Archive for January, 2013

An update to the blown caps motherboard saga. The eBay seller was not helpful, but the case was resolved in my favor.

January 13, 2013


I have now had a third motherboard ordered online show up with a bad cap (or several of them). In this case, the seller was abusive when I contacted them about a full refund. I was called a liar, a piece of crap, and a scam artist. The dispute ultimately went to eBay, which ruled in my favor. All names have been removed.

Here is the FULL EXCHANGE as lifted from the eBay messaging system. My response to the seller regarding the abuse is on top, followed by two separate nasty responses to me, and my original complaint at the end. Oh, and I had asked this seller about the caps before buying the motherboard.

If anyone wants proof of my side of the story, I had a photographer friend take a high-res picture of the blown cap.

All I can say is “buyer beware” when dealing with sellers of used gear. Looks for ads where the inspection of the caps is SPECIFICALLY NOTED and they guarantee they are all good. Don’t be shy about asking about caps before buying online and make sure the seller knows how to check them.

In this case, I believe the seller didn’t know about the bad cap. To be fair, it was hard to spot to the untrained eye (and fingertip). She no doubt honestly believed the board was good when she sold it.

Anyhow, here is the full back and forth:


I have told you already that I have no wish to deal with your directly since you are abusive. My only dealing with you will be via the eBay complaint system. All responses you send me will be posted immediately to my blog to document the back-and-forth.

And, actually, most of the motherboards I get are fine. However, I have had three bad ones come in lately. Two of the sellers attempted to make it right. You, on the other hand, accused me of being a lying scam artist.

Go away.

To: jamesa.cooley
Subject: Re: Item I received is not as described: jamesa.cooley sent a message about DELL Optiplex GX270 Motherboard K5786 P4 Tested (30 Day Warranty) Item # DELETED SINCE THE CASE IS RESOLVED
Sent Date: Jan-13-13 11:46:58 PST

Dear jamesa.cooley,

You are pitiful. I guess everyone who sells you a motherboard is DOA??? you said it yourself 3 other ones were DOA??? you are a ebay scammer you probably do this sort of thing for a living because i know for a fact it works and this is why you wanted to keep it instead of following ebay policy and returning it. It is people like you who give this site a bad name thinking you can use feedback to cheat people. Also i did not call you a piece of crap those were acctually your own words that you used to describe the motherboard that you claim does not work which further proves your integrity. Do not tell lies when there are emails to prove you wrong.


OK, so you send me a DOA motherboard and then your first response is to call me a liar and a piece of crap. And yes, I have received three motherboards out of several I purchased recently that had blown caps (a Shuttle F95, a Dell GX260, and yours) Indeed, I described the first two incidents in my tech blog (read in 143 counties last year) in a January 8 post published BEFORE YOUR MOTHERBOARD EVEN ARRIVED. Oh, and high-res screen photographs were taken of both prior motherboards for an article submitted to a tech site here in Austin.

Here is the blog post:

So, I guess this just means I take the complaint to eBay. Since the board DOES HAVE a bulging cap EXACTLY as I described, I can PROVE my side. A high-res photo will demonstrate it easy enough. In the meantime, I will update the blog post to add your motherboard — complete with your response of calling me a liar and a piece of crap — and update the article submission.

I have no desire at all to deal with you directly at this point. Your abusive response has shown me it is futile. At this point, my goal becomes protecting other buyers. I will eat $20 for a DOA motherboard, but will make it my business to make sure it costs far more than that.

Oh, and if you are going to sell electronics, you might learn how to properly pack it. Motherboards go in electro-static sleeves and and are wrapped in padding, typically bubble wrap.

