Dell has a slimy trick. Many people choose them for customizability, cost benefit compared to some brands and quality. All these are great reasons to buy Dell laptops. However, they have a trojan horse kind of a trick with them that goes unnoticed until much later. It’s their batteries and power adapter.
Dell batteries don’t have a long life and often they start failing after 1 or 1.5 years, i.e., just after the usual warranty period is over. After this, they give just 10-15 minutes of backup with continuous red-green blinking battery indicator warning. So, you go hunting for a replacement. You look at the Dell battery prices and boy are they pricey. Then you also see several third party batteries with almost half the price. Thats compelling. The laptop is old as well to be investing so much into it. So, some like me would go ahead and buy the third party battery. Does it work out? Most of the times NO. Can something be done about it now that you have already purchased it? NO, except for returning it and buying a Dell battery. And I think you should complain about this to Dell (details at the end of the article).
Some of these third party batteries only work for some models, only for a certain batch of laptops. And for most, it doesn’t work. Dell refuses to charge these batteries saying it’s not a Dell battery. And blocks out the ones that work in newer versions. Ridiculous? You bet.
I looked around everywhere I could, for a solution. It was just hard to believe that someone, as reputed as Dell, would actively block other batteries from being used. But there are no solutions. Sorry. In my case I wasn’t able to return my third party battery. So it’s a dead brick to me now and I lost money trying to be smart about saving some.
When you boot your laptop, you get this message saying: “The model number for the primary battery cannot be determined. This will prevent any battery present from charging. Please insert a Dell battery for best system operation.”
Still, hoping that it’s a generic message and they aren’t really serious about it.. you go ahead and continue to boot… but you know what, they are totally serious about it.
Does Dell mention anywhere that no third party battery is allowed to be used? Does it mention anywhere that they are being actively blocked? NO. Not until you actually buy one and use it.
You also cannot use third party power adapter to charge your Dell laptops. Again Dell refuses to charge your batteries. And the Dell supplied power adapters, split open at the same place for most users. At the junction where you connect the power adapter to the power socket, the junction is weak and splits open… and after a while goes broke. So be careful as to not bend / twist it too much at that junction, which usually happens if you change postures many times, lying on couch, etc., and the power socket is behind you. A more elaborate description about it’s cause and a possible solution (if you are brave enough to break open the circuitry and solder) is here: http://www.laptops-battery.co.uk/blog/dell-ac-power-adapter-type-cannot-be-determined-solution/
So, what Dell does is something cunning. BIOS upgrades wont cut it. It’s all in the power circuitry of the laptop. Dell sells their laptops for a slightly lower price. But locks you in permanently with their low quality batteries (their power backup and life is lower compared to competitors like HP) which die just a while after warranty expires. You can’t choose anyone except them for the batteries and power adapter. This was a rude WTF moment for me and for many many others who have had the same problem.
Another outcome of this stupidity is that the circuitry involved in checking for Dell batteries isn’t robust enough, and sometimes even Dell batteries suddenly, out-of-the-blue, start failing this check. Suddenly they stop being recognized as Dell batteries and stop charging. And you’ll have to buy a new battery anyway, even if the battery can be charged fine. See here for some samples of frustration with this problem: http://en.community.dell.com/forums/p/18961707/19531733.aspx
Do I hate Dell now? Not really. Would I buy Dell again? Sure. Their offering is compelling to me despite this treachery. And I suggest Dell to many of my friends with a warning about this battery problem.
If you are looking to replace your Dell battery / power adapter, do yourself a favor and don’t buy a third party one. Even though they are of higher quality and from reputed companies. Dell doesn’t want you to buy them.
If you think that this is bad behavior on Dell’s part, that it is not acceptable and that they need to rectify it in their future models, let them know. I have opened a request on Dell’s official feature request website IdeaStorm. Please vote it up. Dell has never responded to this problem in their support forums. There is also a similar request made for the power adapters. Please Vote it up. It requires an account, which is easy to create.
Finally, WTF Dell?