Hello, let me start by saying thanks for your time, and I appreciate any advice at all. I am a PC technician by trade and have always purchased Dell products, this computer belongs to my grandmother and its really starting to become an issue for me to get running.
I was brought this computer because it would not turn on. You would hit power and the light above the button would quickly blink then turn and stay amber, the hard drive and fan would begin to spin, and you would hear the basic booting up noises. The screen did nothing at all. Before bringing it to me she called Dell and they recommended a new motherboard which would be $300+ to send in to replace. She took it to a few 'bix box' stores and they diagnosed the motherboard also.
So after my troubleshooting it sounded like the motherboard to me too. I sent it to a motherboard repair center I work with in Florida, and they called me and said the motherboard tested 100% OK with no problems at all. They mailed it back to me and I began to hook it all back together.
For whatever reason, once it was all reassembled, the computer started right up and the screen worked fine. I was cautious tho, I knew I wasn't safe yet haha. I began to update the OS and install updates. It gave me noticeable problems twice, I mention these because they may help diagnose the system. When I would set the screen saver to the touchscreen enabled aquarium, the system would eventually freeze and turn off. Then once in the middle of a string of 30-40 updates, during the last phase it froze and ended up overheating, I manually turned it off and took off the back and put a fan on it, waited a while and rebooted. I then finished the update installs.
The system then ran fine for 2 days straight, I rebooted a dozen times or so, played a movie, surfed the web, used the webcam and touchscreen and everything I could think of to test it out. I gave the computer back to my grandmother and she used it for 10 days straight with no problems whatsoever. She called me a few days ago and said in the middle of using the internet and a messenging program to talk (text) a friend of hers, the computer randomly turned off. She said the screen has a bunch of 'lines' in it now.
So she brings it back to me and she is way disappointed because she really enjoys this thing. I turn it on and the weird thing is that the BIOS and the welcoming windows 7 logo look great, but as soon as the actual windows environment begins to load, you can see the entire screen is covered with these tiny black horizontal lines that obscure your entire view.
I played around with the graphics and resolution settings to no avail. I did a system restore to the day I gave it to her in working order, same results. I go into safe mode.. and here it gets interesting. Everything looks great. OK so its a driver problem I say to myself. I boot up into normal mode, get the lines again, and go into device manager and uninstall the Radeon Mobility 4200.. the lines go away, there is no graphics installed but everything looks fine/normal and works 100% great. So I go to amd's website to grab the newest driver for this computer.
I download the latest driver and chipset for it and download the chipset first, then the driver. The driver installs fine and the graphics switch over and look cleaner/better and the installer is finishing up. The installer begins to hang and 'freeze' and does nothing for a very long time, I notice the computer is beginning to overheat again like last time. I manually shut it down to cool it off, again.
After putting a fan on it and cooling it off I attempt to turn it on.
Exact same symptoms as when it was brought to me the first time. The light above the power button blinks once then turns and stays amber, and the hard drive and fan begins to spin, you hear the normal startup sounds, the motherboard is lit up from the power being connected, and the video does nothing at all.
So in short, I know for a fact this motherboard is 100% in working order.
I have a brand new LCD video cable in the mail tomorrow (I dont think this is the issue but eh)
And there is a brand new inverter board with cable in the mail thursday/friday (this is what im beginning to think is the culprit)
Any advice at all, please I am at my wit's end. I am already into this project for the sake of helping someone out, and i've already lost hours and hours of time and about $100 in parts so far.
Do you think the actual LCD is failing? These are the most expensive part of the machine and I will probably scrap/sell it if so. Does anyone have any ideas of symptoms of the inverter board failing?
Thanks in advance, anyone.
Heres an update.
Brand new inverter board/wire. Brand new LCD video cable.
Whats next Brand new touchscreen? could it be anything else at all??
All my experience tells me it is the motherboard, no matter what the people in Florida said. It could just have intermittently worked when they had it (like it did for 10 days).
I still think it needs to be replaced. That's what the end result was on the one I worked on.
There are 2 common problems with this model:
1) Bad inverters, ordering that is a good idea, it will usually give a no POST issue resembling a bad motherboard, it's a cheap and easy fix
2) The red SATA cable for the HDD, this causes issues that resemble software problems on this machine, not a bad idea to change that too.
FYI, changing the LCD/LCD cabling is a big task on this machine, if you find that the LCD is bad, I would definitely scrap it, it's not worth it (the big con of an all-in-one machine)
The other possibility is you received a DOA motherboard, the problem you are describing sounds like a bad video card, however, I must point out that a bad inverter can also short out new parts, so it may have been OK at first, but then the bad inverter shorted out the new mobo.
I would try and exchange the motherboard with the seller and replace inverter, motherboard and SATA cable all at once.
Hope this helps.
If you are still having issues, I would try bringing the system to what Dell calls "Minimum to POST", unplug everything except the PSU, 1 stick of RAM, and the power switch. If it POSTs, then plug in one device at a time until you get a POST fail, then you will find the culprit. ALSO, try an external monitor and see if the lines are still there, if they are, the video card is bad, if the external is OK, you have a bad LCD and/or wiring issue.
Hey guys thanks for much for the suggestions!
Yea basically at this point ive ripped it into a million pieces.
I've got the motherboard on a table (the power button is built onto it) with the LCD display completely disassembled from the case, and the brand new inverter/LCD cable going to the motherboard with the power jack hooked into it.
And I still get nothing but a solid amber light after 1 regular fast blink. No beeps, no post, no display lighting, nothing but the light on the motherboard and the power button area.
The CPU is there, ive tried without that, ive tried with 1 ram in either slot, no ram, both ram, no beeps at all, its like the motherboard is now completely dead.
So im kinda convinced that it was a fluke? that the board worked for the repair center and for another 2 weeks after getting it back? Seems kinda strange but my only thing to replace now is the actual LCD touch screen.
Boy in all my years of working on stuff this is up there with being the biggest pain ever. I am ready to go buy her a desktop that will run with no problems for 12 years.
Also this model has no video output at all so I can never test a external monitor, woulda been pretty useful.
If its not beeping without any RAM installed, the motherboard is definitely bad, question is, did something short out the new board or was it just a DOA part?
Like I said, I would try and exchange the mobo and then replace it with a new mobo, new inverter and new SATA/HDD cable.
A bad inverter will short out new mobos, I've worked on dozens of these units and have seen that happen 3 times, so I wouldn't take a chance, inverters are cheap.
Yea i think im out of luck then.
Basically this unit is out of warranty and like 3 years old or so, I sent the motherboard to a motherboard repair place and they tested it good and I just lost $$ on shipping and diagnostics, once I got it back in the mail and hooked it all back together it ran fine for 2 weeks straight with minimal problems.
Now after the strange overheat/crash of the video card driver update (really sounding like a GPU fail now to me) it is back to the drawing board and won't post, beep, or do anything except glow amber. I replaced the inverter and LCD video cable with brand new ones, also the wire going from inverter to motherboard I replaced, also replaced CMOS battery.
So I guess it needs a new motherboard, so far they look to be around $220 so I guess we will be selling this one for parts to go towards a new desktop, best way to go I think.
Totally agree with your assessment. I have worked on and used Dell's for a long time and in general I like them. This particular unit I have had several customers with continued issues related to flaky behavior. Replaced several inverters and a couple motherboards for multiple customers.
@haduga: I am glad that you found help here as I advised you at Tom's (why change nick), I am using a few part suppliers for my suggestions, can you tell me your MOBO model so I will look for cheaper one.
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