To: jamesa.cooley
Subject: Re: Item I received is not as described: jamesa.cooley sent a message about DELL Optiplex GX270 Motherboard K5786 P4 Tested (30 Day Warranty) Item # DELETED SINCE THE CASE IS RESOLVED
Sent Date: Jan-13-13 06:03:16 PST
Dear jamesa.cooley,

Three different sellers with bad caps huh??? I looks like you might be the piece of crap. The motherboard does work this i know and i sent you pictures as you requested of all the caps before you bid. Did they all of a sudden just damaage themselves? looks to me like you have made a business out of crying wolf.

Dear jamesa.cooley,

You are not being truthful and i will not issue you a refund nice try though.

From: jamesa.cooley
Subject: Item I received is not as described: jamesa.cooley sent a message about DELL Optiplex GX270 Motherboard K5786 P4 Tested (30 Day Warranty) Item # DELETED SINCE THE CASE IS RESOLVED
Sent Date: Jan-13-13 01:26:56 PST

Sorry, but the motherboard is DOA. It had a broken CPU heatsink holder (I had a spare) and also a failed capacitor right behind the parallel port in the back of the board. It is the middle one of three tall ones.

The cap was somewhat hidden under that metal shroud behind the rear ports, but I could see it was bulged when I unpacked it. I went ahead and confirm the MB was DOA by trying to load an operating system. It failed partway through and now won’t even POST.

I removed the shroud (the MB is scrap now anyway) and can clearly see and feel the bulged top of the blown cap.

Now, I had asked SPECIFICALLY about whether all of the caps were good. I bought this motherboard based upon an assurance they were inspected.

I request a full refund, to include my shipping. I also have no desire to ship this piece of scrap back. The shipping will cost more than the cost of the board.

Sorry to be testy, but I have now been shipped three different motherboards from three sellers with bad caps.



Two different sellers of motherboards online, both with bad caps

January 8, 2013

My hobby is computers and I fix them like crazy. However, I am seeing used or “refurbished” motherboards being peddled with bad caps. I had two of them over the weekend. One was for a Shuttle and the other for a Dell. Both had caps that were blown and even my teenage grandson could spot them.

Another seller of used goods I know couldn’t get a couple of Dells to finish installing. I looked inside and started counting out the bad capacitors.

Just because a MB will POST doesn’t mean it isn’t failed. Failed caps will mean it acts flaky under any sort of a load. Your OS may not reinstall. It crashes a lot. Eventually it may quit working at all.

About half the used Dells in the P4 era I take in have failed caps. I took in an AM2 Gateway from a friend with several bulged or popped caps.

Sadly, a lot of computer novices assume they have a virus. The Gateway owner assumed their system was so infected it couldn’t be saved — and removed their hard drive and destroyed it. I bet the issues came from a failing motherboard and not malware.

If you go to get used gear — manually check the caps. Shine a light one them and feel free to use a magnifying glass or reading glasses if your eyes aren’t great. Look at the caps and then feel the tops. Make sure to look at the ones hidden by the HSF shroud (particularly with Dells). Caps that have popped are easier to spot, but caps can also leak out the bottom (typically with bulging on the top). Or, you may just feel a slight bulge on top as the only symptom.

Blown caps = DOA MB. Unless you are either handy with a soldering iron or are OK with a computer flakier than a blizzard, don’t get the system. it doesn’t matter if it still boots. It is failing and you will have problems when it is under load.

Also, don’t assume the seller of used systems of motherboards has done their due diligence. Again, I just took in two DOA boards.

Checking caps before getting used gear is easy enough to do. DO IT!

Also, cap failure in power supplies is also pretty common. Often you can shine a light in and see the failed caps. I will open it up tp confirm, but don’t do this unless you have fully discharged the PSU. If you don’t know how to do it, then stay away from the insides.

Capacitors hold a charge like a battery. You can get shocked from one after the power has been disconnected.

UPDATE: One eBay seller (the Shuttle) gets high marks for not only issuing an RMA, but paying return shipping and supplying a personal apology. However, another person just sold me a Dell OptiPlex GX270 motherboard with a dead cap — and was so nasty about it that they have earned their own blog post.