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The paranoids were right ... sort of.

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Hi everyone, this is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at

I think we all know someone, perhaps a family member, an acquaintance, or an employee, that takes some of our terminology just a little to literally. For example if you say that a program "blew up" - something us software geeks say all too often - there are folks who'll take that to mean that the computer literally exploded.

Computers are very mysterious devices to many, and yes, there are those who actually live in fear that there's something they could do by mistake that could cause their computer to blow up. For real.

So, with that in mind, I'd like to take a moment to thank Dell for feeding the paranoia this week.

A couple of months ago you may have seen photos circulating on the net of a laptop that had burst into flames.

Most folks reacting by saying, yes, that's cool and all that - stuff happens - but it's an anomaly and pretty darned unlikely.

But more reports came in ... culminating in this weeks action by Dell, who is recalling some millions of laptop batteries because of a manufacturing defect that could, in fact, cause the batteries to spontaneously burst into flames.

Great. Now all those folks who've been worrying that their computers could explode have a little more ammunition. Because, of course, they're right - it could happen.

There's still nothing you can do by simply using the computer or making a mistake to actually make it happen ... and yet, simply using the computer puts you at risk of it happening.

Thanks Dell.

Just when I'd convinced folks that using their computer was safe.

Now, to Dell's credit, they've provided full information on exactly what laptop batteries are involved in the recall at - though for some reason it's a secure site, and the security certificate isn't recognized by my browser. Dell loses points for style on that.

So definitely go check your Dell's batteries. I've checked mine, and I'm not at risk of spontaneous combustion - at least not because of my battery.

I still need to check my wife's laptop.

Hopefully it won't explode before she gets home.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 10628 in the go to article number box. Leave me a comment, I love hearing from you.

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Article C2758 - August 17, 2006 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

PG Wolfe
August 18, 2006 7:04 AM

I found Dell's response very timely..what disapppointed me was that my laptop battery was NOT listed among those being recalled. My battery only gives me about 30 minutes of usage before it requires a recharging. I thought the battery life was supposed to be better. Oh well, I'll keep searching on how to extend the life.

Robert Oschler
August 18, 2006 4:31 PM

Perhaps an animated music video parody on the exploding Dell laptop problem will lighten things up a bit? Especially if you like your dancing doomed Dell dirges to be spoofs on the famous Numa Numa video. Enjoy!:

On a more serious note I agree that Dell is really dropping the ball when it comes to damage control on this one.

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