Got a dead Alienware Area 51 m9750 that simply won’t start up? Read on, there’s a very simple solution to this problem.
A few days ago I found a post about an Alienware Area 51 m9750 that died suddenly and won’t turn on. Reading through the question I realized that this Alienware m9750 suffers from the well know Maxim chip motherboard failure, quite popular with Toshiba and HP laptops.
Initially, the user had the following experience with the Alienware m9750
- When Windows loaded there were artifacts on the screen , then black screen
- at reboot in Safe Mode there were no artifacts, but when loaded normally and played a movie artifacts appeared again and then the screen went black
- Later it took several minutes to get into Windows, and the laptop works OK for easy tasks such as typing or email, but when watching a movie or playing a game artifacts appeared again and then black screen.
Then, the user spent a lot of time to reformat the hard drive, install Windows afresh with the latest drivers, but when he plaid the first video it only took 15 seconds for the artifacts to reappear, then the screen turned black, and at reboot the artifacts appeared again. The very last moments of the Alienware m9750?s life the user browsed the net and then suddenly the laptop shut down. He even re-seated the graphics card hoping that will fix the problem but the laptop still won’t turn on.
Here is how the laptop behaves now at each attempt to power up:
- LEDs light up as expected
- The Hard Drive LED blinks a few times and stops
- The DVD drive spins up as if it’s trying to read media
- CPU Fan spins up for a second and then suddenly stops
- There’s nothing on the LCD
Taking this into account the laptop’s behavior and its reluctance to boot, together with the residual pixels on your LCD, here’s my analysis. I’ll start from the end and work my way to the beginning.
LCDs work in such a way that crystals are excited with a digital signal, and the starting ridge of the digital signal turns a pixel on, making it reflect a certain wavelength and in this way it becomes a part of the picture. The ending/residing ridge of this digital, excitement signal shuts the pixel off, i.e it discharges the electricity and the pixel gets into dormant stage, or it gets a new feed to “regroup” and reflect a different wavelength of the white backlight.
If the LCD has static images in several instances(residual segments of images from the previous screen), this may point to a bad graphics card, but that’s not always the case. Most of the times, graphics card failures result in image distortion, and most of the time you can recognize a pattern (straight lines, color distorted stripes, that sort of thing).
Now then, residual images on LCDs means residual electricity, which in turn reveals that the circuitry that discharges the LCD matrix is not operational. This circuitry is a separate logical component, and is a part of the power regulating circuitry in the motherboard. It’s not a part of the graphical interface.
The listed symptoms: LEDs blinking for a few seconds, the CPU fan spins for a second and the laptop goes dead again… that’s a spot-on describing a complete failure of the power regulating circuity. Older laptop models used the Maxim 1987, or a Maxim 1532ETL, and lately laptops use the Maxim 97xx.
The Maxim 1987 or Max1532 or Maxim 97xx, aka Power Driver, takes care of the voltage ratings and timing. It is this chip that initiates startup of the various physical components on the motherboard: CPU, GPU, FSB, RAM, etc. It also handles turning off power when needed, so it’s intimately related to the power-up and power-down procedures of the laptop.
If this chip goes bad, the laptop will at first experience some weird symptoms, as mentioned previously. The ultimate failure is when the laptop breaks down (almost) completely. If we pay close attention to the LEDs blinking we’ll pick up a four-blinks pattern. This is the POST error code (equivalent to beep error codes with desktop PCs), and no matter which error code is displayed, it always points to a power issue.
There’s nothing wrong with the graphics card, the CPU, ram, Windows, drivers, or any other thing you may think of. The only way to repair this failure is to replace the motherboard or fix the Maxim chip problem. This is a well known problem and quite popular with Toshiba and HP laptops, and it turns out that not even Alienware is immune to this motherboard failure.
Below is a repair manual that has helped hundreds of people repair their dead Toshiba and HP laptops, and according to the symptoms, it will work perfectly for the Alienware m9750 also.
Notice the bookmarked bar at the left side. This makes navigating through the manual very easy. Every section is bookmarked, as well as the illustrations.
This is a sample of the illustrations in this manual. These images will help you understand what the problem is and what needs to be done. The repair process is fully illustrated so there is no room for guesswork.
You will also get closeup photos of the Maxim chip resolder, as reference, so you can compare your work and make sure you’re doing a good job. The resolder process and three options are fully illustrated and thoroughly explained.