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Inspiron 9400 display barely functional 2 days after cleanout

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November 15, 2012 3:14:54 AM

Hey,

So I've had this laptop for a few years now, and have started to experience frequent overheating/shutdowns.
I finally got around to opening it up and carefully blowing out the fans/vents with a can of compressed air, and it was back to 'normal' -- for a couple of days. Turned it off last night, was working fine. Once turned on today, the display is barely functional.

By that, I mean it's "pretty much" dead -- only occasionally (every time the resolution? changes) you can see it, fine -- but then it's gone again. Plugged it into an external monitor; it behaves fine there.

I figured I mustn't have seated the LCD display cable properly, and it must have dislodged or something... so I (begrudgingly) took it apart again, and tried reseating it, but I haven't had any luck.

To be clear, it won't show anything constantly -- not the POST screen, nothing.

The only thing left I can think of, is it must be the video card - the external monitor's connecting onboard, as far as I can tell. It *COULD* be the display itself, but I highly doubt it -- it seems far too coincidental I clean it out, and it breaks a few days later. The display itself wasn't touched.

Since it's long out of warranty, that'd set me back $120-150 (according to eBay), but I don't want to make any rash decisions and purchase something I'm not convinced will solve the problem. It'd be safer just getting a new laptop.

If, on the other hand, me cleaning it out was unrelated -- maybe it just overheated & burnt itself out. Again though, it was behaving fine when I turned it off... so that, in itself, seems fairly unlikely to me. It shouldn't get any hotter when shutdown (at night, even)... though, I don't think that's possible as the display does function *somewhat* - for the tiniest of moments, and only when the display mode changes. If it burnt out, it shouldn't function at all -- right?

So, I wondered if you guys have any ideas? Anything obvious I maybe missing, or even some means of testing to further narrow down the issue. Thanks :) 

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a b D Laptop
November 15, 2012 3:43:45 AM

Mate, I think it's about time you changed your laptop. If you've had it for a few years now, and it's giving you such grievous issues, just get a new one. The inspiron 9400 that you have is a 2006 model, if I remember correctly.
That's way too out of date. They don't even fix parts for those models anymore, most of the time. You're right. You WOULD be safer getting a new one. You're at a stage where it'll cost you much more to fix it than it will to get a new one...
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November 15, 2012 4:02:41 AM

Thanks for your quick response. :) 

Yes, it's old, but it's more than sufficient for its purposes and has been running fine.
I'm only really posting this because it *seemed* to happen as a result of my opening it up and cleaning out the dust (albeit a couple of days later), which gives me some semblance of hope that it's something able to repaired.

I mean, it hasn't even overheated since -- surely something must have just been knocked or something simple like that? Could it have even possibly been moisture from the compressed air? I *did* leave it sit without the battery for a few hours after using it (warm day, too), just to be sure I didn't leave any moisture in there.
Also, being that it chose to play up a couple of days after the fact is a bit odd. I mean, what could possibly cause that?

Just to reiterate the situation:
- It wasn't overheating.
- It was shutdown (the battery with whatever charge left was in, but it wasn't plugged in at the wall or anything).
- When it was turned on again several hours later, the display was acting up...

The only two things that I can think of could possibly have happened to it during that time were:
- It may have been knocked (either on shutdown or on startup), which may have dislodged something that was affected after cleaning it out (vague much).
- Fairly unlikely, but... the battery acted up and burnt out... the video card. I really don't see this happening, because it seems so absurdly unlikely -- of all the components! Then, of course, there's the fact that it is actually still functioning -- whenever the display mode changes it shows, for a moment.

I don't have any other theories.

Honestly, it doesn't seem so far fetched to me that the problem's something simple I'm missing. There's *so* many other possible situations where I'd have no option but to concede defeat, but... this one seems worth it to pursue. If it means saving $ on a new laptop (or replacing components), I don't see why not.

At this stage, I'm just not sure how to confirm anything... or if I'm maybe missing something obvious.
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November 15, 2012 4:17:22 AM

A reminder to anyone willing to take apart a computer. ESD is the most common cause of unexplained problems with computers. Make sure to be properly grounded and discharged when anywhere near an electronic component.
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November 15, 2012 4:27:55 AM

thedexmonster said:
A reminder to anyone willing to take apart a computer. ESD is the most common cause of unexplained problems with computers. Make sure to be properly grounded and discharged when anywhere near an electronic component.

Even 2 days afterwards?
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a b D Laptop
November 15, 2012 6:30:37 AM

It's quite possible that something happenend when you opened it up to clean... If you're so determined to figure it out without spending money, I suggest you contact Dell's online customer care, as opposed to trying to open it up again and risk making things worse. They have a very simple and effective online chat system with their customer representatives who will pretty much solve any issue you inquire about.
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November 15, 2012 7:07:31 AM

Labrynthian said:
It's quite possible that something happenend when you opened it up to clean...

Yes, I think this highly likely too. The question is, though, what /where/why.

Again, to reiterate, the current theories (and some new ones):

- small amount of moisture introduced that didn't get a chance to dry (though it was a warm day, and it was left for an hour or so -- should be well and truly enough time for small amounts of moisture to evaporate)
- something was knocked/dislodged (though everything seems to work fine, besides the display)
- despite (trying) to stay properly grounded/discharged, I possibly slipped up and shorted something (though the laptop behaved fine for 2 days after being cleaned out, and only had issues on booting back up the following day after being shutdown normally).
- despite not overheating since, at some point afterwards the video card (assuming external monitor uses onboard VGA, which I think it does) burnt out (but: it behaved fine until it was shutdown & booted back up. Also: the display does work, somewhat).
- something's wrong with the LCD display cable socket or cable (both appear fine, but I'd imagine it'd at least explain why the display somewhat works -- if one of the pins wasn't right)
- the LCD panel conveniently decided it was just 'its time.' I'm not sure I understand how it failing would cause it to behave like this, but I don't pretend to understand how it works in as great enough detail as I'd like. I just may have a spare panel from a similar model laptop around to test with, so I'll see if I can rule this one out.

Labrynthian said:
If you're so determined to figure it out without spending money, I suggest you contact Dell's online customer care, as opposed to trying to open it up again and risk making things worse. They have a very simple and effective online chat system with their customer representatives who will pretty much solve any issue you inquire about.

Even with the warranty expired, (otherwise, made void)... and the fact the issue was probably caused by such? Frankly I expected more 'techy' suggestions from this community (edit: to clarify, I mean, as opposed to Dell's support :p ), but if you think Dell's customer support representatives will care despite the former, and moreso be able to help, I'll just have to give it a try I guess.

Thanks for your input. :) 
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a b D Laptop
November 15, 2012 11:19:04 AM

Haha you can write a book with these various theories ;) 

Just give it a try, anyway you have nothing to lose. It's free :D 
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November 21, 2012 11:07:54 PM

Best answer selected by nisuta.
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