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brianfernandes
1 Nickel

Alienware m17x random hangs - screen off, system on

What happens: Laptop screen goes off, any audio that may have been playing may jar for a second or two and then stops but the machine does stay on - keyboard remains lit and can hear the fans on as well. System does not recover, I have to do a hard shut down by keeping the power button pressed. The machine can be started immediately after this and can work for hours without the problem occurring again.

I have found no pattern to this problem, it has happened when I'm in my browser, working on code  or when playing a game. The frequency of the problem varies from happening upto 4 times in a single day to having no issues in almost a week. The problem happens most frequently when resuming from suspend - the system will recover, windows comes up and in the space of a few seconds, it hangs as described above. I have been facing these issues for a little over a month (occurred over 20 times); I reviewed software changes made during that period and there were no services or drivers or any other background processes installed at that time.


This is a 64bit system with Windows 7 SP1.

RAM: 16GB

HDD: 250GB SSD + 750GB SATA

Graphics: Nvidia 580M with 2GB VRAM

I have run the entire system diagnostic a few times with no issues being reported.
I do have the latest drivers installed, including the latest NVidia drivers.


I'm leaning towards this being a heating problem, which I reported over two years ago and have resolved by simply keeping the laptop elevated: http://en.community.dell.com/owners-club/alienware/f/3746/p/19444897/20102413.aspx#20102413

However, when my graphics card gets hot, I simply get graphic lag, it doesn't shut down the system (and this has happened a couple of times after I started experiencing the hanging problem). As far as CPU temp is concerned, I ran a stress test to see the temp go beyond 100 degrees for a few seconds but the machine stays functioning fine. Also, I assume if the CPU is too hot, the system will power off, which is not happening in my case.


My system is still under warranty, but I'm half sure Dell is going to tell me to reinstall the OS before doing anything, this is something which I have no time for and I'm convinced this is a hardware issue.

Any ideas on how to diagnose this problem further would be highly appreciated.


Thanks!

Brian.

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7 Replies
brianfernandes
1 Nickel

RE: Alienware m17x random hangs - screen off, system on

Just wanted to add that I had cleaned both the fans and vents recently and I did so after the problem started occurring as well. There was no significant dust build up at all.

What CPU temps could cause this behaviour? My brief test at 100C didn't seem to cause any problems.

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Alienware-Naomi
5 Tungsten

RE: Alienware m17x random hangs - screen off, system on

Hi Brian!

Try a clean installation of the video driver as explained here. If the CPU temperatures are reaching and 100C, it could cause the crashes (even if it's not shutting down). Monitor both the CPU and GPU temperatures during stress and idle using Hwmonitor. I would also recommend you run an AlienAutopsygaming test.

Let me know the results.

Alienware-Naomi
Dell | Alienware Technical Support Alienware Arena
#IWork4Dell
Opening your case does not void your warranty! Check out Alienware Artificial Intelligence
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brianfernandes
1 Nickel

RE: Alienware m17x random hangs - screen off, system on

Naomi,


Thank you very much for replying. The situation seemed to have worsened today with me not being able to get beyond Window's login screen when starting up. I would hear the start sound and then - blank. This happened about 5 times in succession, the 6th time is now - and the machine has been stable for ~ 30 minutes during which I ran the AlienAutopsy Gaming test - completed successfully, took about 25 minutes.

The GPU temp seemed to never go beyond 65, but the CPU cores maxed out at 90, 98, 95, 95 during the CPU stress test. During the stress test, the temperatures would cycle from mid 60 to mid 90 temperatures every few seconds - they never did touch 100 though. Nevertheless, is the fact that I'm hitting 90s during the stress test already a bad sign? The machine is quite elevated with the vents clear.


I haven't yet tried the clean install of the video driver, I wanted to get a "before" state first so I could compare it with changes after installing the driver.

Thoughts?

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brianfernandes
1 Nickel

RE: Alienware m17x random hangs - screen off, system on

Naomi,


I tried the clean video driver install this morning - I went to the point at which the card would no longer show up as "NVidia" and then installed the current driver as instructed. Unfortunately, I've had no luck, the problem is now pretty acute and had been occurring more frequently than ever.


Just once, this morning, when the laptop was starting, it did play a beep code. Six beeps <pause> six beeps <pause> six beeps. I believe this indicates a problem with the video card? Forcing a shutdown and then starting the machine again worked and I haven't heard this code again, though, unfortunately, the problem still persists.


Please help!

Brian.

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Alienware-Naomi
5 Tungsten

RE: Alienware m17x random hangs - screen off, system on

Thanks for the information Brian. 6 indicates a video card failure and the CPU overheating indicates a problem with the CPU heatsink.

Please send me a private message with your Service Tag, contact information and link to this thread so I can assist you further. 

