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Hardware Malfunction and Distorted Screen/ freezing


FooMan

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Hey, so I am new here, but I joined bacause i am having an extremely irratating problem that no one seems to discuss.

I bought my Dell XPS M170 laptop a little over a year ago. No trouble at all. It owns every game I ever wanted to play. 2GB Ram, Geforce Go 7800 GTX, 2.13 GHz Processor. I dropped a ton of money on it back in the day.

Recently, I had a few issues with the screen getting all static looking or "digitized." By "digitized" i mean no comprehendible image appears on the monitor just a bunch of collor. It looks like static on a TV monitor, but in color, and it doesnt shake. Streaks of color across the screen is another way to explain it.

If I closed my screen and opened it, it went away. No big deal.

About a month ago I was playing Counter Strike Source online and a blue screen popped up saying, "Hardware Malfunction" "Please Contact or See Vendor" ....

Then a couple days later, while playing Counter STrike Source online, the fuzzy screen of static came up, only this time my computer froze entirely. I restarted it, and to my horror it was still there! I waited five minutes turned it on and it was gone. Comp ran smooth no trouble for a couple days.

Next I was playing Company of Heroes online and the fuzzy screen happened again with a similar crash.

All in all, it has probably crashed this way seven or eight times now in the span of two weeks. Only when I play Counter Strike Source online, or Company of Heroes online. As far as i can tell, single player doesnt cause this error. I played Warcraft III for hours and there was no crash. I can still surf the web and use photoshop and illustrator fine. Word runs fine, and iTunes runs perfect. So whats the deal?

I will add a picture of this fuzzy screen of static if it appears again.

My warranty expired two to three months ago (Thank you Dell) and I would really hope this has nothing to do with a Hardware issue. Should i install a new Directx? New Drivers? (I got a recent Graphics card driver from the Dell Website). The Driver helped for about 2 days before the issue reoccuried.

This one has me stumped, and I am wondering if this happens to anyone else, and what they did about it.

Thanks

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Boot into the Dell diagnostics and see what it says about your video card (run the full test).

This will do memory read tests and things on your graphics card.

I bet your graphics card is slowly dying though, it might not be long before it doesn't boot with a readable screen anymore.

While the price used to be a lot less, I think Dell currently charges $500+ for replacements of the M170's 7800 GTX go.

Ebay I don't know, but would guess prices between $300-$500.

You could also take the laptop apart down to taking the graphics card out of the motherboard. Then you can clean everything and put it back together and see if this fixes your problem.

The M170 is very easy to take apart, instructions on Dell's support site.

You might want to clean it before you run the other tests.

The 7800 GTX gos do have a somewhat higher than average failure rate.

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Boot into the Dell diagnostics and see what it says about your video card (run the full test).

This will do memory read tests and things on your graphics card.

I bet your graphics card is slowly dying though, it might not be long before it doesn't boot with a readable screen anymore.

While the price used to be a lot less, I think Dell currently charges $500+ for replacements of the M170's 7800 GTX go.

Ebay I don't know, but would guess prices between $300-$500.

You could also take the laptop apart down to taking the graphics card out of the motherboard. Then you can clean everything and put it back together and see if this fixes your problem.

The M170 is very easy to take apart, instructions on Dell's support site.

You might want to clean it before you run the other tests.

The 7800 GTX gos do have a somewhat higher than average failure rate.

Hey thank you so much. Ill give it a shot, and Ill be taking it to a local vendor and having them look at it as well. The crashing has become more frequent, and I still cant believe the graphics card would give out that easily on me, but oh well (So much for getting what you pay for).

If anyone else has any ideas or similar issues please post.

Thanks again!

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Err... quick question.... Where is this Dell Diagnostic and "Test" I am supposed to run? I have gone into system and hardware, but it says everything is funtioning fine. No test to run. Sorry if this question sounds stupid, but I know very little about the wrokings of computers...

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I have seen the problem first hand as my brother's XPS M170 broke earlier this year.

Cleaning it out fixed the problem the first time, but it just got worse and then eventually the laptop did not show an image on the LCD screen anymore. It did on the VGA out so I could (barely) read the diagnostic thing on the drive.

If its not the graphics card or dust then its either the fans or the motherboard that is/are broken/malfunctioning.

I don't know why you would bother taking it to a local vender, its easy to open and check for dust.

It is also easy to run through the diagnostics and see what errors come out. I bet it will give errors for the graphics card's ram, it has happened to 2 of our Dell laptops.

Hit F12 as soon as the Dell logo appears to boot into the diagnostics. Then choose the extended test. (will take a while)

Manual link: http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/syst...om/TD984HRs.pdf

Graphics card replacement instructions: (good idea to clean it out)

http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/syst...o.htm#wp1006368

All you need is a flat head screwdriver to remove the snap on front bezel cover thingy between the keyboard and the screen, then the entire rest of the laptop can be deconstructed with a single philips head screwdriver by a 10 year old. Putting it back together is just as easy.

