One of my computers has been behaving erratically. Not erotically, mind you, although it does get plenty “hot.” What will happen is that suddenly, for no apparent reason, the screen will go black, and at exactly the same time the CPU fan (or the case fan or some loud fan) will just explode in a perfect rage, and rev itself up into an insane crescendo which is alarming as all hell, and convinces me that if I don’t do a manual shutdown by pressing on the switch, the poor thing will fry itself. But after the forced reset, everything seems fine for awhile. Until the next completely random explosion. Naturally, this is intolerable in any computer used for work, as there is no way to save whatever data you might have been working with.

It’s a Dell Optiplex 745. Googling the issue, I kept seeing recurrent complaints that these machines have a problem (which Dell has admitted). It is serious enough to merit a Wiki entry titled “Capacitor Plague.”┬áMost people replace the motherboard or buy a new machine, but some stubborn cheapskates (and I fit in that category) are bound and determined to replace the capacitors and fix the problem.

I don’t like to throw good money after bad, and time is money, but I looked further and to my utter astonishment, I found a number of YouTube videos carrying on at length about computer capacitor problems. One techie guy maintains that they are not only easy to identify, but easy to fix, and he demonstrates how to do it on my machine:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73oiNU2uYy8&feature=relmfu

In another video, he shows how to identify the bad caps:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpl8AHUgcUU&feature=relmfu

The chance that my capacitors might actually look bad enough to be spotted as the problem seemed very slim. Feeling extremely skeptical, I figured what would I have to lose by cracking the case and pulling things apart? It wasn’t that hard to remove the hard drive, then unscrew its mounting bracket. And to my utter amazement, I immediately saw that one of the capacitors had a brown deposit on top. When I looked further I saw that the one just next to it was bulging at the top in exactly the way the tech guy explained, plus there was a telltale brown dot on it.

I took a picture:

While there are lots of sellers who advertise Dell capacitor fix-it kits for $39.95 on Ebay, I simply looked at the bad ones, which are labeled. They are 6.3 volt 2200 microfarad capacitors and are not a high ticket item.

So I ordered a few, and I’ll see what happens.