In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Dell Computer Corp. announced Oct. 13 it is recalling batteries used in notebook computers sold to schools and others (see accompanying list for affected models).

The voluntary recall reportedly involves 27,000 batteries that were sold for use with some models of Latitude and Inspiron notebook computers. These batteries can short circuit, even when the battery is not in use, potentially causing them to become hot, release smoke, and possibly catch fire.

It was the second notebook-related problem this year at Dell. The company in August warned as many as 400,000 customers that their machines may have contained defective memory chips. Dell initiated both actions.

The Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker announced the battery recall after it received one report of a Dell computer short-circuiting and catching fire. No one was injured in the fire, which caused minor property damage, the company said.

The recall involves only certain batteries—not the computers themselves. Dell initially will replace one battery then provide a second after supplier Sanyo Electric exchanges the potentially defective part.

The potential problem stems from a Sanyo flaw, Dell said. A part of the battery’s cell could malfunction, causing a short circuit, overheating, and possibly igniting.

“We’ve taken the broader rather than the narrower approach,” said Dell spokesman T.R. Reid. “If there’s even one more (fire) that would be too many.”

The batteries were sold primarily with notebook computers shipped to customers from June 22 through Sept. 15 in North, Central, and South America. Units shipped to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa between June 22 and Oct. 4 also are included in the recall.

The batteries insert into the front-left and/or front-right of the computer. Affected schools should call Dell or visit a Web site the company has set up (see Links below).

Because Dell sells directly to customers the company expects the recall to flow smoothly. Because the flaw occurred at Sanyo, the recall will not hurt Dell financially, Reid said. Sanyo was not immediately available for comment.

Component troubles in desktop machines have been an ongoing problem for PC makers. In September, Intel reportedly delayed the launch of its Pentium 4 processor because of a chipset problem. In August, the company pulled 1.13-GHz Pentium III processors and earlier replaced as many as a million motherboards because of defective chips, according the CNET.com.

But notebook problems have been less frequent, the news service said. IBM in May recalled as many as 220,000 faulty AC adapters for ThinkPad portables, CNET.com reported; in March, Toshiba replaced notebooks containing flawed processor components.

Dell Computer Corp.

http://www.dell.com

Dell Battery Recall Information

http://www.support.dell.com/battery