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Suggestions to update an old Alienware Area-51 ALX

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June 8, 2010 5:45:48 PM

My son bought a used Alienware computer off Ebay in May. It worked fine up until 2 days ago when the monitor failed to come out of hibernation. Multiple reboot attempts, disconnecting power to both monitor and tower, removing graphics cards and reseating, and reconnecting the cable have all failed. On boot up there is no monitor activity until windows starts and then the typical windows graphic comes on but after that the screen goes to dark blue and there is only a very large mouse pointer visible on it. Clicking the mouse does nothing.

Here is the system:

OS: Windows Vista Ultimate

Processor: Intel Xeon Processor 3.6 GHz w/EM64T 800 MHz FSB w/ 1MB cache

Memory: 2GB dual channel DDR2 ECC SDRAM at 400 MHz

Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro High Def 7.1 surround with Dual Firewire (IEEE 1394)

chassis: Alienware ALX Full-Tower Case

Motherboard: Alienware X2 SLI-ready Motherboard

Optical Drive One: Lite-On 16X DVD / 52X36X52X CD-RW Drive

Optical Drive Two: NEC ND-3520 16X Dual Layer DVD+/- R/W drive

Media Reader: Alienware 10 in 1 Digital Media Reader/Writer

System Drive: Extreme Performance - Serial ATA Raid ) - 148GB (74GB x 2) Serial ATA 10,000 RPM w/ 16MB Cache

Storage Drive: Extreme Performance - Serial ATA Raid 0 - 500GB (250GB x 2) Serial ATA 7,200 RPM w/16MB Cache

Power Supply: PS TurboCool 510-ATX-PFC (cont. power 510W, peak 650W)

Thermal Management System: Alienware ALX Active Cooling System (by Koolance) plus Vantec Stealth 12V 0.08Amp case fan and Vantec Stealth 12 V 0.1Amp fan mounted on inside wall of case

Graphics Processor: Dual NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra PCI Express 512MB DDR3 with NVIDIA SLI Technology

Chassis Upgrades: AlienIce 2.0 Video Cooling System with Acoustic Dampening


I am operating on the assumption that either the graphics card or the motherboard PCI-e slots are shot. (The weird thing is the fact that the windows logo graphic shows on boot up.) Anyway, my question is given this setup what would y'all suggest I salvage and what should I start over with?

My son plays MMOs like Eve Online and Lord of the Rings Online as well as Starcraft. He is not a hard-core gamer, just wants a machine that will keep up with the graphics demands of these games. He went against our advice when he bought this system because all of his friends told him how great and cool Alienware is and he thought he was getting a bargain. Meanwhile with shipping we now have $600 invested and it won't boot. To clarify, the power supply comes on and the hard drive spins, etc. we just don't get anything from the monitor but the windows logo then the freaky large mouse pointer. It was performing fine up until then.

I just want to be able to provide my son with a decent system without sinking too much more into this abyss :sarcastic: 
a b B Homebuilt system
June 8, 2010 6:00:59 PM

Hmm ok looking at the situation:

do u have known working spare parts such as a GPU/PSU and has troubleshooting run it's course? What about clearing CMOS on that board?

In the worse case scenario the ODDs/HDDs/Case could definitely be salvaged me thinks ^^ What is the model/make of LCD he games on cos if he could actually game on a 6800....there is light at the end of the tunnel for ya ...wallet wise :p 
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June 8, 2010 8:26:07 PM

His monitor is and Acer X233H and is only 2 weeks old.



I don't have another GPU to try out.

I am a newbie so I'm not exactly sure what else to try on troubleshooting beyond what I listed. I am also perplexed about why the Windows icon shows and you hear the tones that go along with it and then there is nothing else from the screen except that monster pointer.

I have not cleared the CMOS yet. I will do that now.

Thanks for the assistance
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June 8, 2010 8:29:34 PM

I had a similar problem once on an old PC due to a bad windows update... try booting in safe mode and doing a system restore to a month or two back.
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June 8, 2010 8:46:49 PM

Omni -- thanks for the input but I can't see to go into safe mode b/c I get nothing on the monitor.

Batuchka YOU ROCK :bounce: 

I cleared the CMOS and the monitor is live again. Now I have entered setup and need guidance on how to proceed. Please help!
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a b B Homebuilt system
June 9, 2010 9:47:18 AM

Hmm ok if in doubt go to "Load Optimal Defaults" Then get into Windows and download CPU-Z
http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html
Run it, and report what your cpu/motherboard tab is reporting. I would say get a decent 80+ certified PSU and possibly a GPU replacement for peace of mind ^^

You are welcomed ^^
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June 9, 2010 12:11:01 PM

I left the BIOS as it was and proceeded with boot. So far so good. My son has not had any further glitches.

One question about GPU replacement. Now he has a dual GPU setup that will accommodate 4 monitors. I don't see him utilizing this for several years so what would you recommend as a replacement GPU? I will admit that the whole liquid cooling system on the GPU makes me nervous as far as changing it out.

Thanks again for your help!
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a b B Homebuilt system
June 9, 2010 2:44:03 PM

Hmm are u saying that there is a pair of 6800 Ultras in SLI? If those meet your son's gaming needs then it's fine - the PSU though was a decent model...back in 2004! Just take note that once he upgrades to a more powerful GPU/rig set up, the PSU has to be swapped out hehe
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