Alienware-Naomi
Dell | Alienware Technical Support Alienware Arena
#IWork4Dell
Opening your case does not void your warranty! Check out Alienware Artificial Intelligence
I can't always reply to PM's, if you need extra assistance visit: YouTube Logo Facebook Logo Twitter Logo

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brianfernandes
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RE: Alienware m17x random hangs - screen off, system on

My machine was out of warranty, I thought I had paid for 3 years, but Dell says it's only 2 years hardware and 1 year phone support which isn't really going to help me. I can't figure this out, I don't know how to prove I paid for 3 years.

The machine has been mostly working for the past couple of months (read: couple of issues a day), but in the last two weeks the problem has become acute with me being unable to start the machine for hours. I paid for a Dell engineer to visit (just to diagnose the problem) but during the three hours that he was here, the problem did not manifest itself (even though the problem kept occurring frequently the day before).

The symptoms are all over the place. I'd like your opinion on what might be wrong because I might have to get this fixed externally due to the the fact that I could pay a very high amount (probably excess of $500) to replace either the motherboard or the graphics card (or both!) and the system might appear to be stable but the problem could occur again in a matter of days or weeks given its intermittent nature. I obviously don't want to pay for parts that actually aren't bad.

The machine fails in a number of different ways:

A) Before OS

1) Start machine, hear 8 beeps repeatedly (rare).

2) Start machine, hear 6 beeps repeatedly (very rare)

In most cases, subsequent starts do not sound any beeps.

3) Screen is blank on start - don't even get POST screen. The machine remains on though, but doesn't appear to be proceeding with the boot. No beeps though.

4) POST screen appears for a few seconds, screen goes off almost immediately afterwards. Then same as #3.

#3 and #4 could happen multiple times but after several attempts the machine would suddenly work (or exhibit other symptoms)

5) While running the Dell diagnostics (from the F12 option) - screen would suddenly go blank when running the *thorough* memory or video card tests. I suspect the problem is not with the part that is being tested, but again the intermittent nature of the problem with the machine being on for a longer amount of time.

Given that these problems are manifesting themselves before the OS is loaded, I don't think we have an OS problem here.

B) OS Related

6) At the "Windows did not start properly, what do you want to do" option, I press a key to prevent Windows from starting with a default. When left in this state for a few minutes, screen could go blank, system has to be hard shutdown.

7) Just before the switch to the Windows is starting to the login screen, screen goes blank, system must be hard shut down. This is the most frequent manifestation of the problem.

8) I am able to login - Desktop appears, screen goes blank in a few seconds or minutes - before I can actually do anything.

9) Same as #7 but here, even though the screen is blank, windows continues to start. I hear the login sound, I can type in my password (blind) and windows starts. I can the run programs and even shut down cleanly (all blind, using keyboard shortcuts). If an external monitor is connected, it does not help, both screens remain blank.

10) System works fine for an entire day (problem might occur a couple of times, but a restart keeps it working for hours), am able to shut down at the end of the day.

I have had the the graphics card head cleaned and heat paste reapplied for both the graphics card and the motherboard. The fans appear to be functioning fine and if I keep a temperature monitor open, neither CPU nor GPU appear to be overheating (unless something causes the temperature to suddenly spike to some very high value in a second before causing the system to crash). Even when gaming, the graphics card appears to be around 70 degrees centigrade.

My best guess now is that the graphics card is bad, (I wish this system had an onboard card too) but I cannot explain the intermittent behavior at all. The suggested next step from Dell was - replace motherboard, graphics card and heat sink assembly and that seems rather excessive for me, if I were to do this, it is very difficult for me to even get an estimated cost out of Dell.


Thoughts?

Brian.

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brianfernandes
1 Nickel

RE: Alienware m17x random hangs - screen off, system on

1
939-0330
Dell Hardware Limited Warranty, Extended Year
1
939-0320
Dell Hardware Limited Warranty, Initial Year
1
939-0380
Dell Limited Hardware Warranty Plus In-Home Service After Remote Diagnosis, 2 Year Extended
1
939-0340
Dell Limited Hardware Warranty Plus In-Home Service After Remote Diagnosis, Initial Year
1
950-3339
3 Year Limited Warranty
1
421-1721
Soft Contracts Service Hardware Agreement for Alienware
1
993-8582
Warranty Support, 2 Year Extended
1
994-3730
Warranty Support, Initial Year

Naomi,

This is what I have from my order details. Does "Dell Limited Hardware Warranty Plus In-Home Service After Remote Diagnosis, 2 Year Extended" not mean that I have hardware warranty for three years? (2 Year Extended as opposed to just Extended Year)?

Dell India says I have only 2 years of hardware warranty and this is what I'd like to take up with them.

Brian.

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