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XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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My L502X, which I spent $2000 on when it was new (what a huge mistake), ran out of warranty last month.  As many people know, this laptop is known for video problem when equipped with an nVidia GT 540m.  My laptop is no exception (and has had its motherboard replaced twice, and that's only because I've been able to go months without playing games, otherwise I would've had it fixed more often).  So today I was on the phone in an effort to get the stupidly high repair cost brought down (my hard drive also died, so I was finally forced to get my laptop fixed; it's had yet another bad motherboard for months that I had been putting off fixing), and both of the representatives from Dell that I talked to claimed that there is no known problem with this laptop (even claiming to check this forum while I was on the phone) and also stated that if there was a problem, that Dell's engineers would recall the laptop and fix the defect (no, that's what they SHOULD do, not what actually happens).  I'm a computer engineer and don't need to be told that I'm making up a problem; I would not inconvenience myself to this level for a made up problem.  When asked for an email address that I could send examples to, I was told that Dell does not give out email addresses (What?  I've used email and phone support before).  Dell should have found and corrected this problem in testing their product before releasing it.  I was actually offered an L521X at one point (which I didn't want because they were going to give me a weaker system and that laptop is known for throttling issues due to...surprise!  heat problems), but I turned it down, which I now regret as I could've sold it for more money and gotten rid of this money and time-sucking headache.

Anyways, I'm supposed to talk to the highest level support that Dell has soon, so seeing as I can't get an email address, I'm going to post a large number of examples in one spot here on the Dell forums both of my own benefit when I talk to Dell and hopefully as a helpful resource to others with this problem.

First off, the problem is caused by the GPU overheating.  If you have an L502X with a GT 540m and you game on it, it will eventually happen to you.  There are a number of things that people have tried that help contain the problem a bit and make it more manageable (sometimes eliminating it), such as underclocking or undervolting the GPU.  This is done through a custom BIOS.  More info (and plenty of people talking about L502X's crashing problems) can be found here (you'll see some other mods as well such as removing the dust filter to increase airflow, adding heatsinks to voltage regulators, etc.):


Here are a few video examples of the problem:

Next, here are a few forum threads with info on the topic:




I could find more, but you get the idea.

Lastly, just to add insult to injury, since one of the people I talked to claimed that he could not find any info on this problem in the Dell community, here is some info on the problem in the Dell community:

http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/laptop/f/3518/p/19426371/20022831.aspx (problem claims to be fixed, which it is when you get a new motherboard...until that one burns out too)



I apologize if I come off as a bit rude, but I have had to deal with 3 years of headaches from this system and have been refused compromises that I have suggested (I asked for an Alienware 14 and offered to pay 100% of the difference between the L521X that I was offered and the system I wanted), and I was even once told that I might be able to just get cash back from my system.  That turned out to be too much to hope for.  Anyways, I hope that some people find this useful.

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Adam Hosein
2 Bronze

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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So guys I have gotten my egpu dock and I am currently using an old geforce 9500gt and it is working great thus far. The only problem is that dell has whitelisted the wifi port that has to be used with this dock, but I will explain everything with this post.

So you have received your dock, PSU, GPU and want to hook it up, well follow this guide:

-Start your laptop as normal without hooking up anything or removing anything.

-Download DDU (Display Driver Uninstaller) and run it (it would want to run in safe mode, do so); [this would remove any drivers and files of the gtx540m drivers properly, but don't remove anything to do with intel graphics].

-Restart your laptop twice (just a save measure).

-Once you have restarted and in windows, put the laptop to sleep (yes to sleep).

-Whilst the laptop is sleeping, flip it over, undo the cover to reveal the ram and wifi module.

-Remove the wifi module (yes this is how it is done to bypass dell's whitelist).

-Hook up the egpu mpcie cable to the wifi port and screw it down.

-Don't rewake the laptop just yet.

-Hook up the rest of the egpu components; [the GPU to the dock, the mpcie cable to the dock, the power supply to the dock (see manual for this, and REMEMBER, DON'T ATTACH THE 4 PIN CONNECTOR TO THE DOCK POWER CABLE THAT IS TOGETHER WITH THE 20 PIN ATX CABLE, USE ANOTHER 4 PIN CONNECTOR, THIS WILL CAUSE A SHORT CIRCUIT AND BURN YOUR PSU).

-Once everything is connected awake the laptop, the laptop screen would power on as normal.

-Go to device manager and look under display adapters, you should see some generic microsoft driver with a yellow exclamation mark, right click and update (you would need to have an ethernet cable plugged in).

