2004 eMac: The Risk of Buying Low-end

We have just discovered that 17 of the 21 eMac computers in our lower school lab suffer from a fatal flaw in the eMac. A capacitor on the system board leaks brown fluid, causing the machine to crash regularly. We began to suspect that something was up when two, then four, then six, then more eMacs began exhibiting similar crashing patterns. Now, Apple has opened 17 cases from us, and we will soon find out how long this computer lab is going to be out of commission. This is apparently common in eMac machines manufactured during the summer of 2004.

This underscores the risk of buying the least expensive computer in a product line. Computer manufacturers use the least expensive components in budget computers, leading to a risky situation in which system failure is more likely to happen. It makes the cost of a budget machine higher than it might appear. Some makes and models succeed at this price point, but buying there is always risky.

It appears that Apple acknowledged the problem and introduced a “repair extension program” in June 2006. Too bad that it’s not a recall, and you have to wait until your machine seizes up to get service. With 17 of 21 machines in our lab up for service, it appears that they are all bound to get there eventually. We also hear that the replacement parts are heavily backordered!

On the web: CNet | MacFixIt | Apple | Wikipedia

Update

AppleCare has arranged to replace our dying computers with 2005 eMacs! That is great news for us and speaks positively to Apple’s customer service. I still think that Apple should issue a recall. All of our 2004 eMacs became unusable only two years after purchase. Surely this suggests that Apple should make a greater effort to reach out to owners of these machines and notify them of the problem. Imagine the users who think that only they have the problem!

Update #2

Turns out that Apple ran out of 2005 eMacs but did come up with replacement logic boards two weeks after the request was made. A local Apple service center came out and replaced 20 logic boards in five hours — not bad! Our eMac lab is running perfectly again, though we are still sore over the experience.

One comment

  1. cosmichobo says:

    Just wanted to give a word of warning… even 2005 eMacs have been affected by bad caps. To my knowledge, only the 1.25Ghz models, but possibly also 1.42Ghz. The only way to really check is to look at the capacitors. If they have a "+" on the base (and are gold & black in colour) then they belong to the bad batch… 2 of the caps are visible under the RAM cover on the base of the eMac.