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Dell m1330 Woes


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The problem with being an early adopter is that you’re the one finding the problems with the first revision of the hardware. I’ve missed a few weeks’ update of this site because my Dell m1330 laptop experienced severe stability problems, then died and had to be sent to repair. Now that it’s back and working again, I figured I’d give some details about my problem in case someone else suffers the same.

A couple of weeks ago I started getting weird computer errors: the screen would freeze for a few seconds, the colors of the picture strangely messed up, then the screen would flicker a few times, go black and everything would return to normal after a few seconds. Vista then showed me an error message telling me that my video card driver — specifically the file nvlddmkm.sys –  had crashed but was recovered successfully. Updating my video card driver didn’t help and my BIOS was up to date.

With time, those crashes became more and more frequent, so I called Dell’s support. The m1330 is a XPS laptop — Dell’s flagship gaming line of PCs — for which they have a special service line. I’d heard bad things about Dell’s service, but I didn’t have any problem: a technician answered the phone quickly and directed me to uninstall my video card  driver then reinstall it while in Windows’ “Safe” mode. Since the problem only happened once in a while, the technician told that he would call me later that  week to see if the problem was solved.

It wasn’t. The driver clearly wasn’t at fault since I kept having the same problem. I did some research online and found out that a lot of the m1330 laptops with the Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS video cards had this problem. After 6 months or so they’d start showing the nvlddmkm.sys error message and about a week later the laptop would be dead, the only remedy being sending it back to Dell so they could put a new motherboard in.

Not the kind of news I was hoping to read. I called Dell’s service again. As I was going through more advanced diagnostics, my laptop began agonizing. When I rebooted, the screen would fill slowly with colored lines and nothing else would be visible. If I was lucky enough to reach my desktop, the video card driver would crash over and over until the screen just stayed black. The Dell technician quickly agreed to arrange for a pick-up of my laptop so a new motherboard could be put in (the m1330 is so compact that the videocard is embedded in the motherboard itself and can’t be changed separately).

I was told that the repair would take 5 to 7 work days, but it was much faster than that. I’m actually surprised at how fast and without trouble Dell handled this. It’s worth paying extra for a XPS PC if only for the service.

I can’t say such good things about Dell’s engineering team, however. I’m rather frustrated about this whole issue — I buy a top of the line laptop and I have to send it for repair after less than a year. Now I just hope my computer won’t die again in 6 months time. Good thing I took the 3 years warranty…

18 Responses

  1. Allen Smith Says:

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    Had exactly the same problem but have no warranty, how much is a mother board, does anyone know

  2. Pierre-Alexandre Garneau Says:

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    You should call Dell’s support, they’ll be able to give you the information you need.

    Are you sure your computer isn’t under warranty? The m1330 came out just about a year ago and Dell’s basic warranty is 1 year if I’m not mistaken, so there’s a very good likelyhood that your computer is still covered even if you didn’t pay extra for an extended warranty.

  3. OI VEY Says:

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    im having same problems.. i dont want to send it in!!!!

  4. glsmas Says:

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    You can get a refurbished motherboard at Dell support for about $300 US.

  5. Umair Says:

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    I have Dell XPS-M1330, the one I am using right now. It has the same problem. I thought I am the only one but seems like many people are having the same problem. Its under warranty though but wondering if there is any easy solution to this.
    I got this myself that driver is not actually the problem and its something to do with the display chip. Now as its not in worst condition, and it works for more than an hour without having this problem, I am just wondering if there is something I can do before it stops working forever.

  6. Pierre-Alexandre Garneau Says:

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    Sadly, I don’t think there’s anything you can do. Nvidia has anounced that they have this problem with a bunch of different chips. Del has released new Bios and drivers to help with the problem — they turn the graphic card’s fan earlier to slow the heat problem — but that’s not good if you are already seeing the problem.

  7. Umair Says:

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    as I read some post on some forum before, my computer died in like a week after I had the problem first :-(. Only white screen when powered up.
    Then I kept searching on the internet for the solution and found out another post in which someone wrote.
    When it dies finally, Turn on using Fn + PowerUP and then wait for a long time for system beep, then press N and when after sometime it beeps again press Y and then hold on for sometime and turn it off manually.
    Restart and everything is back for sometime. Backup any data and try to keep the system cool in this while. I am posting this using the same laptop :P. I dunno if it makes any difference but I’ve kept the brightness to minimum.
    Hope this is helpful. Its not a fix but atleast u can get a chance to bakcup your important data.

  8. Hakan Says:

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    Exactly the same problem with mine, though mine is a more recently purchased one. What is the point of a warranty if you keep on having to use it? I’d prefer a computer that just worked. The BIOS and driver update won’t fix the problem. I’ll let you know how it goes when they arrive tomorrow to replace the video card.

