is my inspiron finally dead?
May 4, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Laptop diagnosis? XP sp3, Dell inspiron 6000. The other day it just died while I was using it. Just powered down (instant black screen). When I tried to power it up, I could hear it coming alive for about 8 seconds, some lights flashed as you would expect, then it died. If you wait 24 hours or so, it will boot up normally, but after about 10 minutes it will die, as above, and then the next day will start up again for a bit, then die, etc etc.

Obviously it's a v old laptop, it doesn't owe me anything at this point. But if I have a shot at fixing this...where do I even start? What does this sound like?motherboard? cmos battery? I've tried running off just ac and just battery, no difference.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Look at the fan, and feel the laptop's heat.
posted by curuinor at 6:43 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

If there's no errors/BSOD before the shutdown, and nothing in the Windows Event Log, just instant change from Windows working OK to power off, it sounds like a power supply problem. It's very easy to change the power supply in a desktop but I have no experience doing that with a laptop so not sure how easy it would be - I'm sure you can find a guide or a Youtube video somewhere though.

My main tip though would be in those 10 minutes where it's working OK, plug in an external hard drive and back up everything important as fast as possible.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:44 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for dust obstructing the laptop fan.
posted by straw at 6:46 AM on May 4, 2011

Does the laptop seem unusually warm? If so, you may have an issue with a clogged heatsink or clogged or broken fan. (Like others have said. Sorry, I started typing this comment 25 minutes ago.)
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:59 AM on May 4, 2011

I had a similar problem and it was due to overheating. Other than making sure the fan works properly, you can try checking the BIOS settings (mine had some sort of "auto" overclocking setting, which I switched to "low power"), and you could try a cooling pad.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:00 AM on May 4, 2011

In my experience, this is due to either heat buildup (as mentioned above) or a bad capacitor somewhere. Eliminate the former to determine the latter.
posted by adipocere at 7:02 AM on May 4, 2011

would an overheating condition cause instant shutdown? i think it would be more erratic, so i am guessing power supply too. If you have a friend who has an universal supply ask them to borrow it for an hour and see if it fixes the problem. And make a backup while doing this..
posted by 3mendo at 7:03 AM on May 4, 2011

Here's a link to the service manual if you get a point of needing to replace the fan. This sounds like an overheating issue, so like others suggested the fan is the first place to look. If that seems to be working fine however and the insides seem reasonably free of dust buildup, it could be an issue with the processor, powersupply, or internal capacitors (which are a bit tougher to rule out if no spare parts are handy).
posted by samsara at 7:03 AM on May 4, 2011

would an overheating condition cause instant shutdown? i think it would be more erratic

It did for my Dell laptop. It would run for a while, then instantly power off like holding down the power button. Trying to turn it on immediately after that would fail (no BIOS screen or boot up). Letting it cool off for a while would allow it to start up fine again.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:18 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing an overheating problem. My fiance has an Inspiron 1525 and usually winds up with a good-sized ball of dust/lint up against the heat sink, which eventually obstructs the fan. The 6000 looks like you might need to go in through the top side to get to the dusty bits, so cleaning the fan properly means almost complete disassembly -- What a pain!!

If cleaning the fan doesn't solve the problem, rather than race the clock to copy your old data off, they make and sell an SATA-to-USB adapter which would allow you to pull out your hard drive and connect it to any PC as an external hard drive. here is one for around $20 from Newegg.

Also, here is a disassembly/reassembly video. If you can get from the start to about 3:00 in, that will be about the work you need to do to clean out the fan.

And here's a fan cleaning song to cheer you up :)
posted by Jinkeez at 7:45 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oops, sorry -- the SATA-USB adapter link is actually this link!
posted by Jinkeez at 7:51 AM on May 4, 2011

Yep, overheating. In addition to cleaning the vents and fan, check out Fan Gui to monitor the temp and manually turn up the fan if needed, and make sure you don't use the laptop in a way that obstructs the fan (i.e. don't cover the vents, don't place it on a soft surface).
posted by phoenixy at 7:55 AM on May 4, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, very helpful everybody. I'll take it apart this weekend and update the thread afterwards.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:19 AM on May 4, 2011

Isn't there usually an error during post that says "previous shutdown due to thermal event" on Dells?

Try running it without the battery connected.
posted by gjc at 9:12 AM on May 4, 2011

Thanks Jinkeez, that fan cleaning song is both fun and an almost perfect instructional video for a friend with an overheating HP!
posted by Ahab at 9:25 AM on May 4, 2011

Sounds exactly like overheating to me too. I had a Dell SmartStep that did exactly the same thing.
posted by klanawa at 9:27 AM on May 4, 2011

Response by poster: "previous shutdown due to thermal event"

I did see that error a few days prior to these problems!!! I'd forgotten about it because everything seemed to work fine, until it didn't.

Assuming I can fix it, I feel like you guys saved me $500. Thanks so much.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:30 AM on May 4, 2011

Response by poster: And I could not fix it. I blew out the fan, the heatsink, everything. Unit is dead. Thanks anyway, especially for that fan cleaning music.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:49 PM on May 20, 2011

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