-Once it finish updates (takes anywhere from 5 minutes to 20) it would prompt to restart, DON'T`!!!

-Put the laptop to sleep and take out the mpcie cable and put back the wifi module, wake the laptop and then restart.

-Once the laptop has restarted, wait a few minutes for it to properly start and then go to device manager

-Under device manager, look under "Network adapters" and disable everything under it (except for "Intel(R) Centrino(R) Wireless-N"

-After, put the laptop to sleep.

-Once again, replace the wifi module with the mpcie cable and then wake the laptop.

- You would notice nothing happens, this is normal.

-Go to device manager and look under display adapters, you would notice your GPU is there but with a yellow exclamation mark, the error code you would see is error 12, this is normal and a good sign.

-While in the Device manager, click on "view" and "device by connection".

-Expand "Microsoft ACPI x64-based PC" and nested under that would be "Microsoft ACPI-Complient System" expand that as well; nested under this is "PCI Express Root Complex" expand that.

-Look for anything pertaining to the old gt540m and disable it, also look for anything pertaining to bluetooth and disable it, but not wireless-N. [to note, the stuff for the gt 540m would be nested under its own thing, disable that whole tree that nests the gt 540m].

-Once this is done, close device manager, put the laptop to sleep and replace the mcpie cable with the wifi module and restart.

-After restart, wait a few minutes and put it to sleep.

-Replace the wifi module with the mpcie cable and wake the laptop; do not do anything at this point, wait a few seconds and your secondary monitor would start to show a display.

-At this point you have setup your external GPU.

Things to note:

In order to go between your GPU and your wifi module, you must put your laptop to sleep and switch them, (that's why anything pertaining to wireless-N was not disabled). Trying to start the laptop with the GPU already attached would not work, everything would be blank but yet your laptop would seem like it wants to do something. The error 12 code is pertaining to not enough resources for the new PCIe component to be ran.

If you are looking for a simpler means of this external GPU setup, there is a software called Nando Setup 1.3 that simplifies the setup without need to disable anything and for the constant sleep to swap GPU with wifi module, you can also boot with the GPU already attached using the software, but it costs US$25.

If you are using a recent card after 2010 and is nvidia, you can use the laptop screen instead of an external display; however, I would recommend using one during the setup procedure. BUT, using the internal monitor would reduce the performance of the GPU to about 30% less, this is because the mcpie lane is being over saturated.

If you guys got any questions, feel free to ask, I will try my best to answer.

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1 Copper

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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Hi there, and if you have already tried this i apologize. I run on my L502X which uses GT 540M graphics a most demanding game called "Dayz standalone", before i sorted the problem which you are having it was a nightmare to behold lol, but now it is working just fine, no more stuttering, no more lockups, anyway the simple fix goes like this.

Go into your "Nvidia control panel"  on the left click on "Manage 3D settings",  click on

1   "Program settings" then "select a program to customize,  find your game/software.

2  "select preferred graphics processor"  go on the one which says "High-Performance Nvidia processor".

Then apply the settings.

Good luck


Lutte Kikker
1 Copper

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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Great post, very helpful and also nice that you linked a lot of good links about this machine. I have bought also a Dell XPS 15" i7 2670QM with a Nvidia Geforce 540M. This laptop does give me problems also, it gets very hot with doing normal tasks somehow and I can't play games very well. Not sure whether it's the processor or the Graphics card/ GPU, but it was too expensive just to buy another power laptop at this moment. My warranty is not valid anymore, so any repairs will be charged fully when I am doing that. In order to get it at least faster I invested in a Crucial M550 1Terabyte Solid State Drive last weekend, it's fast now, but for the money it was not that much faster imo.

The screen and sound are awesome, can't complain about those really, but what really bothers me is that I can't get my Oculus Rift DK1 work on the HDMI port. It works on my normal desktop PC, but never worked on my Dell XPS L502 (even not when I manually changed resolution to a lower setting).

Not sure what to do now, I shelled out a lot of money for this laptop and another 366,00 Euros (like $ 420,00 I think)......I have been buying Dell laptops (Latitude, Inspiron, XPS) all my life really and now I am really confused if I should say goodbye to Dell (also what they ask for systems nowadays is truly out of order....same systems by Lenovo or MSI are almost $ 500,00 cheaper!! Oke, they provide very good monitors in the new Dell XPS laptops now....but for that price....and also it's not possible to replace battery's....so stupid. I bought this Dell L502X because you can buy SPARE battery's when working on location without netpower available.

