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Alienware M14x Disassembly/Teardown and Upgrade Guide!

Discussion in 'Alienware 14 and M14x' started by ComputerMD82, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. ComputerMD82

    ComputerMD82 NX-74205

    Aug 8, 2008
    The first part of this guide is a summary of what parts are user upgradeable and possible upgrades for each part. The Disassembly immediately follows it :)

    1. Optical Drive
      [*]Hard Drive
      • Can be upgraded to the Hard Drive or Solid State Drive of choice, as long as it's SATA.
      • Note: Only drives with a 9.5mm height will fit!

      [*]WiFi Card
    Lasted edited by : May 8, 2015
  2. ComputerMD82

    ComputerMD82 NX-74205

    Aug 8, 2008
    I realized quickly that when benching my M14x, my CPU was reaching temps up to 96C! Granted, this was with an overclocked GPU, but I was still hitting 90C with everything at stock!

    The temps before :

    I’m creating this guide as a full color alternative to Dell’s service manuals. The dell service manuals do a pretty decent job but if this helps at least one person then I’m happy :) I've tried to make it easy to understand so people will all different levels of expertise can follow along. I also designed this so you don’t have to keep flipping the machine over, just one flip for the entire procedure. I haven’t tried taking apart the LCD display assembly yet, so this will only cover the base. That will be for a future guide since I’m interested to see if the screen can be upgraded.

    M14x Disassembly:

    Necessary tools:
    • Small Phillips head screwdriver
    • Small guitar pick/cell phone repair tool/credit card or something similar (used to lift up or pry some pieces apart)
    • Alcohol wipes/Arctic Silver cleaner
    • Microfiber cloth
    • Thermal Compound of choice. I chose Arctic Cooling MX-4 Compound since it is non-conductive.

    I like to make sure I don’t lose any screws in the process, so I usually use a piece of paper or cardboard with labels to place the screws, such as this:


    Before you begin:
    • Make sure your laptop is fully shut down.
    • Unplug the AC adapter from the laptop.
    • Turn the laptop upside down, with the rear of the laptop facing toward you.

    1) Removing the Base Cover
    • Loosen the 2 captive screws on the bottom.
    • Slide the cover toward you, then lift up.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    2) Removing the Battery
    • Loosen the 2 captive screws (circled in Green) that secure the battery in place.
    • Unplug the cable connecting the battery to the mainboard.
    • Lift up the tab to remove the battery.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    3) Removing the Memory
    • Loosen the 2 captive screws (circled in Red) that secure the memory door.
    • The memory door opens from the left.
    • Each stick of RAM is secured with 2 latches on each side of the stick. Push the latches outward to release the RAM, which will pop upwards at an angle.
    • The RAM can then be pulled out. Repeat for the second stick.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    4) Removing the Optical Drive
    • Loosen the 4 captive screws (circled in Blue)securing the Optical Drive assembly.
    • Release the ribbon cable from the motherboard. This can be tricky, I've read reports of one or two people breaking this clip, but don't worry, it's not that hard to release. Using a small screwdriver or similar object, position it under one side of the white clip, and using it as a lever, lift it up a little. Then do the same thing on the other side of the clip. The clip itself is not removable, so the clip won't lift up completely. The cable should release with little effort once the clip is raised.
    • Lift up the tab to remove the optical drive.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    5) Removing the SSD (or HDD)
    • Loosen the 2 captive screws and remove the one regular screw securing the drive in place.
    • Lift up the tab to remove the drive out of it's bay.
    • Unplug the SATA cable from the drive. It should come off fairly easily, but might be tight depending on your drive. Use a small tool/card to pry the cable off if it is dificult.
    • If you are a robot, take a byte out of your SSD (Just checking who's paying attention).
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    6) Removing the WiFi card
    • Detach the 2 antenna from the WiFi card. They should pop right off. You can make note of what order the cables are attached but with a 2 antenna system, it shouldn't matter if you accidentally reverse the order when you reassemble it.
    • Remove the screw securing the WiFi card in place. The WiFi card will pop up at an angle, in a similar fashion to the RAM.
    • Slide out the WiFi card.

