Dell 17″ laptop advisory… (9400/e1705/m1710/m90 even Inspiron 6400)

Shocking bit of news here…. (sorry, I couldn’t help it.) This is a serious piece though. Apparently the Dell models listed above (Inspiron) and their other 17″ cousins may be affected by a rather peculiar, but serious problem. The screws on the bottom may be putting out 19-65 volts AC (oops.) From the linked article, this issue can be worked around by using the 3-pronged (read-grounded) power adapter that is available for the laptops. (However, Dell has not said anything publicly, it sounds as though the 2 prong adapter may be standard for these.)

Engadget has a call for comment on this series as well. Apparently the original poster tested this on several similar dells and got the same results. (In fact he apparently had some equipment in the laptop fry on account of the issue.)

If it weren’t for the internet, it’s doubtful that product issues like this would come to light. That much said, there are claims that Dell has tried to suppress his claims in their forums, which seems a bit blind.

On further reading their response seems to have been everything from ~our laptops are not meant to be used in your lap, so if you’re getting a shock…. don’t do that… up to investigating the issue. Ultimately dell has sent out a 3 prong grounded adapter to those that have reported the issue.

So, the bottom line is there seems to be a systemic design flaw with man current Dell 17″ laptops that cause there to be a voltage differential between the case and ground if NOT using a 3 prong plug. (Battery operation does not show a problem – just the 2 prong power adapter.)

Contact dell for a 3 prong adapter replacement if you run into this (before components in the laptop (video/memory/hd/mobo) are damaged as a result.)

Update 4:48PM 2/8/07 —

I’ve had a response from a Representative of Dell on this issue and have opened up comments on this post as well as including his emailed comment here. The poster was John Pope and he gave a email address (which I will not include inline here…)

Avery — Tried to comment on your blog but comments are closed. Here is some information to hopefully put the notebook voltage post into perspective.

Dell is aware of the reported finding and plans to recover the notebook from the customer for analysis. All Dell products are designed and tested to meet or surpass applicable worldwide safety and performance standards, including IEC 60950. The compact two-prong power cord used with this Inspiron 9400 is now considered a standard in the industry, and it is sometimes possible that these more compact two-prong power cords would allow the current described by the customer. These industry standard power cords allow Dell customers greater flexibility in finding replacement cords or new cords when they accidentally leave them behind or when traveling through multiple countries.

Based on the information available to Dell in this customer’s blog post, we believe that there is no safety hazard associated with the reported “tingling.” All electrical devices powered by AC adapters with a two-pronged power cord (without a ground wire) may exhibit a small amount of voltage between the exposed metal parts of the device and earth ground, causing, on occasion, a user to feel a tingling sensation when the user touches exposed metal parts. This is very low voltage and does not present any risk of injury to the user. If any of our customers are concerned they should contact us online at

Here’s my response which is more or less what I emailed…..

It’s good to see such quick response. I don’t think it sounded as though there was a pressing safety concern, my main concern is that it sounds as though it IS a serious issue with regards to hardware damage. (i.e. not just of the dell system components, but third party add ons… how easily could you fry a memory stick accidentally? digital camera interface? etc.) it does sound as though we’re talking low amperage which takes away most personal safety concerns.

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