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dell inspiron overheats(?), fan comes on full speed, locks up computer

Posted on 2010-08-17
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Last Modified: 2013-11-17
dell inspiron 5100, pentium 4, win xp

after 5 - 10 minutes of normal use from a cold state, apparently it overheats as fan come on and quiclky steps up to full speed (sort of sounds like it's going too fast), once the top fan speed is reached (sounds extremely fast) the computer locks up, totally unresponsive, must be power cycled to restart.   meanwhile the fan continues charging along at full speed the entire time until powered down.   upon subsequent startup, the fan resumes full speed, but shortly after boot up it settles down to a medium speed for a time before the whole process continues.

if i prop the computer so that the fan intake (on the bottom surface) overhangs a table and theres a decent breeze, this may delay the fan from charging up and locking the computer.

now I've started using it set on top of on external fan, it mostly seems to be okay, until additional power consumption overhead such as video or especially audio becomes too great and causes that fan to charge up full speed and lock up the computer.

what do the experts suggest?

thanks
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Question by:rwj04
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by:
nstrong earned 100 total points
ID: 33460777
A couple of things I would check:

1) If you press Control-Alt-Delete and look at the task manager Performance tab, is the CPU being used at 100% all of the time? If so, we would need to troubleshoot what is hogging your CPU.

2) Is your BIOS up to date? You can go to support.dell.com and plug in your service tag and see what the latest BIOS revisions are.

3) If nothing is using lots of CPU, and BIOS is up to date, then it could be that the thermal grease between your CPU and the heatsink on it is not working, and you might need to open up the laptop and improve thermal connectivity between the CPU and the heatsink it is attached to.

It could also be the video card overheating - which could require updated video card drivers, or perhaps the heatsink on the video card is not connected correctly.
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by:Telxon
Telxon earned 100 total points
ID: 33460783
Sounds like you've got it identified, you just need to fix it. If you're comfortable doing so, I'd disassemble the laptop and look for dirt / dust / hair etc clogging the heatsink and heatpipe near the fan. It's probably blocked and just needs cleaned. While you're there, make sure the heatsink assembly is securely connected (no loose screws etc) to the CPU and or GPU.
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by:csalaski
csalaski earned 100 total points
ID: 33460793
Sounds like the cpu is overheating.  Is the inside of the case free of dust?  Is the heatsink on the CPU as well as the fan free of dust? Is there adequate airflow through the case?

If it weren't for the lockups I'd suggest adjusting the temp in bios at which the fan ramps up to full speed. But because you say that it does indeed lockup, it's most likely that heat is your problem.

Also, is this a factory built CPU/fan setup? Is the heatsink and fan rated for that particular cpu?

If it is the right heatsink/fan combination, make sure they are both clean. Install another case fan which can be had for around $15.00 if you have a free vent to mount it in.

I recently had one of our machines that has been running fine for 7 or so ears suddenly start shutting down after a few minutes of use.  Turned out the retaining clip that held the heatsink/fan assembly had failed. So there wasn't good contact between the heatsink and CPU. I reapplied heatsink compound and remounted everything and it's been fine since.

What kind of load are you putting on the CPU? Do you have a lot of apps running the cpu at 100% for extended periods of time?
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Expert Comment

by:csalaski
ID: 33460824
Oops, it's a laptop, I just went and looked at the manual for it and found out. Same advice though. Dirt and dust are your enemies here. If you are comfortable taking a laptop to clean it, then do so. Possibly renew the Thermal compound bonding the heatsink to the CPU while you're in there.

Failing that, NStrong has outlined what you can do from the software configuration side.
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by:Grant1842
Grant1842 earned 25 total points
ID: 33460826
Sounds like this problem is identified . I would only add while you have it apart hit the mother board ribbon connectors with some compressed air and if you have a clean pencil eraser rub it lightly over the flat cable ends to clean them as well.
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by:the_scotsman_
the_scotsman_ earned 175 total points
ID: 33461134
Disassembly instructions for the Inspiron 5100 with pictures can be found here: http://www.modhotspot.com/laptop_heatsink.php

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by:rwj04
ID: 33461554
okay, so what i'm not convinced about, is that the machine locks up immediately when the fan kicks in to 100%.   every single time, when that fan hits peak RPM (it seems unusually loud/fast), the machine locks.

this problem just recently started happening with more and more frequency.

no theres no CPU intensive work being done, just internet research and email for my wife as she studies.   her course lectures on webstreaming is the worst offender for CPU overhead.  otherwise System Idle Process is 90% or more.

so what i'm wondering, is there an easy and safe way to monitor the heat and/or control the fan speed.   i don't feel especially comfortable taking apart the laptop and futzing with the CPU thermal stuff, so i'd kind of want to save that for last resort.

of course if that's just all there is to it, then i might as well get busy.   but still im suspicious that the lockup always occurs exactly when that fan hits peak RPM.    
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by:rwj04
ID: 33461798
eh, i just installed some temp monitoring sw... looks like my CPU is 74C.   Even with an external fan.

thats a bit warm, right?  

:-P


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by:rwj04
ID: 33461799
eh, i just installed some temp monitoring sw... looks like my CPU is 74C.   Even with an external fan.

thats a bit warm, right?  

:-P


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by:the_scotsman_
ID: 33461875
yep, thats fairly hot, especially for a laptop as old as that.

I suggest you do as we have said above, it's not at all difficult to get to the fan on the 5100, will only take 5 minutes, and will definitely be of benefit to clean out the heatsink and fan area.
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by:rwj04
ID: 33461884
thanks for everyone's help.   in hindsight  its a no-brainer, but you all convinced me that it is heat and not a weird fan problem.

the picture instructions will be especially useful.





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