Alienware 17 (early 2014) GPU Upgrade?

Discussion in 'Alienware 17 and M17x' started by Filipe, Feb 18, 2019.

  1. Filipe

    Filipe Newbie

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    Hello Everyone!

    I know that this topic must be a classic around here, but after going through the search and checking older threads, I must admit I am even more confused than when I started. I blame Alienware's naming conventions! :p

    So, long story short:

    -I have an Alienware 17, that according to the label, was deployed in March 2014.
    -It is on a dire need of a GPU upgrade (professional+personal reasons).

    The first thing I did was talking to Dell about it. It took 3 different chat reps to statistically reach the conclusion that their External GPU solution wasn't compatible with my laptop (1 said yes, 2 said no, they all had my service tag). None of them was able to clarify if I can replace the original GPU or not.

    Now, this is an old laptop, but my build still packs some punch. With a new GPU I could get a few more good years out of it, both for work and leisure.

    So, I believe the obvious two questions to the fine members of this community would be:

    1- Can I replace the original GPU with a newer model? (even if it is a 9-series)
    2- Is there an "out-of-the-shelf", plug-and-play External GPU solution I can use on this specific laptop?

    However, if the reply to both the above is "No", I'm more than willing to consider other options. The warranty on the laptop has expired and if I don't upgrade soon, either my wife is getting a new rig to do our taxes or I'm getting a doorstop with a whole lot of design on it. So, if some measure of elbow grease is required to get a new GPU, I'm game, since:

    -I don't use it for "on-the-go" computing anymore, so having a convulted setup for the external GPU is fine.
    -Communications are wired, so, loosing wi-fi is fine as well (and I do have a couple of USB adapters)
    -I never used the Dvd drive on it, so, if that is a problem, I can remove it and place it on an external case.

    I am not proeficient enough to solder stuff around or re-write drivers, but I have experience disassembling and reassembling laptops, doing simple part replacements, etc.

    Well, that's it. Back in 2014 they told me I could upgrade the GPU, 5 years later, they don't know anymore...

    I hope someone here can help me figuring this out, or point me in the right direction. It would be awesome to get this rig closer to 2019 :)

    Thanks in advance, looking forward to hear back from you guys!
     
    Rengsey R. H. Jr. likes this.
  2. Rengsey R. H. Jr.

    Rengsey R. H. Jr. I Never Slept

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    I think we have plenty of thread related to your questions already on the " main page " . Look for thread " Alienware 17 R1 ". There are at least 3 on this topic.
     
    TheReciever likes this.
  3. Grant B Gibson

    Grant B Gibson Notebook Deity

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    Its quiet obvious you can use their eGPU, literally no port to plug into. Silly reps.
    Assuming its actually a 17 R1, you can go up to a 980M with the 60HZ screen or a GTX 1070 with the 120HZ screen.
    Be warned, laptop cards do come at a cost however.
     
  4. ssj92

    ssj92 Neutron Star

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    What GPU does it have now?

    If it has a 780m or 880m then it can be upgraded.

    Also which display do you have? 60hz or 120hz 3D display?

    You can use 980M, 1060, or 1070 without issues in that laptop.

    980M : https://www.ebay.com/itm/nVidia-GTX...2:g:nWoAAOSwu7hbSFzV:rk:5:pf:1&frcectupt=true

    1060: https://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Nvidia...8:g:6M0AAOSw-iZcSDb7:rk:2:pf:1&frcectupt=true

    1070: https://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Nvidia...b:g:ejsAAOSwmqZcT7jB:rk:4:pf:1&frcectupt=true

    In order to use them you need the unlocked BIOS:

    http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/alienware-17-r5-r1-bios-unlocked.802440/#post-10482258
     
  5. Grant B Gibson

    Grant B Gibson Notebook Deity

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    Unlocked BIOS is not required for any MXM upgrade in this unless you are trying to run optimus, which isn't recommended.
     
  6. Filipe

    Filipe Newbie

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    Hey guys,

    Thank you for all the help. It's great to know that there are options!

    Yeah, I know, I saw a number of those before creating a new thread, but to be honest there are so many variations and designations for "Alienware 17", that I wasn't able to properly identify which solution/thread matched my laptop. I hate to clutter the forum with something that might redudant, but for an outsider it is hard to grasp relevancy.

    @ssj92 and @Grant B Gibson :

    Maybe it is easier to get advice if I can share some specs with everyone. So here they are:

    -GPU: AMD Radeon R9 M290X with 4GB GDDR5. Is it still compatible with a series 9 or 10 GPU?

    -Processor: Intel Core i7-4700MQ (6MB Cache, up to 3.4GHz w/ Turbo Boost)

    -My monitor must be 60hz since I don't have 3D display.

    And some follow-up questions:

    -About the replacement you guys mentioned, is it an open case->unplug old GPU->plug new GPU->flash new bios type of operation? Or does it require further tampering?

    -The only way to acquire a replacement GPU is second-hand on ebay or is it possible to buy them new?

    Looking forward to know how can I upgrade my Alienware!
     
  7. ssj92

    ssj92 Neutron Star

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    Your best bet will be 980M then. You have the 60Hz display as the 120Hz is only available with the nVidia GPUs.

    The 980M should provide you a very good boost in performance and should be possible without any modding needed.
     
  8. Grant B Gibson

    Grant B Gibson Notebook Deity

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    Essentially yes, no BIOS flashing should be needed however
     
  9. Filipe

    Filipe Newbie

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    Hey, that is great to hear! Looking forward to get this upgrade going.

    Thanks so much for the insight guys.

    So, do you know of any tutorials or reference images I can use to do the assembly? My plan would be to check the tutorial, take a look inside my laptop and proceed to buy the card for replacement. Any pro tips on how to go about this on an Alienware 17?

    Overal I think it can be cool to document the whole process for future reference ;)
     
  10. Grant B Gibson

    Grant B Gibson Notebook Deity

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