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mvs6f
1 Nickel

Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

All,

Hestitated to post as I see this seems to be a somewhat common problem but didn't find a solution that fit me so here goes.

Have an Aurora-R4 with Core i7-3930 (3.2 ghz), 16 gb of RAM (2 sticks), 500GB Hitachi solid state drive and 1TB Seagate internal drive. OS is Windows 7 SP1, motherboard Product # is 07JNH0.

This is a work computer at a video post house so we do a lot of heavy processing and rendering. Have two identical Aurora-R4s in the office. R4 #1 started experiencing some weird glitches a few months ago:

-Insanely slow Windows startup that would eventually freeze on a specific DLL and eventually shut itself down, then work fine on the next boot up

-Slow, "chunky" Windows performance with CPU frequency never reaching above 90% and oscillating wildly even when system idle

-Occasional GUI issues in Windows where, for instance, Explorer windows would never pop up nor would the task manager or any icons upon startup - only solution was reboot

-Computer would often times shut down overnight or when left to its own devices for extended periods of time

Of course, warranty was expired so we attempted to fix ourselves. Figured potential hardware issue, tested different RAM stick configurations - no help. Ran full diagnostics and no issues. Decided to try and update BIOS - went from A04 (factory) to A06 to A10. This caused most issues to clear up or at least become more infrequent.

Meantime, R4 #2 worked perfectly fine during the #1 issues. After the weekend, come into the office to find #2 exhibiting exact same issues as we experienced with #1. Chunky user experience, occasional neverending bootup, etc. Decided to update BIOS as we had with  #1. Attempted to install A06 as intermediate step to A10/A11... but 2/3 of the way through process, computer hard locks and after giving ample time for it to work itself out had no choice but to power off using button. From there, computer will not POST or show anything on monitor. No beeps, no case lights other than white light illuminating CD drive and card reader. Fans do not spool up to normal levels.

Pulled BIOS battery and reset CMOS jumper to no effect. I've seen some forum posts about being able to load a fresh BIOS via flash drive but the one I'm looking at (http://forum.notebookreview.com/alienware-17-m17x/601701-bios-recovery-case-you-brick-your-m17x-r3.h...) seems notebook-tailored and I'm unable to even do the first step of extracting the .FD file from any of the BIOS exe files available from Dell.

I'm sure the mobo is bricked, but I'm hoping that I can do something to get it to boot up again short of replacing it. Then perhaps I can get back to the work of finding out why the computer was behaving so strangely to begin with... Any help would be greatly appreciated.

-Mike

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8 Replies
Alienware-Naomi
5 Tungsten

RE: Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

Hi!

First, if there aren't any beeps the problem might be NO VIDEO instead of NO POST. Just in case, check with a different monitor, cable and test different video ports on the computer.  Make sure it’s connected to the bottom GPU as this is the primary display source. Also, press the Caps Lock or Num Lock key and check if the light on the keyboard comes ON.

If you rule that out, try a Power Drain:

  • Disconnect all peripherals (printer, external storage devices) and leave just the mouse, keyboard and monitor.
  • Disconnect the Power Cable.
  • Press and hold the Power Button for 1 minute.
  • Connect only the power cable back and try to turn it ON.

You can also test each memory stick separately on each slot like you did with the previous computer. Use this article for reference on the troubleshooting steps. 

Let me know how it goes

Alienware-Naomi
Dell | Alienware Technical Support Alienware Arena
#IWork4Dell
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mvs6f
1 Nickel

RE: Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

Thanks for the response.

I attempted to troubleshoot as you indicated. Switched the DVI cable to each of the three outputs with no change in behavior. CAPS LOCK and NUM LOCK on the keyboard did not illuminate any lights. No standard light on the bottom of the mouse, either. The optical drive will open and shut, but the fans on the computer are almost totally quiet and there are still no beeps or other indicators, or signal to the monitor.

I also did the Power Drain with no change in behavior.

Again, I'm fairly sure that the issue is a bad BIOS update...Is there a method by which I can flash the BIOS and try and install a fresh copy using a memory stick or floppy?

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Alienware-Naomi
5 Tungsten

RE: Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

At this point the computer is not posting at all, so that's not likely to work

I've added you as a friend, please send me your Service Tag and link to the thread on a personal message so I can review your case 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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Tesla1856
6 Thallium

RE: Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

Is there a method by which I can flash the BIOS and try and install a fresh copy using a memory stick

Yes, and IMHO, all BIOS upgrades should be done outside Windows.

http://en.community.dell.com/owners-club/alienware/f/3746/t/19405753.aspx

Also ...

1. Only attempt a BIOS upgrade when there is a problem or reason to attempt (and take-on the risk).

2. If under warranty, be on the phone with phone support. Let them walk you through it. They will share blame if it bricks and you can get a new motherboard.


