Please, God, don't let me have to order from Dell...
November 25, 2005 3:40 PM   Subscribe

I have just received an old, partly broken Dell Latitude c600 laptop (by virtue of being the first one to say "You're going to throw that out?"). I booted it up and found out that it has a whopping 8 mb video card. Do I need to find a special laptop video card to replace it or can I order any desktop card to put in?
posted by poorlydrawnplato to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
You can't replace the internal video card, but you can add a second video card with more memory, using the PCMCIA (PC Card) slot on the C600.
posted by Rothko at 3:46 PM on November 25, 2005

Some Dell laptops use removeable graphics cards that can be upgraded - I for one twice upgraded my I8000 - but you have to match the card to both the laptop and the LCD to ensure you get something that
a) fits,
b) has a compatible output.

I'm (google) guessing it came with a "2X AGP ATI Mobility M3". Google tells me that there' a 16mb version of that card.

The best you're going to be able to do is probably "ATI Rage 128 Mobility" - there are nvidia options but as far as I can tell is only randomly successful to swtich from ATI to Nvidia with Dell machines.
posted by tiamat at 3:57 PM on November 25, 2005

Hmm, as far as my googleing can tell the compatible LCD problem is only for the Inspiron 8xxx series.
posted by tiamat at 3:59 PM on November 25, 2005

Just to repsond directly to your question, no a desktop graphics card would not work, there will be nowhere to plug it in, and no you can't buy a laptop graphics card either, as they don't exist. You might be able to (as listed above) swap the graphics chip. But I wouldn't put any money on it. Most laptops (especially older ones) are built as a unit, no upgrades, no swaping parts. But good luck!
posted by blue_beetle at 4:02 PM on November 25, 2005

Another option, albeit one that doesn't travel well, is to puchase a docking station with PCI slots. You could then install a PCI video card. Of course, whenever you undock the laptop, you'd be stuck with the built-in 8MB.

A little bit of Googling suggests that the docking station for this laptop is Dell part #4988U. (Not the port replicator #1978U: this has no PCI slots.) It looks like one can be purchased relatively cheaply.
posted by blue mustard at 4:12 PM on November 25, 2005

I think I'm confused - what part of this laptop is "partly broken?" I thought the video had issues, and I thought that when you said "a whopping 8MB" that you meant you thought that was actually pretty big. (Hey, I remember when 8MB was big for a video card. Heck, I remember when 8MB was pretty big for an entire system!) But maybe you were being sarcastic? 8MB is not big enough for you, is that what you're saying?

Assuming that's the case, that the video works fine but you want more memory for it, check the BIOS and see if you can allocate some/some more of the RAM towards video use.
posted by attercoppe at 5:23 PM on November 25, 2005

The part that's broken is the hard drive, which is fried.
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 6:18 PM on November 25, 2005

And Attercoppe, would you tell me how to do that BIOS thing?
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 7:37 PM on November 25, 2005

Keyboard command to enter BIOS setup (after first powering up):

Great site about BIOS:

Dell BIOS downloads:

Sorry, no clicky today ...
posted by intermod at 8:29 PM on November 25, 2005

And Attercoppe, would you tell me how to do that BIOS thing?
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 7:37 PM PST on November 25

When you first power the computer on, you will have about a 1-5 second window to enter the BIOS (the lowest-level user-accessible software on the machine, lets you set drive boot order, enable or disable built-in hardware, etc). Typically you'll need to press Del; sometimes it's F1 or F2; occasionally it's Ctrl+Alt+S or something. Should be Del for your Dell (no pun intended). If you get the Dell splash screen (just a big Dell logo) it's probably hiding the prompt to enter BIOS. Try pressing Esc or Tab to see what's really going on. Again, you may not have much time to get that splash screen out of the way and hit the right key - you might miss it and have to reboot and try again several times. If you try F1 or F2, it may give you a boot order menu, but without the option to enter BIOS. Keep trying, eventually you'll catch it.

When you get in (hopefully there's no password) just look around. I can't tell you for sure what the interface for yours will look like - someone who had the same model laptop could. There might be drop-down menus or just a few single screens of options. Poke around and look for video memory, shared memory, VRAM allocation, etc. etc. If you don't see anything like that, it may not be using shared memory for the video. I'm honestly not that up to date on laptop hardware, but my educated guess is that unless a laptop is built for gaming or high end graphical work (but why would it be?), it probably has a minimal amount of onboard memory dedicated to video, with the option to share more from traditional RAM.

P.S. You may be able to find better instructions for configuring your specific BIOS. If searching, keep in mind that although BIOS and CMOS are not technically the same thing, the terms are often used interchangeably. (A CMOS chip is what the BIOS is stored on.)
posted by attercoppe at 8:37 PM on November 25, 2005

Oops, I see intermod beat me by keeping his shorter. Then again, no clicky...
posted by attercoppe at 8:38 PM on November 25, 2005

Why do you want to have more video RAM anyway? Are you hoping to play games on this thing? If not, 8MB is enough for normal usage. And in general, laptop video cards are not replaceable, I'm pretty sure most are soldered to the motherboard.
posted by knave at 10:54 PM on November 25, 2005

I've got an old Dell Latitude 366mhz laptop that I use for my primary system. I'm not even sure whether the video card has a >1MB memory chip, and it works just fine for what I do. What are you doing that needs more than 8MB? My searches turn up a "Dell Latitude c600" like you have as in the 700-750mhz range. Replace the hard drive first, then try any games/whatnot before upgrading the video card -- I'm betting you won't even need a new one.
posted by vanoakenfold at 12:36 AM on November 26, 2005

Knave: Yes, I want to be able to play games. (specifically EverQuest)

Vanoakenfold: I'll give that a shot.
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 8:51 AM on November 26, 2005

BIOS for all Dells is F2. Just after startup, you'll see "F2 to enter setup" on the top right of the "Dell" screen. Hit it and you're in.

There are some fun settings to play with but I'm 99% sure no option to reallocate RAM to video. I don't know about PC video cards, I don't think they exist. So unless you're into rebuilding motherboards I think you're stuck with 8MB.

So what? That should be good enough for most purposes including DVD -- barely. (Unless you have some kind of superporn, in which case I can ship you a C640 motherboard, contra)
posted by raider at 8:51 AM on November 26, 2005

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