Friday, February 22, 2008

Dell's "system voltage low" message

For the first time in four years, I got a “system voltage low” message on my Dell 8300 computer as I cold-booted it. It said that I could continue with F1, which I did, and the system booted and connected to the Internet without incident.

I don’t recall whether the word “battery” occurred in the message. I looked around, and I see that Dell can give that message when the CMOS battery is failing, or when there is not enough voltage from the surge protector. I have a Belkin UPS.

The system date and time were correct, and had not gotten out of sync. I booted two other times this morning without the message. I wonder if this happens when the line voltage outside is too low, which could have been the case since there was a mild ice storm in the area this morning, but no outright power outages right here.

I found a couple or references, on the Dell 8300 here.

And another on other Dell machines.

I wonder if this is a quirk in how Dell is engineered. Literature says that CMOS batteries should last about ten years. This is four now. It looks like they sell for about $30. I don’t know whether whole 115-volt power supplies fail, but it’s probably rare.

In 1997, I bought a Compaq laptop from BestBuy in Minnesota, and the first two items had power-supply failures almost immediately. The third machine worked and I still have it ten years later.

Dell error messages: link.

Another link on the system battery voltage: seems to say bypass surge protector and connect to wall outlet. Bizarre. link.

Or this.

Best answer. It seems some CMOS batteries stop recharging. Look here.

Dell's reference for 8300 link.

Dell's replacement instructions are here.

Hardware tech explains why CMOS doesn't recharge here.

Update March 21. Possibly associated with surge protector or UPS device after all

The message I get really says "system battery voltage low." The latest reference that I could find on Dell is here. The date and time from CMOS do not stop working. The visitor may need a service tag code to use this link, and the website will generate a journal reference number for your visit. The link indicates that the problem can be caused thy the way a surge protector is grounded, or by certain Belkin products, and suggests that an event log can be cleared. It is not clear that the Belkin (which I have) is not delivering enough voltage, but the computer operates absolutely normally otherwise. This contradicts other widespread reports about CMOS battery failure causing this message. If anyone else knows something, please comment.

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