System freeze and failure to POST

I have a Dell Inspiron 8500 that I have owned for a little over a year now. It replaced another 8500 that had a bad motherboard (completely dead from what I could tell at the time) that died for no discernable reason. I have had the board for the current one replaced twice, once for a bad NIC port and another time for a bad AC plug (they both stopped working) so I don't have good luck with this line of laptops. Prior to completely dying on me, this laptop had first one USB port go bad, followed 2 months later by the next. I told a couple friends that I thought the computer was "on its way out".

Originally it came with an ATI card (Mobility 9000) and I switched it out with a Nvidia FX5200. The onboard cooling fan was never sufficient for this card and it would frequently turn off due to elevated temperatures if I let it get too hot (during games like WoW and HL2 only, otherwise it was fine). Originally I used a cooling pad to keep it cool but when the USB ports died I had to go low tech. Ice Packs. (Yeah). I had a special kind that had a kind of cloth-ish wrapping so it was fine to cool the area underneath where the graphics card was without causing any condensation (so water damage isn't possible).

Last week the laptop froze while playing WoW and was rebooting with graphical glitches on the screen (even during POST) and then on the windows desktop. I switched out to the ATI card and went one night without any issues (it kept cool enough on its own as well) until freezing on me again (during WoW). Since it was late I just left it off and the next day it would boot to the desktop and then freeze after 3-4 minutes of normal use.

I have switched the graphics cards a couple times afterwards and the computer behaves the same regardless of which card is in. The computer will start up and work for a few minutes, and then freeze. After freezing, it will fail to POST completely. The power LED will blink for about 10 seconds then go completely black, and repeat this if I keep trying to start up. If I leave the computer alone for about an hour, it will then start up and repeat the behavior listed above.

I cannot vouch for the reliability of either graphics card, I don't "trust" the FX5200 since it has never cooled properly to sustain performance, and I never used the ATI before swapping it out last week. So my 2 suspicions are either consecutive graphics card failures (not very likely) or damage to the motherboard caused by long term heating issues. I think for whatever the reason, the mobo fails after being in use (and thus generating heat) and fails after passing a certain threshold.

Those are my 2 suspicions, but if anyone has any other ideas let me know, I'd love to find a cheaper solution than replacing the whole mobo (~$200). Unfortunately my past experience with these motherboards suggests that failure is not unlikely, but hopefully someone with more experience or some insight can confirm or suggest something else.

Thanks in advance for the help ^_^

1. Bad experience with 8500 motherboards
2. Long term heating issues with gfx card
3. Computer freeze after 3-4 minutes of use, failure to POST afterwards
4. Suspect long term heat-related damage
5. Looking for help/insight
5 answers Last reply
More about system freeze failure post
  1. Hmm that is a lot of faults you have my sympathy. Long term heat damage is a definite possibility. Are you sure the video card cooler is making good contact?

    Of course it could just be the fact that youve been DELLed :P
  2. Thanks for the response!

    The cards have their own heat sinks and fans, they blow out hot air through the back of it. I think the little dinky fans they have are pretty inefficient, and the majority of the heat ends up being either dissipated through the bottom or blown out by the same fan that cools the processor (its bigger for one thing) but that's just the impression I get. I'm hoping the processor is still alright through all of this, it has a nice fat heat sink and a dedicated fan thats much larger than the graphics card ones.

    I'm also pretty sure that the majority of the heat generated is from the graphics cards and not from the processor, I've had Nvidia series 4 cards (in the last laptop that died) and while they get a little toasty, they won't turn off, and the big fan really gets going with the series 5 cards, so I think that fan ends up taking a lot of the heat expulsion load with the 5200, which hopefully means the processor is undamaged.
  3. I have a dell xps laptop and have never had those types of problems (cross my fingers). It sounds like you were swapping those cards quite often, just wondering if you made sure to remove the old drivers with driver cleaner before installing the new cards. Also, it's a good idea to elevate your lap top off the desk a bit at the back where the fans are, the intakes are usually at the bottom of the laptop.
  4. Waylander may be onto something with the driver issue. Here is a site with a program that should help in that regard. DriverCleaner
    It does have overtones of heat related issues though. I have heard of fluff building up in the heatsinks of laptops causing them to overheat. can't remember where I heard that though. It could be something to check.
  5. Thanks for the suggestions, I'll give them a shot tomorrow. I only recently swapped out the cards and its pretty simple but I don't see anything obstructed inside the case. I haven't been uninstalling the drivers though, Windows boots (when it gets past POST) into the proper resolution so I assumed that the computer was loading the proper drivers when I switched the cards, but I'll definitely give it a shot.
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