Two Alienware M17x r2 Motherboards, same symptoms! :(

Discussion in 'Alienware 17 and M17x' started by xxbeefydjxx, Feb 12, 2021.

  1. xxbeefydjxx

    xxbeefydjxx Newbie

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    Hey folks,

    Newbie here but am rather experienced in Hardware/IT in General. I hope you guys can help given I keep running into this area when googling things.

    Strap in with ya fav beverage because this is a bit of a long one.

    I got interested once again in buying spares and refurbing, and until now it's gone well with good profit margins, I started looking into these Alienware Laptops and thought it'd be a breeze. Boy was I wrong!

    Good ol Dell Specs here mean I am now very well spent deep in a PC I quickly grew to love and hate despite it's age.

    It was an upgraded unit, standard TFT 17" display, no webcam, 500GB Crucial SSD + 500GB HDD in bay 2, i7 720 and an AMD Radeon HD 7950m GPU. Pretty jamming machine, I thought.

    Original listing on FleaBay said it simply wouldn't boot and display anything on screen, but the lights would come on the keyboard. So, I thought "Ah, probably GPU reflow will do".

    I got the hefty thing delivered and straight away, GPU errors per the usual blinking lights.
    I had everything out on a test bench at this stage, and whilst testing, the first motherboard just suddenly shut off and would not turn on at all! Battery dead I assumed, plugged in PSU on it's own and still no juice. Disconnected GPU, RAM, all other parts except CPU and still no life.
    PSU is an original Flextronics chunky boy and the blue light remains lit when plugged into the motherboard, port has absolutely no play in it and did charge a battery until this happened, so I am assuming it simply can't be a cold solder joint but possibly BIOS or CPU Related.

    I quickly hopped back on Fleabay and could have cried to find out the only Motherboard available are as much as I paid for the machine, £300+. Found a decent seller from Germany who had one and budged down to £220 including shipping. Nice!

    When this replacement motherboard came, I reflowed the GPU again, fit everything back up on a tech bench with the same components and PSU from the other now presumed dead motherboard and it worked a treat.
    Got it all fitted back in the case, installed Windows 10 and off to the races I went, until the GPU Started Overheating, one set of thermal pads later, and Fan Controller Software and it chilled around the 55-60 degree C mark with CPU remaining stable.

    One test night later, no issues, I shut it down and went to bed. Came back the next night to once again use the PC and No display at all, no GPU errors. I reflowed the GPU yet again, still no juice.
    Tried CMOS Reset, still nothing. And to top it off, in amongst all this testing I turned it off after pressing the power button to turn it on in quick succession (as I do all machines when testing if the symptom rears it's head upon power up), lo and behold, this second motherboard has now considered itself bricked. Absolutely NO life at all on a full battery and with PSU plugged in.
    Again, stripped all components so just CPU and PSU plugged in, no juice. WTF?

    I'm at a whits end here, desperate to get this thing working or at least be able to call it quits and part everything out, It's cost me a good £600 in buying and parts so far and with GPU Prices remaining sky high I really don't want to plow too much more into this.

    If anyone has any tips for "reviving"/troubleshooting these boards and or a best route for upgrading/replacing GPU/CPU I would really appreciate it at this stage.

    My only thoughts are to perhaps try a different CPU and GPU combination, but again when they worked, it was a decently stable machine, with the exception it would occasionally blue screen when trying to read temp sensors for some reason. Maybe that's a hint?

    At this stage, I don't even care about selling it if I can at least get something usable, it'd be nice to have a little gaming PC and whilst I loathe Dell devices, I do jam with Alienware's vibes. They look the part :D
     
  2. Raidriar

    Raidriar ლ(ಠ益ಠლ)

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    Well if two boards are behaving the same way with the same GPU, I would start looking at replacing the GPU. If it is the 5870M it is likely they are tired by now and may be starting to fail.