    7) Prepare to flip the chassis
    • Remove the 12 screws that secure the Palmrest/Control Cover (this is the bezel around the keyboard, including the Alien power button)
    • The 3 screws highlighted in Blue secure the Control Cover.
    • The 9 screws highlighted in Green secure the Palmrest.
    • The computer should look like the second photo below now. Flip the computer around, facing towards you. Open the monitor as far back as it will go.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    8) Removing the Control Cover
    • Starting at the bottom of the keyboard by the spacebar, pry up the cover. There are little tabs holding it in place and they should just snap apart. Just work your way slowly from bottom to top. There are no cables to worry about here.
    Note: I've included a picture of the Control Cover underside for reference. It houses the Alien power button, and speaker grilles, as well as the openings for the caps lock and Wifi LEDs.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    9) Removing the Keyboard

    • Remove the 3 screws holding the keyboard in place.
    • Lift the keyboard from the top to reveal 2 ribbon cables underneath. These are ZIF sockets similar to the out holding the Optical drive ribbon in place, but these are much easier to release. Pull up on the brown retention clip until it's upright. The cables should slide right out.
    • The wide cable on the left controls the keyboard itself while the skinnier cable on the right powers the lights.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    10) Removing the Palmrest
    • Remove the 2 screws (circled in Green) securing the Palmrest to the Base.
    • There are 4 cables that must be disconnected in order to remove the Palmrest.
    • The Speaker cable (Shown in the Blue box) can be disconnected right away, it is the same type of connection that the battery cable uses. Just slide it out of the socket.
    • The Power button cable (Shown in the Purple box) can also be disconnected right away. It's as easy as the keyboard cables. Lift the latch, slide out the cable.
    • The other 2 cables are harder to get to, so we'll lift up the Palmrest a little. Using a guitar pick/credit card/cell phone repair tool, or something similar that won't damage the chassis, start to pry up the Palmrest. I found it's easiest to start on the right, about where the screw holding it in was.
    • Slowly work your way up, releasing the little tabs holding the Palmrest in place. Do both sides first, then the top. The top is pretty easy, there are 3 pieces of plastic held in place where the LCD hinge is. Holding the Palmrest at the top corners you should be able to wiggle it free. Once the top is loose the other 2 cables can easily be removed.
    • The LED power cable (shown in the Red box) powers the Caps Lock and WiFi LED's. It slides out like the speaker cable.
    • Last is the Touchpad cable (Shown in the Yellow Box) Lift the latch and slide out, just like the keyboard cables.
    • The final step is to completely remove the Palmrest. Lifting it from the top, pull it forward enough to release the tabs holding it in place along the bottom of the laptop.

    Note: Also included a picture of the Palmrest underside for reference. It houses the trackpad assembly, front LED grilles, speakers, power button, and caps/wifi LEDs