Registered Microsoft Partner and Apple Developer
- Like many of you, I can appreciate a good game-engine.
- I answer questions here, but I'm not a Dell employee.
- Consider giving posts you like a "thumbs-up"
- Posting models-numbers and software versions speeds trouble-shooting.
- Click "Accept as Solution" button on any post that answers your question best.
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jpvet93
1 Copper

RE: Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

Hi Naomi.  I came across this conversation because I also have the Aurora R4 with the 07JNH0 motherboard, and ran into the same issue as mvs6f.  I had a bad graphics card (NVIDIA GTX 555 ti) and proceeded to replace it with an NVIDIA GTX 750 ti.  Once the new graphics card was in, the video distortion on the monitor cleared up and I thought I was done, but the BIOS startup froze near completion and would just hang with the display going dark.  I contacted support for the NVIDIA GPU (EVGA) who suggested that I upgrade the BIOS.  I was running on BIOS A03 and the latest was A11, so when I tried to update to A11, I got a message to update to A05 before going to A11.  So, using my old video card and still having distortion problems on the display, I managed to install A05.  Still with the old NVIDIA 555, I tried to update to A11.  At this point the computer froze while trying to get A11 in and only a hard power off was possible.  Upon restarting the computer, I now had a new problem.  The power came up but no BIOS loading or anything else on the display, and about 10 seconds later the power shut off on its own.  This is the state the system is in right now.  I also have tried to remove the BIOS battery and drain the capacitors, but I was not able to go to the previous state of power up.  Is it time for a new motherboard you think, or can I try something else?  I intend to do the power drain procedure to see if it does anything.  Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thanks,

<ADMIN NOTE: Email id removed per privacy policy>

(Dimitri)

ps I will look for you on FB and send you a friend request - perhaps you can offer some assistance

My best...

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Tesla1856
6 Thallium

RE: Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

Hi Naomi.  I came across this conversation because I also have the Aurora R4 with the 07JNH0 motherboard, and ran into the same issue as mvs6f.  I had a bad graphics card (NVIDIA GTX 555 ti) and proceeded to replace it with an NVIDIA GTX 750 ti.  Once the new graphics card was in, the video distortion on the monitor cleared up and I thought I was done, but the BIOS startup froze near completion and would just hang with the display going dark.  I contacted support for the NVIDIA GPU (EVGA) who suggested that I upgrade the BIOS.  I was running on BIOS A03 and the latest was A11, so when I tried to update to A11, I got a message to update to A05 before going to A11.  So, using my old video card and still having distortion problems on the display, I managed to install A05.  Still with the old NVIDIA 555, I tried to update to A11.  At this point the computer froze while trying to get A11 in and only a hard power off was possible.  Upon restarting the computer, I now had a new problem.  The power came up but no BIOS loading or anything else on the display, and about 10 seconds later the power shut off on its own.  This is the state the system is in right now.  I also have tried to remove the BIOS battery and drain the capacitors, but I was not able to go to the previous state of power up.  Is it time for a new motherboard you think, or can I try something else?  I intend to do the power drain procedure to see if it does anything.  Any suggestions would be helpful.

 

Thanks,

 

jpvet93@gmail.com

 

(Dimitri)

 

ps I will look for you on FB and send you a friend request - perhaps you can offer some assistance

 

My best...

 

It takes a stepped- approach.

Yes, at this point, try any reset you can.

Cross fingers 

- Create bootable USB that will allow it to be done outside of Windows (if dos/Linux exe is provided).

- Connect to good UPS (like APC).

- A05, A07, A11 . Taking the time to boot to Windows and make sure machine is working between each one.

Good Luck


Registered Microsoft Partner and Apple Developer
- Like many of you, I can appreciate a good game-engine.
- I answer questions here, but I'm not a Dell employee.
- Consider giving posts you like a "thumbs-up"
- Posting models-numbers and software versions speeds trouble-shooting.
- Click "Accept as Solution" button on any post that answers your question best.
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jpvet93
1 Copper

RE: Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

Thank you for your prompt reply and your suggestion.  However, a bootable USB would be useless if I can't get anything on the display.  The BIOS needs to be loaded first doesn't it?  I can't even get to the setup to change the boot order.  Any other suggestions?

Thanks!

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Cass-Ole
4 Ruthenium

RE: Aurora-R4 instability, BIOS update failure

You can read & ask about things in this Arena thread: Aurora R4 Bios Bricked. Need Help flashing

'Blind flashing' from a flash drive is a type of crashed-bios last resort, so look into it. I'm not rehearsed in these matters & can't do the reading for you, only post some links (which may have links to other threads, as this is a long-time problem):

Aurora R3 LGA Chipset Bios Recovery

Bios Update A04 to A11 on Aurora now crashed

Alienware bootup/ restarts after frezzing on installing new bios

Aurora R4 updated bios from a07 to a09 and Failed.

M11x R1 BIOS recovery guide

It was just the other day I was searching, using the top right search box, search terms may include:

  • Aurora R4 BIOS
  • Aurora R4 BIOS A07 /A08 / A09 / A10 / A11 etc
  • Aurora brick
  • Aurora crash

those search terms may lead you to past forum posts, & feel free to try over at Arena. If you need a motherboard after all's said & done, see this post: What motherboard do I have? for R4 part #'s

Tesla circa 2012:

Frank,

 

This will continue to happen as long as you recommend or even allow users to upgrade the main BIOS through Windows. Smart users do it through DOS boot (usually bootable USB ... outside of Windows) but that solution has to be cobbled together by themselves because you don't distribute it that way.

 

Since 2009, this has happened to many Area-51, Aurora R1, R-2, R-3 machines. Many are documented in this forum. Just search ... I counted over 50 the last time I checked.

 

Since those machines will never have a "Dual-BIOS" (backup BIOS for recovery) or BIOS Updater System built into the BIOS ... the solution has to come from your end (in the form of an easy to use bootable image that can be written to a flash drive or burned to a bootable disc). Also, remove the ability for the EXE to be executed from Windows (or at least give users a severe warning).

 

Can you work on changing this?

 

Hopefully, the X51 and Aurora R4 (with their UEFI system) has provisioning for this to be done properly outside of Windows. New machines could have a proper Dual-BIOS and BIOS updater built into the BIOS.

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