair your computer.

The manufacturer should be able to advise you on how to repair your system without voiding your warranty. Depending upon the nature of the problem, they may even fix or replace your computer for you.

A quick Google search brings up a variety of options for fixing faulty capacitors. One option is this guy, who has an entire business based upon fixing faulty capacitors. Be warned however, his repairs may void the warranty on your computer.

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