Just be aware the heat pipes do not detach from the graphics card, the large heat sink on the GPU is not meant to be user removable, so don't try unless you know what you are doing. The CPU heat sink is user replaceable of course.

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I have seen the problem first hand as my brother's XPS M170 broke earlier this year.

Cleaning it out fixed the problem the first time, but it just got worse and then eventually the laptop did not show an image on the LCD screen anymore. It did on the VGA out so I could (barely) read the diagnostic thing on the drive.

If its not the graphics card or dust then its either the fans or the motherboard that is/are broken/malfunctioning.

I don't know why you would bother taking it to a local vender, its easy to open and check for dust.

It is also easy to run through the diagnostics and see what errors come out. I bet it will give errors for the graphics card's ram, it has happened to 2 of our Dell laptops.

Hit F12 as soon as the Dell logo appears to boot into the diagnostics. Then choose the extended test. (will take a while)

Manual link: http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/syst...om/TD984HRs.pdf

Graphics card replacement instructions: (good idea to clean it out)

http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/syst...o.htm#wp1006368

All you need is a flat head screwdriver to remove the snap on front bezel cover thingy between the keyboard and the screen, then the entire rest of the laptop can be deconstructed with a single philips head screwdriver by a 10 year old. Putting it back together is just as easy.

Just be aware the heat pipes do not detach from the graphics card, the large heat sink on the GPU is not meant to be user removable, so don't try unless you know what you are doing. The CPU heat sink is user replaceable of course.

Hey, Thanks again. I ran the diagnostics, but everything "passed" as fine. Didnt surprise me as the issue only occurs when the system is stressed. There was some dust inside the computer, but even after removing it I get about half an hour of gameplay before a crash. Ill keep messing around with it, but I am hesitant to replace the graphics card immediately as it may be something else.

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if it only happens under stress, you may be in need of a new fan or two. I would consider that as extreme artifacts, usually caused by overclocking (you didnt do that did you?) fans have limited life, and some are just inadequate. If its only recently started happening, your fans may be burning out, they're generall pretty cheap, probably in the $5 to $30 range, a new video card would probably be around $300. If it has always happened, then the fans may be inadequate, and you should try a laptop cooler (chances are a local computer shop has one), if it doesnt solve the problem, then its not heat. I've read that the XPS series are good for cooling, so they're probably just burning out.

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  • 5 months later...

This same problem happened to me and I get ascii squares on my screen and windows won't boot. I talked to dell and they sent me a brand new xps 1710. What you need to do is call them and explain that you also use this computer for work and you are losing about 1000 bucks a week while it's not working. Then explain you need them to expedite you a new system. It took two weeks for me to get my new system. But it's a bare bones 1710 and I had no options to get anything above and or beyond my old m170 specs. The mps x170's seem to have about a 1-2 year lifespan depending on how often you use it. Bioshock was the game that melted my video card. I'm very hesitant to play Bioshock on my new system because there is no warranty. Here is the bottom line: If you get on the phone with the dell rep and tell them you spent 3k on a system and now it doesn't work and that you will never buy a dell again, you should get some satisfaction and a new system because they don't make the video cards for 170 anymore. The reason why is they pretty much suck. if you want to game buy a desktop, laptops are twice as expensive and half as effective. Plus dell customer service is like pulling teeth. Count how many times you have to tell someone your express service code in one call. it's like 5 or more.

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  • 5 months later...
Guest Guest

hey everybody...

got the same problem as the thread starter, but i cannot boot up my OS.

everywhere are these freaky pixels, hanging around the screen. when i turn the dell on, the red/green/yellow pixels are on the whole screen.

i suppose that's a gpu problem, but the notebook is about 2 years old and i had selected the 1 year support when i bought the inspiron 9400 (got it in February 2006)

i'm currently running the deep diagnostic tool in order to find anything helpful that clarifies the problem.

what can i do, if a piece of hardware is broken?

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest S. Robertson

Your issues are all too familiar unfortunately :) I have had my xps m170 since 2005 (£2200 *cough) and am on my second GPU (6800 ultra GO). I was fortunate that the first was replaced under warranty.....but oh dear the dreaded symptoms came back again (hence why I've found this forum).....and the warranty has expired. Replacing the GPU with a 7800 is way too expensive an option for me now so it's RIP XPS. I have gamed it to death since I got it so I can't complain. My GPU still lasts for non graphic intensive tasks so I have changed the LED's to pink and given it to my wife :) , (She thinks it's too darned heavy.....never happy!).

I have decided to give laptop gaming a miss and have now ordered myself the components to build my own desktop pc.....It's amazing the system that can be put together for £500 these days.

In short, I have learned that for gaming, a desktop is the solution. Sorry to hear about your problems.

Struan

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