I had purchased my first ever laptop in April 2008, the XPS M1530 from Dell. The laptop had been working great for almost 2.5 years without much issues (barring the battery replacement). One fine morning, when I pressed the start button, the buttons on the media strip lit up like normal, but the screen stayed dead. I checked the power LED, it was flickering, indicating the laptop had been started, but just wasnt displaying anything.
I tried to check it with the diagnostic test specified in the dell manual. Press and hold the “D” key while pressing the start button when you bootup. The test succeded, the LCD started displaying different colors indicating the LCD in itself was alright. I then tried the other diagnostic test, which was, press and hold “Fn” key while pressing the start button. With this test, I had the numlock LED blinking with the other LEDs solid blue. The discription for that reads:
“The microcontroller is handing control of the system to the processor. This code persists if no processor is detected.”
I couldnt figure out what this message meant, and hence, I called up Dell tech support. He diagnosed it as a motherboard issue the fix was to replace the motherboard. As the laptop was out of warrenty, it would cost me, almost 18K. I had no intention to invest that kind on money on this laptop, hence I tried looking over the web for people facing similar issues and what they did to fix it.
During my search, I found out, it was a common problem with a lot of people and had something to do with the faulty GPU from nvidia that Dell had been using. There had been a class action lawsuit for the same and dell had actually extended the warranty to one more year for all such computers globally. But this wasnt helpful for me, as I was way out of the extended period too.
I kept looking, hopping from one forum to the other, reading comments on the posts etc. Some of the forums suggested that such issues can be fixed, by baking the GPU chip on the board. The theory said that over a period of constant usage, the metal contacts which hold the chip to the motherboard, get loose and develop minor cracks in them. A extended exposure to heat would fill the cracks and reinforce these metal contacts on to the board. Although, it sounds bizzare, but there were a hell lot of comments recommending it with thier success stories.
Initially, I rejected the idea, I felt excessive heat would rather damage the chip or might melt the contacts. But on second thoughts, I actually had nothing to loose, the laptop was already a dead investment. So, I decided to give it a try. I didnt have an oven to bake the board, but had a hair dryer, which I felt might do the trick.
To start off with the new plan, I carefully removed the battery, unscrewed the back-plate and removed the RAM slits. Dell XPS m1530 has a common heat sink arrangement for the CPU and the GPU chips, so I had to remove the heat sink too. Here, one has to be careful to disconnect the power supply wire for the heat sink fan before lifting up the heat sink. After the heat sink was gone, it was easy to spot the nVidia GPU.
With the hair dryer set to max heat, I started to blow over the GPU, focussing on the edges. I blowed over it in short spans of 4-5 minutes, letting the components cool off a bit in between. After almost 20-25 minutes of heating up the GPU, I left it to cool down and re-set all the components one after the other.
The process was done, and it was time now to see if it was successful. I connected the battery to the laptop, and pressed the start button. I was hoping to see the screen lit up, but on the contrary, nothing happened. Not a single LED even blinked. I almost cursed myself for messing it up before I realised, it wasnt the laptop, but the battery which was dead. I then connected the power supply, pressed the start button, and voila!.. It started working!!! The laptop booted up like nothing had ever happened.
Yes, the issue has been resolved and its been more than 15 days, since it has been working perfectly. I still have no idea about the actual science behind it, but whatever it is, it resurrected my dead XPS.