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    11) Removing the Motherboard Part 1
    • Remove the 6 screws (circled in Green) that secure the Motherboard to the base. Note that there are a few other screws, only the 6 shown need to be removed.
    • Next, there are 5 cables which must be unplugged. The first is the subwoofer cable (Shown in the Yellow box). Slide this cable from it's socket.
    • The SATA cable (Shown in the Red box) is removed by pulling the tab upwards.
    • The Bluetooth cable (shown in the Blue box) appears to be very fragile. Gently pry this connector from the socket using your fingernails on the corners. I would refrain from pulling the cable itself if possible.
    • Last are the Alienware LED cable and Display cable (shown in the Purple box). Pull upwards on the blue tab to remove the display cable. For the LED cable, gently slide it from the socket. Note that these 2 cables are taped down. Take note of how they are arranged. They must be side by side instead of stacked on top of each other when put back, so you don't create a bulge in the palmrest later on. For now, we're removing the motherboard, so peel them both off the board.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    12) Removing the Motherboard Part 2
    • Once all screws have been removed and all cables disconnected, the Motherboard can be removed.
    • Lift the Motherboard up from the right side first, then slide it out from the left side. When replacing the board, insert the left side into the base first.
    • The second picture shows a rubber spacer with is stuck onto the base and fan using double stick tape, presumably to ensure proper airflow. Note its position and don't forget to put it back info position later on!
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    13) Removing the Heatsink and fan assembly
    • Turn the motherboard upside-down to access the Heatsink and fan.
    • Unplug the fan power cable from the motherboard
    • Loosen the 7 captive screws (circled in Green) to undo the heatsink.
    • Remove 3 screws (circled in Blue) to remove the fan. Note that the 3 screws securing the fan seemed tigher than the others, I had to use a different, smaller screwdriver to remove these.
    • Once all screwed are removed/loosened, lift the heatsink and fan, wiggling if necessary to separate the thermal compound from the chips.
    • Be careful not to lose any of the thermal pads attached to the GPU memory. They are the white pads on the RAM chips in the second photo below.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    14) Installing new thermal compound.
    • First we have to remove the stock thermal compound. Using a lint free cloth/Arctic Cleaner, remove as much of the compound as possible from the CPU, GPU, and heatsink. Dell has a habit of applying their compound very liberally and it may me caked on enough to come off in clumps. Using alcohol wipes/q-tips, remove any residue left over until it's clean.
    • Use a clean microfiber cloth to go over it once more. The heatsinks should be nice and clean, and the chips should have a mirror finish to them. See 1st photo.
    • Apply a small dot of thermal coumpond to the GPU and a small line, about the size of a grain of rice, to your CPU. I actually put a little too much on my CPU in the photo below, I ended up re-pasting it once more.
    • Place the heatsink/fan over the motherboard so the screws match up with the holes. Let the pressure spread the thermal paste on it's own. Tighten each screw a little at a time, then each one again, then again, until all are secure.
    • Don't forget the fan screws and power cable!
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    15) Take a look at all the parts sprawled out across the table and have some refreshments!


    16) Reassemble in reverse order.

    If I've missed anything at all in this guide, or if there are questions/comments, please contact me! :)

    Note about temps: So far I’ve had it together for not even 30 minutes and I’m happy to say that temps are improving. I know MX-4 doesn’t have the same curing requirements as the Arctic Silver… I’m hoping to get this below 90C with the GPU overclock. Same benchmark with the same GPU overclock now gives me a max GPU temp of 91C, down 5 degrees.. Will do more benches tomorrow.
    Lasted edited by : May 8, 2015
    CGSDR likes this.
  3. cookie20

    cookie20 Notebook Enthusiast

    Jul 8, 2011
    Excellent. Cheers :)
  4. Navea

    Navea Newbie

    Jun 13, 2011
    Thank you for this! :)
  5. CGSDR

    CGSDR Alien Master Race

    Jun 7, 2011
    Should this be list on the sticky? Because since the search dont really work now, so it would be very hard to find it if it become unpopular.
  6. ted264

    ted264 Notebook Consultant

    Apr 21, 2011
    awesome dude! i got halfway into it and gave up.... ill prob do this at some point!

    Hmmm is 5 degrees really worth it?

  7. obc993

    obc993 Notebook Consultant

    Nov 1, 2010
    this would be very helpful :)
  8. bendecki

    bendecki Notebook Enthusiast

    Jul 18, 2011
    great thread man!! Thanks for sharing this
  9. madmantm

    madmantm Notebook Consultant

    Apr 30, 2011
    awesome stuff thanks man!
  10. ComputerMD82

    ComputerMD82 NX-74205

    Aug 8, 2008
    Added list of user upgradeable parts at the top with a list for each.

    I listed the 2920XM as being compatible, but since it's not offered by Dell, I'm not 100% sure. I remember in the past certain models were BIOS locked from using the Extreme chips. Has anyone tested it?

    Found a couple of articles that showed systems with the 2920XM installed, unknown if it unlocks the multipliers in BIOS though.

    Also, visibility bump!
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