Alienware 18 locking up before able to load drivers

Jeff Perkins
Jeff Perkins used Ask the Experts™
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Alienware 18 laptop, just over 3 years old.
Original Setup, WD hard drive with 80gb msata
started having problems with it when it was upgraded from Win 8.1 to 10
Tried going back to Win 8.1, but system froze on any reboot.  
Did a full restore, from factory restore partition, same result.  System would run fine until a reboot or shut down and the hang upon startup.
If I took the hard drive out and booted to it in another system then put it back in the laptop and booted it would run until reboot or shutdown.
Ran Western Digital Diags came back error free.
Ran MemTest something like 16 or 18 passes, no errors.
Tried another hard drive, same result.
Loaded Windows 8.1 from original disk, formated all drives removing all recovery partitions and everything.  
Loaded up and tried installing drivers.  On second driver system froze.  
As things progressed, tried reloading windows 3 or 4 times, but as soon as I started to load the first driver, no matter what I chose, the system froze.  
I then loaded windows and proceeded directly to Dell support site to begin downloading drivers direct.  Before the first one ever got downloaded the system froze again.  Windows is not corrupt again and won't restart.  
I also ran the Dell diagnostics, including the full memory scan, and everything passed.
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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer
Commented:
Your troubleshooting so far is exemplary.

There is no blue-screen error, presumably.

At this point I would start to wonder if there is a problem on the internal PCI bus, since the issue occurs only when loading drivers and it doesn't matter which driver is being loaded.

Are there any indications in the event logs as to what happened when the system locked up?

Can you borrow an install CD/DVD for a previous version of Windows such as V7, install that, and see if the problem persists?

Author

Commented:
Ok, since posting the question, I downloaded the latest bios update and installed that.  Prior to the bios update, I didn't even get to loading drivers before locking up.  All I had to do was be using the system and it would lock up, for instance the last two times it locked up, was while vising the Dell site and starting to download drivers.  
Both of these times were during downloads, 1 prior to the bios update and 1 after.
I'm starting to suspect that one or both of the video cards may be the problem.  I see flickers in the video when trying to get to the web and download the appropriate drivers.  Again, this is before loading anything other than Windows 8.1
Any suggestion on how I can test the video cards to confirm my suspicion?
I figure it's either a vid card or one of the ram chips. But I'm doubtful on the ram.
I just tried to enter the eventvwr to check the logs and got a snap in not responding message and then the system froze again.  This was just after booting to windows from the last lockup.
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer
Commented:
Can you get a CPU thermal monitoring program into the system to rule out a heat issue?
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Author

Commented:
Dr. Klahn,
     I don't think so, I can't get it to stay in Windows long enough to open eventvwr or open a browser and navigate to dell.com for driver downloads before it locks up.

Author

Commented:
Ah, running the self diagnostics I did see this screen shot of the temps.pic of temps from BIST20170427_223938.jpg
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer

Commented:
Hmm ... I would consider those temperatures high for an unloaded system.  However, that should probably be put on the shelf for later investigation.  Opening and cleaning a laptop's cooling system is generally annoying and always finicky.

Author

Commented:
I'm pretty fairly competent at applying new cpu paste and cleaning out the fans. I hesitate to think this is the problem, the fan seems to be working sufficiently without overworking...
But I'm running up against a brick wall here.
I left it running the BIST tonite and will get back on it in the morning, this thing is wearing me out.
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.
Commented:
Boot from a Live Linux CD and let it run using that.  Or even install Linux and try that out.

Ubuntu  https://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/try-ubuntu-before-you-install

This does seem like a hardware error.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
can you point out at which driver install it froze?

Author

Commented:
@Dbrunton,
Good suggestion, once I have it booted, what would you suggest running. I've got a Hiren's that will allow me to boot to either mini xp or linux. Not sure what sort of hardware tests may be available in those platforms?

@nobus
Hey bud, long time no talk,  it's not a driver issue, that much has been rolled out, I don't even have drivers loaded and it's locking up, just going to the browser or event logs.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
running Linux - or another OS will show you if that runs fine or not
if it runs - it's probably NOT hardware - but soft
 if it does NOT run ok - vice versa

Author

Commented:
Ok, I booted to the hirens cd this morning and it's running mini linux without any issues.... but I have doubts that this is utilizing both gpu's in this laptop?
I'm going to try a Windows 7 load and see what sort of result I get.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
well  on EE they don't like the cd you mentioned...so i can't help with that

Author

Commented:
Nobus and South Mod,
   My apologies, I didn't realize Hirens was pirated stuff. I'd prefer not to be using such things either, so cancel that out.  

@everyone helping with the problem.
Dell Support responded to my request for info and suggested that if I suspect the GPU I could remove one or both of them, and see if the lock ups stop.  

Haven't had a lot of time in the past couple of days to work on it, but hoping to this evening, still open to any other suggestions.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
can you disable the video card(s) in the bios one at the time - for testing?
Wow, for the record....
   No, you cannot disable the video cards in the bios. However see the note below for further info.
   Upon contacting Dell support, they informed me, based upon my suspicion that one or both of the GPU's might be the issue, that I could remove them and see if the issue was resolved. Either both or one at a time, and suggested that I test in both slots. As well as doing the same with all 4 of the ram chips.  This is a very extended effort to do so, as the entire laptop has to be pretty much disassembled to remove either GPU as well as 2 of the 4 ram chips.  
   
   Low and behold, during the conversation with the Dell Support rep, she informed me that the laptop is still under warranty. I have been banging my head on this keyboard for over a week now trying to figure out the problem, because my friend was under the impression the warranty ran out back in November of last year.  So they are sending a box to ship it back to Dell.  

   Which brings me to the question of what to do with this question. I will take any and all advice on the matter.  Should I award split points to the helpful contributors?  or should I just let it be closed, not actually having a resolution?  Does the question pose information for future users?   Chime in and tell me what you think.
   Thanks again to everyone reaching out to help.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
only distribute points if you found the posts helpful

Author

Commented:
Being unable to solve the problem, the laptop in question is under warranty and being sent back to Dell, the solution is provided for guidance for future questioners with the same or similar problem.

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