Optiplex 980 Power Supply: Capacitor FAIL

Came up from the Basement Laboratory to find my Dell Optiplex 980 PC had failed, with the power button and diagnostic 1 + 3 LEDs blinking amber. They built it back in June 2010, so section 3 of the Dell reference applies, the power supply status LED on the back panel was off, and, going straight to the heart of matter, I popped the top, disconnected the internal power supply cables, and poked the power supply test button:

Optiplex 980 Power Supply - rear panel test button
Optiplex 980 Power Supply – rear panel test button

… and it’s dead.

Inside, the system board sports a Mini-ATX power supply connector:

Optiplex 980 - Mini-ATX power connector
Optiplex 980 – Mini-ATX power connector

I originally hoped to swap a supply from an Optiplex 755 (also in a Small Form Factor case) residing on the recycle heap, but it has an ordinary ATX connector:

Optiplex 755 - ATX power connector
Optiplex 755 – ATX power connector

So I moved the 980’s SSD and dual-Displayport video card into the 755, fired that devil up, and … it worked!

With my desktop back in action, albeit somewhat slower, I popped the dead supply’s case by violating the Warranty Void If This Label Removed sticker to unscrew the last screw:

Optiplex 980 Power Supply - overview
Optiplex 980 Power Supply – overview

Notice anything?

The electrolytic capacitors over on the left look like this:

Optiplex 980 - Good capacitor
Optiplex 980 – Good capacitor

The cluster of caps on the upper right have bulged pressure-relief lids, like this:

Optiplex 980 - Bulging capacitor 1
Optiplex 980 – Bulging capacitor 1

And this:

Optiplex 980 - Bulging capacitor 2
Optiplex 980 – Bulging capacitor 2

And this:

Optiplex 980 - Bulging capacitor 3
Optiplex 980 – Bulging capacitor 3

None had ruptured, but they’re obviously feeling a bit nauseous.

Given the 980’s mid-2010 manufacturing date, this probably isn’t capacitor plague, just simple overheating from operating in a dead-air zone amid all those heatsinks and wires. Some of the Usual Unnamed Sources suggest overheating the capacitors is how manufacturers ensure their hardware doesn’t last forever, without being obvious about planned obsolescence; I’m loathe to ascribe to malice what can be explained by design desperation.

A Genuine Dell replacement supply from eBay ($25 delivered) came from yet another “small form factor” Dell chassis, so it isn’t quite the same size, lacks a supply test button / LED status light, and doesn’t quite fit:

Optiplex 980 - replacement supply misfit
Optiplex 980 – replacement supply misfit

Nothing a sheet metal nibbling tool can’t fix, though, given I haven’t developed a deep emotional attachment to the chassis. I gnawed off the left side of the frame and squared up the rim around the lower screw, after which the opening fit the supply pretty well, although the latching tab bent up from the bottom of the chassis didn’t quite engage the far end of the supply. No big deal: it’s not in a high-vibration environment.

The new-to-me supply also carries an ATX connector, but the eBay seller included a Mini-ATX adapter. Jamming the adapter + wires into the space available required concerted muttering, assisted by tucking the SSD under the DVD-RW drive. No pictures, as it’s a classic seven pounds in a five pound box situation.

And then It Just Worked again.

5 thoughts on “Optiplex 980 Power Supply: Capacitor FAIL

    1. Extracting & replacing a dozen caps seemed sufficiently annoying to make dropping $25 on a supply a Good Idea. Look at it this way: for $2/cap, I got a free supply with the caps already installed.

      FWIW, I agree with the guy warning of death for tinkering inside the supply. My experience has been when someone asks for basic electrical advice, telling them to dig into a line-powered gadget isn’t in their best interest … [sigh]

  1. This type of BS – shitty cooling, nonstandard power supplies, no extra SATA ports, etc, is exactly why I hate the Small Form Factor boxes. Yes, I have had a couple over the years but only because I was handed one and at the time it was a faster/more capable box than the home system was… But if I have a choice it is a full tower case… when placed on the floor the computer takes up just as much desktop space as a SFF box and has more resources to offer.

    1. I live of laptops (with dock, ext monitors etc.) both privately and professionally for better part of 6 years now and I can’t really see the point in desktops any more. Granted, I don’t really do gaming or process a lot of HD video, but I rarely feel more umph is necessary. I bought last desktop around 2007 (Core 2 Duo) which now plays the role of ridiculously large media server, and my laptops are both Sandy Bridge era machines – so no spring chickens. I do agree about SFFs though – unless you get them cheaper then dirt there’s really no point :)

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