Dell Inspiron motherboard is dead. Is it worth replacing?
August 30, 2007 8:03 AM   Subscribe

My Dell Inspiron 9300 seems to have a dead motherboard; would it be worth getting it replaced or do I have a shiny new doorstop?

So a while back my Dell Inspiron 9300 started acting wacky, flickering between AC and battery power when it was plugged in, and occasionally flashing up a message claiming not to recognize its (factory original) power supply as an official Dell one. Due to the sporadic nature of the problem I oh-so brilliantly ignored it, until it got so bad that it would hardly ever recognize or draw power from the power adapter. I tried replacing the power cord and - when that didn't work - getting a repair store to replace the power jack on the motherboard, but I just got the dreaded call from the repair store saying that their power jack replacement has made no difference and that the only other option would be to replace the motherboard. Since it's nearly 2 years old it's no longer under warranty ("extended warranty? Why on EARTH would I need that?" =P )

As a very broke grad student I'm leery of throwing (even MORE) good money after bad, so I'd love some advice as to whether or not a motherboard replacement would even be worth it at this point. I've been googling for Dell Inspiron 9300 motherboards and coming up with surprisingly few hits; those ones I have found mostly seem to be from eBay and all cost in the $280-300 USD range - and that's for the part alone, I'd still need to pay someone to actually make the replacement. On the other hand, even at that it still sounds like it -could- be cheaper than getting a new laptop that's more than just an "uber-basic" one ... while on the OTHER other hand if all I'd be doing is putting off an inevitable junking or setting myself up for more problems along the lines of what you'd get if you started making bit-by-bit replacements in a car that's past its prime, I suppose I'd be better off just biting the bullet, planning for a few more months of the popcorn or ramen noodle diet, and finding a new laptop that might be likely to last a bit longer ...

Does anybody have any suggestions here? If it were you, would you try for a motherboard replacement or just give up and get a new laptop?
posted by zeph to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Dunno if the rest of the parts is still good - but a decent older Mobo should cost less then $100. I am sure you can entice a friendly nerd in your area to put it all together for a dinner invitation.

A decent laptop (always buy one generation behind the newest stuff) will cost you at least $500.
posted by homodigitalis at 8:21 AM on August 30, 2007

Does Dell use standard power supply pinouts now?

Last time I bought a Dell desktop (1997) it used industry standard components with the exception of the power supply pinout and motherboard power supply connector. The 20 pin connector was physically the same, but some of the pins were moved around, so plugging a non-Dell motherboard into the power supply would fry it instantly.

With one of these Dells, replacing the motherboard with a non-Dell motherboard would also require replacing the power supply.

I don't know whether Dell still plays this game - anyone know for certain?
posted by dudeman at 8:31 AM on August 30, 2007

ah, sorry, didn't read closely enough to realize this was a LAPTOP. Totally changes the situation. I assume you have tried a completely new power adapter. If so, I'd trash the laptop. If you're spending $300 on a mobo + more for install, might as well spend $500 on a new laptop from Dell with a warranty.
posted by dudeman at 8:38 AM on August 30, 2007

The 9300 line had some very nice laptops... they were big, and thus relatively cheap for the amount of power they offered. If you chose a faster processor and a nice screen, it's probably worth saving.

What I would suggest is calling Dell and asking them how much it will cost to fix; you'll probably have to ship it to them to get a final quote. Find out what their price is. Make your decision from there.

The problem is that you don't even know if the motherboard will fix it, and neither does the shop, because you don't have the necessary diagnostic tools to be sure. So I'd send it to Dell and see what they say. Their quote will be correct, whatever it is, and it will let you make the right decision.

Assuming you originally ordered it with a decent graphic card and the 17" screen, it'd probably take about a $1k laptop to get something similar. If you went minimum cost, it's probably replaceable at about $750.
posted by Malor at 8:41 AM on August 30, 2007

Frankly, this isnt worth fixing. You can sell the broken one as-is on ebay to someone who wants the parts. You might get 100 dollars. Toss in the 300-400 they want for repair and that 100 and you've pretty much got a new on-warranty laptop.

Visit one of the many bargain sites for laptop sales.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:46 AM on August 30, 2007

Laptop? My Bad.
posted by homodigitalis at 9:12 AM on August 30, 2007

Check the battery - run it on power only. A corrupt battery can cause trouble.

Price similar models on ebay. If it costs more to fix than its value, replace. Make sure the repair shop can really fix it. Worst case scenario is a new mobo on a laptop that doesn't work. If you replace it, it still has resale value for spare parts, esp. the display.
posted by theora55 at 4:48 PM on August 30, 2007

My guess, this is the standard loose power connector problem that all laptops suffer from eventually.

My laptop won't charge...
January 24, 2006
Intermittent Laptop Power Prob
March 31, 2007
And many other previous questions.
posted by Chuckles at 9:38 PM on August 30, 2007

If you can find confirming evidence, but you don't feel able to fix the power connector problem, list it as-is on ebay, but mention that you think the problem is the power connector and why. That detail should increase the price you get substantially.
I don't know laptop markets that well though, so..
posted by Chuckles at 9:42 PM on August 30, 2007

Yep, Chuckles, it was indeed a loose power connector problem (erm, at least I'm assuming that 'power connector = power jack') - that was what I'd asked the repair shop to replace in the first place, and what they told me didn't end up working. Quite the bummer, though I certainly appreciate the advice to specify that if I were to put it up on eBay, it hadn't occurred to me that that could help boost the price. And thanks, everyone else as well for the input - actually I was just now about to head out to the repair shop to pick up my 'paperweight,' when they called back to say that they'd taken one final crack at the power jack replacement and - wonder of wonders - this time it actually worked! *laugh* The whole thing seems a bit odd to me but I'm ridiculously relieved that I won't have to be buying a new computer after all ... what a delightfully unexpected 'happy ending'. Nevertheless thanks again, everyone, for your advice!
posted by zeph at 11:32 AM on September 1, 2007

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