I hope someone has a good solution for all other L502X users that ran out of warranty, I am interested. Maybe it's possible to replace the GPU for a better one? Not sure if that's possible even....but yeah....


Lutte Kikker - The Netherlands Europe.

1 Copper

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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I have had the same issue for years. 

Don't you DARE try to make this laptop your own by re-installing Windows, or you'll run into the freezebuzz issue when trying to update BEYOND their 2011 video drivers. I am pretty *** right now because I am tackling this issue once again. I have tried multiple times and multiple fixes.

The main issue is that when you try to update using Nvidia drivers, you get the freezebuzz in games after a minute or upon booting the game up.

I was finally able to make some progress in gaming by rolling back to NO driver, or using their now worthless video driver. I am trying to set this laptop up for the gf to play WoW. I get 15-20 fps on "good" settings. When I installed the first Windows 10 game ready driver performance in WoW was awesome! Leaps and bounds difference. The problem? It lasted about 5 minutes.

I have tried all fixes on Windows 7 and Windows 10. All have the same result.

I have also re-applied better thermal paste. Temps are ok. They aren't too high to crash. I can run multiple stress test programs at the same time and never freeze. I ran 2 different programs. One to stress the laptop period, and one to stress the GPU. With both of these running it never hiccuped. Once I start WoW. It is an instant crash, so I know 100% it is not heat. It is something they did to force you to use their drivers so you would be forced to buy more of their scammy laptops (conspiracy, maybe).

I have had MANY Dell laptops in the past. I recommended them at one point, but honestly, I think this is my last. 

If you ask for assistance they refer you to the expired warranty. I shouldn't need a warranty due to your old crusty drivers and laptop lockdown where I can't use Nvidia drivers.  Dell needs to offer a fix FOR FREE or lose a once loyal customer.

I have spent well over $10k on Dell as just a consumer. I think I have earned at least a driver update.

Adam Hosein
2 Bronze

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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I have only theories to offer you guys, I have had me Dell XPS L502X for about 4 years now, it worked great the first 7 months, then came the periodic crashes to which I taught it was the game and not the hardware. It crashed in COD MW3 but not in BF3, that is why I taught it was the game and not the hardware. A few weeks later all games started to crash. It took about 45 minutes to crash, then 30 minutes, and gradually to the point where it would crash instantly. 

I have tried everything:



-Different drivers,

-Changing the thermal paste,

Changing the directX being used,

But in the end it crashed. The only way for me to use my GPU is to underclock and undervolt it; right now it is undervolted and running a clock rate bellow that of its stock clock, (what a waste).

The theory I have to offer are; it can either be the GPU chip itself dying (the cuda cores are going one by one), the VRM is degrading with each passing moment (which is my best take on the situation), the architecture of the chip itself is *** (since all GT540m and GT525m has this issue no matter the laptop), the circuitry on the board attaching the GPU is bad, the horrid workmanship in the assembling of the laptop led to some issue (such as the absurd amount of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU) or something is grounding off that not suppose to after having experienced some kind of wear.

All in all, Dell may or may not have caused the problem in the first place, but it is there laptop to fix and should have recalled it from the start. It won't be there first recall, so it won't be a new thing for them to do. I am not sure if the Dell staff even watches these post because this isn't the first post of this I have seen, heck I started one of these post 3 years ago. Many of my friends and colleagues have asked me which laptop they should get and to that I have always told them never a Dell as it is thee worst brand of laptop there is on the market. Then again who am hurting with this post, not like they aren't doing great with the other product lines. I really hope karma give them a good kick in the backseat for this one.

1 Copper

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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I also have  Dell XPS15 L502X. I bought it April of 2011.  I intentionally bought this model and got the 2gb GT 540M because I planned to game in the future.  Unfortunately I didn't get any games etc until after the warranty expired so I had NO clue prior to the expiration.  I played Diablo III and it was ridiculous to the point that I just quit.  I have Skyrim and play it for about 10-15 and I save and exit then restart the game to keep the temp down and avoid crashing.  The only way I have been able to do that is to go into the nvidia control panel and I set Skyrim to "integrated graphics" and the in-game settings are set to the lowest possible.  Seems I originally paid paid $2K so I could use a high performance GPU (nvidia GT 540M 2gb, not the Intel3000HD 1gb GPU)!!