    Edit: what is 7950m? Never heard of this GPU. If it is 7970M, early models liked to die.
     
    xxbeefydjxx likes this.
  3. xxbeefydjxx

    xxbeefydjxx Newbie

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    Sorry, memory fails me.
    All I know for sure is it's one of the 79 series, Blue Dell board that doesn't do brightness once it boots into Windows 10.
    It's just weird that after reflow it worked but then died and completely shut off the motherboard? Is that a common symptom for these R2s to just not turn on if GPU is shafted? Not even the no GPU found errors?

    Also, do you have suggestions for a decent GPU for these R2s that would be somewhat compatible? Don't mind vBIOS modding but I have no MXM devices to pre flash the card into the machine so it'd need to at least boot in the R2.
     
  4. Raidriar

    Raidriar ლ(ಠ益ಠლ)

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    Clevo 8970M is the best card you can put into the M17x R2. It has native fan control and you can use newest drivers, but brightness will be stuck at max. If you want dual 8970M you will be limited to driver version 17.3.3. The Dell R9 M290X and MSI R9 M290X/8970M do not have native fan control so don’t buy those.
     
  5. xxbeefydjxx

    xxbeefydjxx Newbie

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    Right.
    I am sitting patiently awaiting further reasonably priced GPUs to show up on fleabay at the moment... Thank you for your pointers @Raidriar.

    I once again reflowed the GPU so it should at least spring some life into the machine, it's been stood off for the last 3 days. After reflow, still absolutely no sign of life.

    No lights when charging (charger plug is blue though, so it's not shorting or behaving weirdly).
    Interestingly in the 3 days it's been stood, the battery has gone from a full charge to nothing at all on it's own? (The battery is okay, I got 2 hours use on a full charge when it did work)

    Double checked all connections, even tried booting with the hidden button on the motherboard, still no life both when on just AC, AC with the battery installed.

    The GPU when the machine booted never showed any lines, temps were fine using manual fan control, just an occasional blue screen because of manual fan control.
    The only things I can seriously think of this being are CPU or RAM based issues, but RAM would still boot but no post so must be CPU???

    I'm getting increasingly frustrated at my £500 paperweight here.
     
  6. Raidriar

    Raidriar ლ(ಠ益ಠლ)

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    It’s always a gamble buying broken machines. Don’t risk more than you’re willing to lose
     
  7. xxbeefydjxx

    xxbeefydjxx Newbie

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    Well, yes, that's why I brought it. It's more so the fact I cannot get it working.
     
  8. xxbeefydjxx

    xxbeefydjxx Newbie

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    Update:
    Went and brought another 8970M 4gb (Dell 109-c79957-00a_02) which I believe should work with this Laptop, still no beans. Both on AC and on Battery + AC with everything connected as normal, still absolutely no life from the machine.

    It must be either RAM or CPU at this stage.... Surely 2x GPUs wouldn't be showing the same issue (Seller claimed this one worked just fine...)

    I get the same behaviour if I remove all the RAM still, so my only other thought is to buy perhaps a cheaper CPU to test with and if that works then source a 920XM, I guess.
     
  9. xxbeefydjxx

    xxbeefydjxx Newbie

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    Update again:
    Sat in front of me right now is both motherboards, both GPUs, and all the components.

    On just the AC Adapter Pushing the little button on the motherboard itself: With nothing but CPU installed, no beans. Keyboard + CPU: No beans. RAM installed too, no beans, HDDs installed, no beans.
    Button panel installed, still no beans. Battery installed, no beans.

    Going to try replacing the AC Adapter. See if that does the trick. Weirdly it does seem to charge the battery though???

    Edit: Okay Please someone assist. It's finally now "glowing" when charging using the AC adapter but if I push the button, the charging light just goes off. And never returns, unless I unplug the battery and AC again and replug them in. WTF
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2021
  10. nforce4max

    nforce4max Notebook Consultant

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    This might not be it but sometimes when there has been a lot of work done the flat flex for the media bar and power button sometimes can go bad which would prevent the machine from turning on as that happened to me once. To get two dead boards in a row is suspect that something else is not right or outright dead.
     
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