My laptop won't turn on
August 25, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

My Dell XPS m1330 won't turn on anymore. How can I fix this?

I have a Delll XPS m1330. It is running Windows Vista, and it is no longer under warranty.

As of last night, the laptop was functional. This morning, I turned it on, reached the login screen, and booted to Windows normally. Shortly after booting into Windows, but before opening any programs, the laptop abruptly turned off. I tried to turn it back on to no avail. It was not plugged in at this point. I tried plugging it in, which changed nothing. I also tried removing the battery and turning it on while just plugged into the adapter, but that makes no difference.

Here's what it generally looks like:

When the laptop is plugged in, with or without the battery: I press the power button, and I see lights behind the power button and the WiFi indicator come on for about three seconds, and then it powers down again. There's no noise of fans or the hard drive.

When the laptop is on battery alone: I press the power button and usually only see a light behind the WiFi indicator, again for about 3 seconds. However, it sometimes lights up behind both the power button and the WiFi indicator.

I have since left it unplugged, and without the battery, for about 20 minutes. When I tried plugging it in again just now (still with no battery), I was able to reach the Windows login screen before it turned off again. Further attempts now mostly only accomplish the lights described above, but I occasionally reach the Dell bootup screen, although I get no further. This happens both when plugged in with no battery, plugged in with the battery, and on battery alone. (i.e. in each of those cases, I can occasionally reach the Dell bootup screen, but usually pressing the power button gets me nowhere.)

I'm going to go buy myself a hard drive enclosure so I can (hopefully) salvage my data... but is there hope for my poor laptop, or is it time to take out replace-the-laptop-loans? What might be the culprit here? How can I fix it?
posted by pemberkins to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
You're not alone. Unfortunately, it looks like the M1330 has some serious motherboard issues. Here's some more info; it seems to somehow be related to a faulty video card overheating and forcing shutdown. Official info from Dell.
posted by griphus at 8:07 AM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: Bonus question: one of the screws holding my hard drive in is stuck, so I can't get it out to put in an enclosure. The screw spins freely but I can't get it out, even with a little help from gravity. How do I get this thing out?
posted by pemberkins at 8:15 AM on August 25, 2010

Best answer: I usually pry at the screw from the side with the edge of a single-edge razor blade while turning, or pull on it with a strong neodymium magnet (a small-size one won't hurt your drive). Tape is another option - just press onto the top of the screw and pull up.
posted by fake at 8:40 AM on August 25, 2010

Best answer: I have few tips:

1. Try taking out the battery, unplugging the laptop and holding down the power button for about 45 seconds. Plug the batter back in and see if it powers up. This accomplishes a similar effect to leaving your computer for 20 min but is much quicker.

2. Make sure all of your air vents are free from dust and that all fans are working properly. Some canned air can help blow dust out of the heat sinks that keep your motherboard cool.

3. If the two steps above don't help there's a process called "reflow" which basically involves using a heat gun or oven to re-seat your graphics chip/cpu. It's not a technique for the feint of heart.
posted by talkingmuffin at 10:02 AM on August 25, 2010

A new motherboard will run you probably more than the cost of a laptop, at least a refurb from the outlet center. Although I solved this problem on my old dell Inspiron by taking it apart and vacuuming all the dust off the heat sink, so if you're comfortable stripping the laptop, you might try that.

As for the screw, are you sure it's actually stuck? Some dell laptops use a captive screw for the HDD that stays in place even when it's fully loosened. Make sure that the screw being present actually keeps you from getting the drive out.
posted by KathrynT at 10:02 AM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: The screw was definitely stuck (I've taken the hard drive out before and had removed all the screws that time); the difficulty was that it was recessed deep into the case and difficult to reach with tape, razor blades, etc. However, a strip of Scotch tape on the end of a screwdriver managed (against all odds) to pull the screw out. Success!

As for the laptop - per talkingmuffin's instructions, I held down the power button for ~45 sec and then tried again; the laptop now boots up both on adapter power and on the battery. Hooray! (I'd note that this is also after I was out running errands for a few hours, so it had some time to sit unmolested).

Thanks everybody! This is a scary problem and I'll look into replacing this laptop if it shows any more signs of failure, but I'm glad it's running for now.
posted by pemberkins at 5:34 PM on August 25, 2010

Having had 2 of these junkers, one with 3 motherboard replacements and the other with 4-5, I sympathize. Get your hard-drive out and go looking for a new laptop.
posted by jkaczor at 7:35 PM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: An update: It worked fine all yesterday afternoon and evening, but will not turn on this morning. (Before I went to bed, I had shut it down and unplugged it, but the battery stayed in). Holding down the power button for lengthy periods of time doesn't help this time, but I'll see if it starts magically working again this afternoon. At least I got everything critical off the hard drive yesterday while it worked, and I have an enclosure to fuss about with.

This is definitely a junker laptop. When my slightly more rugged Dell laptop started having issues, Dell sent me this one as a free replacement on the warranty. This lovely little thing has had given me nothing but grief since I've had it, but at least it was free. I'm certainly not going to pay to repair it.
posted by pemberkins at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2010

Response by poster: My final update: it turns on again now, after zero effort on my part all day. Apparently I now have a laptop that will only turn on in the late afternoon. If anyone can shed light on the mystery, feel free, but I'm planning on replacing it before it betrays me any further.
posted by pemberkins at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2010

Huh, that's bizarre. Have you tried another power adapter to rule out power adapter issues? (long shot, I know)

Usually problems that are intermittent like this are heat related -- stuff heats up and pries itself just slightly off the motherboard.
posted by fake at 10:14 PM on August 28, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, I have two power adapters, and tried both. It made no difference.
posted by pemberkins at 7:49 AM on August 29, 2010

:( bummer.
posted by fake at 12:20 PM on August 29, 2010

When you do get it to turn on, are you able to view the system log to see if there are any informative errors?
posted by fake at 12:21 PM on August 29, 2010

Response by poster: I've had a look in the system log, but to be honest the errors are mostly gibberish to me. I mostly see the following two listed during the times I was frantically trying to boot it up:

"The npkcrypt service failed to start due to the following error:
The system cannot find the file specified."


"The DNS proxy agent was unable to allocate 0 bytes of memory. This may indicate that the system is low on virtual memory, or that the memory manager has encountered an internal error."

I see those two pop up in the log before the power issues began, too; any other errors seem limited to variations on "hey your internet broke" and "hey your Bluetooth broke". The internet problems aren't new, and I never use the Bluetooth so I don't know what's going on there.
posted by pemberkins at 5:34 AM on August 30, 2010

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