If that isn't enough.... Anybody else fall for Microsoft saying your L502X was fully compatible with Win10? I sure did.  When I began having driver issues etc. I pushed on and searched for fixes and the ones I couldn't I just figured between Dell and MS it'd work itself out.  Well seems Dell has chosen to NOT offer ANY updated drivers for Win10 and MS offers no real way to go back to Win7 after the 30-day trial period.  So I now have NO WavesMaxxAudio!!  I have found a solution but it requires reinstalling the original quickset driver and I can't find my "drivers & utilities" disc that came with my PC (I mean ***, it was almost 5 f'n years ago) so I am scared to try the fix.

I have never in my life purchased anything besides Dell but as of this experience, I am done.  I have also been the deciding voice for PC purchases among my entire family and very many friends and I have always steered them towards Dell.  Just by recommendation and my family's purchases combined, I bet I've brought Dell well over $100K in business, but you know what? NEVER AGAIN!!  Dell is a large enough corporation that they should be fixing this stuff FOR FREE, we already PAID through the nose to get these XPS machines, making us pay for THEIR screw-ups is absolutely abhorrent behavior.  And if that's not enough, this is probably the tenth time (MS included about Win10) that I've said all of this, between begging Dell for 3 yrs to fix the GPU issue and now with the Win 10 debacle having to beg Dell and MS to please offer some reprieve, I am so outdone with them both I'd actually consider getting a Mac but I know that's no better.

This whole scenario is horsepoo and I assure the world, I will NEVER buy another thing that says Dell nor will I ever recommend to another person that they purchase a Dell, quite the contrary as I explain to them that they should buy anything BUT a Dell!!

The customer service, to date, has been pisspoor, there has been NO support on any of these issues, only the "runaround".  I am inclined to file a complaint with the BBB and I am also presently conferring with legal counsel as to whether or not I have a course of action and so far it looks good.

Worst part is, I don't know when they went wrong.  All purchases I ever made or was a part of from Dell from 1999 thru 2011 when I got this XPS (my 3rd machine from the XPS line at that, first laptop though) were fine, no problems, no complaints whatsoever, so the attitude of this "new & different" Dell was an extra slap in the face.

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Adam Hosein
2 Bronze

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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Hello s_elliott_h,

I was having the same issues with my system when I first updated to windows 10. I have resolved most of my issues by using windows 8 drivers. Same goes for the quickset and the maxx audio drivers.

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1 Copper

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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My laptop was heating up a bit too much (temperature above 90’s in normal load, and sometimes shutting down after hitting 100C), so I finally decided to open up my Dell XPS 15 (L502X) and replace the thermal paste. I have few questions:
When I opened it up, apart from the thermal paste on the cpu (i7-2630QM) and gpu (Nvidia GT-540 2gb), there were several white pads, and one grey pad. The grey pad was above the motherboard HM67 chip. This is the first time I ever saw a heat sink with thermal pad needed to cool down the motherboard. Or am I missing something? And what are all these small white pads? They seem to be covering different chips on the motherboard. Does anyone know the width of these white pads, and grey pads? Are all of these thermal pads to conduct heat? Or some are meant to block heat? I think the white ones are meant to block health, but I may be wrong.
Anyhow, after replacing the thermal paste (didn’t do anything with the pads, since I wasn’t expecting to see them anyway), the temperature of CPU and motherboard remains in 70’s C, and GPU in 60’s C under normal load (20 browser tabs, and some MS Office work alongside). But the fan works in an annoying manner with bursts of sounds, instead of constant sound. It is rather annoying, and I rather have the fan working the whole time than these annoying bursts (fan on, fan off, fan on, fan off, and goes on like this constantly). Any solution to fix this?

I am also considering downgrading to I5-2540M (lower TDP, and dual core), but its not worth it if the fan is going to behave in similar manner. 

Dell XPS15 L502X

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Adam Hosein
2 Bronze

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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I see what you are referring to, there are thermal pads on the heat sink that attaches to other chips on the mother board. I believe the chip near the CPU is the northbridge controller and the four chips surrounding the GPU are the VRAM modules (the white pads cover these).

Those thermal pads are important, so I hope you placed them back.

However, thinking back I should have replaced those pads when I replaced my thermal compound on the CPU and GPU

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1 Copper

RE: XPS-15 L502X Well-Known Problems

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Thanks fo confirming. I did not replaced the pads (didn't knew the specs, width of those). So I kept them as they were. Do you know the specs for those pads? I only replaced the thermal paste, cleaned fan, heat sink, etc. The pads seemed fine. Soft and supple, no wear and tear. 

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