  9. Hakan Says:

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    Update: Dell came and replaced the card (and motherboard since they are tightly integrated). Works fine, but the problem is they use refurbished products. The board they used had BIOS revision A08 (currently up to A12). They really should use a new one given that I just bought my computer. Advice to all-make sure you have the 3 year guarantee with this product (you can extend online even after the original purchase)

  10. Jeff Says:

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    I’m having the same issue. My warranty for the M1330 laptop expired about 2 weeks ago. I’ve had it for a little bit more than a year. Does anyone know if the problem can be fixed by just completely restoring the laptop to it’s factory condition? Was it a hardware issue because I haven’t had any problems in the past year until now…

  11. Pierre-Alexandre Garneau Says:

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    It’s an hardware problem Nvidia is having with a lot of its mobile graphic cards. I’m affraid there’s not much you can do…

  12. ferg Says:

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    I read theres a fix you can do yourself, the copper mod,
    http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=268081

    apparently the heat conductive paste between the card and the heat sink is low quality, causing the chip to overheat and finally burnout. I was very dissappointed to hear this as it seems inherent in all m1330 as well as other computors.
    http://www.electronista.com/articles/08/07/09/nvidia.g84.g86.faulty/

    Surely enough basis for a complete factory recall, but no. You can read about it on the direct to dell blog at their support site.
    I m not sure but I think opening the computor and replacing the paste will invalidate the warrenty. I went for a 4 year warrenty so am personally hoping that the chipset will be updated by the time i burn out! Obviousely things like graphic intense programs that rely heavily on the chipset cause heat build up and will more likely lead to burnout. Good luck.

  13. ferg Says:

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    I see now that the copper mod will affect the warranty, from the mod site

    Disclaimer:

    This mod will void your Dell XPS M1330 Notebook’s warranty and may result in future problems. You are responsible for all risks and consequences arising out of this mod or the attempt to try this mod. This guide is provided for educational purposes only.

  14. Dee Says:

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    So yeah, this happened to me as well. I’m not sure what makes me more angry- the non-recall, the non-warning or the incredibly poor service Dell provides these days.
    I’ve been buying Dells since 1982. I’m fairly sure this will be my last!

  15. Mike Says:

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    Had exactly the same problem except mine died within a week. Sent it off to dell and they sent it back to me and I had my laptop within a day. I was very relieved because my 1 year warranty was almost up. Well now a mere 2 months later I’m pretty annoyed because my warranty is up and my computer is not working anymore. The replaced motherboard they gave me had issues with the VGA output being fuzzy, since I used the HDMI port for my external DVI monitor I completely ignored it. Then about 2 weeks ago my computer output started becoming fuzzy on both the laptop screen and external monitor. I just rebooted and everything worked fine. Then one day it just shut down instantly while I was using it and never turned on again and whenever I plug in my power supply the light goes off on the power supply. I read somewhere in another forum that they were gonna charge some guy $700 to repair his computer. Obviously something shorted out on my motherboard so I will have to do the same. Also when my dad bought his Inspiron 1520 there was a huge plastic warp in his screen which got significantly worse over the next week when he was using it and he had to send it back in. In summary I can’t see myself ever buying a dell again.

  16. Pawel Says:

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    Aaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!

    This has just started happening to me.

    Damn you NVIDIA

    I just hope DELL offers a repair/replacement.

    Is there any chance of a class action lawsuit?

  17. Olof Elvingson Says:

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    Mine is 5 months out of warranty, and it just happend again. Dell didn’t even ask about the warranty when I called today. They will send a tech out to replace MB tomorrow.

    Also see this from direct2dell website…

    Dell will offer a 12-month limited warranty enhancement specific to this issue. For all customers worldwide, we plan to add 12 months of coverage for this issue to the existing limited warranty up to 60 months from the date of purchase for the following systems:

    Dell Product Name

    Dell Precision M2300
    Latitude D630
    Vostro Notebook 1400

    Dell Precision M4300
    Latitude D630c
    Vostro Notebook 1510

    Dell Precision M65
    Latitude D820
    Vostro Notebook 1710

    Inspiron 1420
    Latitude D830
    XPS M1330

    Latitude D620
    Vostro Notebook 1310
    XPS M1530

    Update: Over the last few days, customers like Steve Johnson, John and Robert have asked if their systems are affected. Throughout this process, Dell has undertaken a detailed assessment of this issue. If your system is not listed in the table above, you do not need to do anything. If you have one of the systems listed above with an NVIDIA graphics card and are experiencing video-related issues I described in the bullet point section of my first post about NVIDIA GPUs, please contact Dell Technical Support.

  18. Hakan Says:

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    See my comments in August. The same thing happened to the replacement motherboard-why did Dell replace it with a refurbished model that has the same problem? 2 motherboard replacements and another service call in addition to other miscellaneous relatively minor failures (ie, the Wi-Fi indicator light failing, the fascia panel on the front falling off) makes me believe that they have major quality control issues. Toshibas are more expensive but they work and don’t look like they have been put together with super glue. Again, make sure you have a 3 year extended warranty with this product-you will need it unless you have need of an expensive paperweight.

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