Laptop problem — any ideas?

When I got my laptop about 15 months ago, a couple of times it blanked the screen to gray, requiring a reboots. That problem them ceased.

Today, I had the same happen twice, followed by three more crashes with screen turning vertical pattern of alternating white and red or black and red lines. No rhyme or reason as to when it happens. Any ideas on what could be causing that?

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18 Responses to Laptop problem — any ideas?

  1. Tom says:

    Weird hangs on laptops are usually heat related – probably your graphics chip, in this case. You could install a temperature management program like SpeedFan (free) to trend these on properly equipped chips, and/or try cleaning or blowing dust out of it.

    A distant second could be graphics driver problems. You might need to get those directly from the laptop manufacturer rather than the manufacturer of the chip, but check the GPU maker first.

    An even more distant third could be RAM issues. A bootable thumb drive or CD with Memtest86 left running overnight can test this.

  2. wizardpc says:

    Sounds like a video card driver. I would start there.

  3. Dragon says:

    I concur with a chip getting hot…could be the graphics chip, or your actual CPU itself. Laptops run hot. You indicate that its about 15 months old. The goop that the MFR puts on the CPU to aid in conducting the heat up to the heat sink will dry out over time. My wife’s ASUS needed the paste re-applied every six months due to it drying out with the heat generated by the CPU.

    At this point, I would recommend going to a reputable tech guy, and get the machine blown out from dust, have the fans checked, get new goop applied on the CPU-to-heat-sink, etc. $75 in preventive maintenance is well worth it.

  4. AMB says:

    My guess is probably a bad graphics card. Either a mismounted heatsink/fan assembly, or GPU RAM going bad. Definitely the sort of thing that should be covered under a factory warranty.

  5. Andy says:

    My IBM t41 just did the same thing and it was the video card (chip) coming up from it’s base. The 1st solution is to get a new motherboard, or if your feeling adventurous you can whip out a heat gun and try to reflow the solder! Hope this helps.

  6. Eric Oppen says:

    My last computer would crash-and-reboot at unexpected intervals. I finally found out that the motherboard itself was bad, and replaced it.

  7. perspicuity says:

    what they said above, but also, if you go portable with this, and actually use it as a mobile computer, and open and close the lid, a lot, it could be the ribbon cable to/from the display. might be a loose socket, or it could be a bad cable.


  8. Dave says:

    Go to the manufacturer’s web site and check for firmware/bios updates before you try anything else. I suggest this since you have had the problem from the beginning. It was probably a new model mother board when you got it and needs updating. After that double check your drivers for video and network devices. Then after that check into heat issues. Then have it cracked open and have RAM, vidoe card, network adaptors reseated if they are not integrated into the mother board. After that start checking ribbon cables.

  9. Scott says:

    In addition to the above suggestions, it would be worth trying an external monitor the next time you have this problem to help isolate where the problem is. If it happens with the external monitor, you know it’s not related to the ribbon cable or built-in display.

  10. Stephen says:

    Unfortunately that doesn’t sound even remotely software-related (drivers, firmware, bios, etc). I agree with the others in that it’s likely graphics chip/motherboard and if not heat-induced, then unseating or just general component failure.

  11. ASM826 says:

    Almost certain that it is heat related. Possibly affecting the video card first. If you can, start it and run it with the fan ports blocked and see if the problem doesn’t occur every time. Conversely, set up an outside air supply of some sort, adding cool air flow through the case and see if the problem abates.

    Could be that capacitors are aging and have become more heat sensitive, causing the display to fail when hot.

  12. Cramer says:

    Step one: Clean any dust out of the vents.
    (if that doesn’t help)
    Step two: have someone qualified take it apart and re-seat the heat sinks.

    A coworker DESTROYED a dell laptop by letting the vent get filled with “carpet”. No air went through it at all. The gfx chip melted.

  13. JoeG says:

    First off, if this is a MAC take it to an Apple Store. Let them figure it out. If it’s a PC, call the manufacturer if it’s under warranty, again, let them figure it out.

    If you’re feeling adventurous, check the event logs. If it’s driver or firmware related chances are there will be some events generated when the issue happens. If not, it is likely graphics card related. I had something similar happen in a server, and replacing the graphics card fixed it right up. I understand that with a laptop it’s not quite that simple, but it’s just slightly more inconvenient if your machine is under warranty (a quick mailing to service should get it fixed right up).

  14. Jim says:

    I’d suspect heat too; I had an Acer laptop that had a heatpipe for the CPU, and a little copper tab from it to the other hot chip beside it (either the GPU or the northbridge). Between that tab and its chip was a foam thermal pad which had shrunk and broken contact; If I’d caught it sooner I might have been able to save it. Anyway, try blowing everything out, and if you have someone there to do it have the heatsinks checked. Good luck!


  15. Yabu (EOTIS) says:

    For what you do…get an iMac. Seriously, time to cut to the chase. Darn things will underwater.

  16. Rignerd says:

    Sounds like it could be the display itself. Try an external monitor. If it still works, but the display if bad then the graphics chip/card are OK and the display needs to be replaced or the solder joints on it need to be reflowed. Another test is to gently flex the display or press on it, just hard enough to see if it flakes out, around the edges of the screen. A lot of times the solder joints are marginal (cold) and they’ll come in and out until they corrode enough to go out for good. flexing them while opening the lid stresses them and can fracture joints with insufficient solder. If it is still under any kind of warranty I would back up my stuff (especially if the external monitor works) and send it back to them. If not a search for laptop repair centers in your area might turn up a way to get it back on the road for a fair price.
    As for the suggestion to get a MAC, don’t listen to their lies! They don’t really have cookies on the dark side.

  17. freddyboomboom says:

    As a guy that used to repair laptops for a living (among other things) I feel I have to say the following:

    If it is no longer under warranty, taking it to a shop that is a warranty repair center for that manufacturer is MUCH better than taking it to Joe’s Laptop Repair, as Joe’s can’t get the part from the manufacturer. In other words, they’ll likely get the part from eBay, or other source of questionable parts and you may get a “new” part that will fail as well, possibly catastrophically.

    When I worked for VARs as a service tech, we’d get folks calling us all the time because they found us on *insert manufacturer*’s website and wanted us to work on XYZ machine.

    Depending on how much a replacement machine is, if it’s not under warranty, a replacement machine may be less expensive than the repair.

    BTW: I concur with the idea it’s probably graphics related, possibly the ribbon cable but likely the GPU.

    It is NOT a good idea to flex or pinch the display unless you have experience working on them, as too much flexing can break things, like the LCD panel itself.

    Flexing the screen is not going to affect the solder joints of the surface mount components on the inverter board (if present) in the display.

    Service techs can usually tell if someone has been into the guts of a system, voiding any warranty that may have been in place.

  18. Tango says:

    Video chipset is going nuts. It’s a possibility it’s just the drivers, but I wouldn’t put any money on that. The normal reason that it gets progressively worse is due to dirt and dust getting caked in the airflow. No circulation means the chip WILL eventually start failing, which is what you are seeing it appears. If it were another component, the system would start throwing other errors if it doesn’t just simply reboot. With a video chip going belly up, your computer MIGHT even still be chugging along in the background with no knowledge video has failed. With laptops, it’s very difficult to replace since most parts are integrated with most of the others. Like they said above, if you’re attached to this laptop, take it to a vendor that’s certified by the manufacturer. That DOES NOT INCLUDE BEST BUY unless they’ll do the work for free.

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