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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…