Published Aug 15, 2006

I write this blog on a two-year-old Dell Latitude D600 laptop, a laptop which, I am now informed may vent with flames — or, if you’re not a technology marketer, the battery can explode and catch on fire. Given my previous level of satisfaction with Dell products, you can believe that I’m super-excited and happy about this development.

Now, in all fairness, this is apparently not Dell’s fault — Sony made the faulty batteries (just like they made similar flaming batteries for Apple’s PowerBook 5300). And Dell has put up a Web site that helps you check if you need a new battery and ships you one. Much to my surprise, my two-year-old laptop — which has thus far been flames-free — qualified for a replacement. Since the D600 has been available for 30-some months, I wonder how unlikely a fire is, or, alternatively, how many battery fires there have been so far. I hope the answer is “not many”, because it’ll be 20 days before I get my new battery.

It could be worse, other models take up to 75 days to have batteries ship, and Dell recommends that you remove your battery until you get the new one. Not having a battery in the computer at all won’t make much of a difference in my battery life, anyway, since Windows usually fails to go to sleep, or wakes up for no reason, thus keeping me down to about 5 minutes of useful battery life for the last 9 months or so. However, I have become accustomed to the freedom of moving my laptop from my office to the living room, when I just want to hang out and relax in front of the TV, or to Starbuck’s or the juice place, when I want to do work away from my little office. But then I wrote half of a draft of this entry, decided to move from my living room to my office, unplugged my laptop, and there went 350 words. This will be a strange new lifestyle to get used to; or I may just brave the fire and leave the battery in. The world, after all, is a dangerous place anyway.


According to Slate: The recall follows six documented instances in which batteries in Dell laptops overheated, “resulting in property damage to furniture and personal effects.”

My work-issue D600 turns out to be unaffected…

Also, I had thought you had to send them your old battery in order to get a new one?

No, they just send you the new battery; they may want the old one back, but they’re just sending the new one. I strongly suspect that, for a recall of this size, Sony is bearing most or all of the cost, so Dell hardly cares if a few people take advantage of the situation to get themselves a second battery to go with their perfectly good first battery.

I assume that Dell will make me ship my old battery back to them when I receive the new one, if only to ensure they’re all disposed of properly.

Either way, even if they don’t get the batteries back, I’m sure that the cost of the fraudulent battery orders is waaay less than the cost of having to replace someone’s house that burns down from one of these bad boys brewing up, once you figure in a jury’s propensity to match deep pockets with big awards.

I hear your camera battery will also burst into flames if you don’t use it enough.

Update: Got my new battery today (ordered it right before writing this blog entry, so that’s just 3 days!). Came in a box, it’s charging in my laptop now, and appears to work. We’ll see if I get better battery life off a new battery. The box contains all of the items needed to pack the old battery and send it back, and comes postage paid, so the experience is easy and positive. Although I can’t even imagine why it’s from “Bumblebee Project, Dell” rather than just “Dell”.