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Laptop Repair

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So a couple of days ago I was given an old Dell XPS M170 laptop because it's broken. Knowing the person that gave it to me, it's almost definitely a relatively easy fix.

I therefore have a few questions:

1) For some reason, when booting, the computer doesn't display anything until I hit ctrl+alt+del, and then it starts the boot cycle normally. Why would it do this?

2) When the display finally does show (after hitting ctrl+alt+del) it's very glitchy, kindof like the old NES when the game cartridge wasn't in at just the right angle and it showed the graphics with lines and blocks everywhere. Is this a sign of a bad cable or a fried card? I took it apart and didn't see any damage on the card; I'll have to take it apart again and do a closer inspection. E: no obvious damage to the video card, mobo, or any connections. Really have no idea what to think of this. Will take a pic and post soon as I get power cord.

3) After it finally boots the display shuts off then a few minutes later turns back on and goes to the BSOD. I think I just need to reformat the hard drive and reinstall windows to fix this one, but I'm not entirely sure. E: It boots fine in safe mode, just have to reformat and reinstall.

Any answers and suggestions would be very helpful!


Edit again:
No longer boots at all. Nothing loads. Turn it on and it sits at a black screen. I reformatted the hdd and put Windows XP on it and flashed the BIOS. Since I flashed the BIOS it hasn't been working at all...

Yet another edit:
Got it booting again... From the looks of it the first step is replacing the GPU; the PC runs fine (except for the display errors) up until I install GPU drivers, then it stops working.

And another:
After lots of reading online today this is apparently a common problem with this GPU (GeForce Go 7800 GTX). Apparently some people have had success in fixing it by baking it at 385 degrees for 8-10minutes. Think I'd be crazy if I were to try it? :p


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This is the same issue thats plagued the PS3. After time, if the wave-solder process wasn't good at the time of mfg'ing, you get whats called a cold solder joint, and they lose contact. Obviously, heating it beyond the melting point of the solder will allow it to potentially regain contact, although who knows how good.
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Another option would be to use a heat gun to minimize the amount of time you are heating the board up. If you have a specific chip you are trying to "reflow" a heat gun set to around 250 degrees F should do it.

Be warned, most chips have a VERY limited life at high temperatures. Usually, I can only heat a chip above 250 for under 10 seconds. So, baking it for any length of time is risky.

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I'll definitely be careful when handling the card. There's no way I'm buying a replacement one and from the reading I've done nobody's had luck finding another one that fits this laptop, so my only hope is to try reflowing the chip. If that doesn't work then oh well - no skin off my back :p.

I'll borrow a heat gun from a friend hopefully today or tomorrow and give it a shot and get back to you.


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Well after I got the heat-sync off (didn't have the right size screwdriver before) it turns out one of the tiny pieces on the board is busted (don't know what it's called. it's small, rectangular, and silver with a dark gray square in the center). Would it be practical to replace this?


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Looked at it under better lighting (the lighting at my friend's house sucked) and apparently there was just some goo or something stuck to it and some fibers got stuck to that. I wiped it off and it doesn't look like it's blown anymore.

My camera's not good enough to take pictures of things this small. It's really tiny.

Back to the heat gun idea. haha


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  • 2 weeks later...
So I ended up throwing it in the oven at ~385F (all the heatguns I had access to were temps of 750+) for 8minutes then slow-cooling it and it works perfectly now. The boot issues must've been because of the graphics card because it no longer has problems.


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Same! Now I'm reformatting to get rid of the useless 100mb partitions that were on it. Next step is repainting the case and upgrading the wireless card.

Any suggestions for a sick laptop design? I'm thinking a deep green color for the trim (fine glitter, maybe, to give it texture) and maybe do a dark silver primary color, then change the LED's to Red.

I also intend to paint over the DELL logo in the center:

It's inset, so I'm not sure what to do for it. Some sort of epic icon or something. This is one of those rare times I wish I were still dating an artist - give her an hour or so with it and she'd have an epic and completely custom design painted on that looked legit like I paid good money for it.

Another thought of mine is to do it Zelda-Themed. The greens & golds, with the Triforce over the DELL logo.


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