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tipoo
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Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:17 pm

So here's an interesting one for you. My old Dell Studio 15 only boots when the processor/GPU/heatsink has been allowed to get piping hot. This either involves leaving it on for hours, or speeding it up by blowing a hairdryer into the vent. The fan only comes on when it's overheated, and once it starts blowing I know I can successfully boot it up. Once it's on, it works 100% without fail. I've taken to leaving it on all the time because of this, but any time I need a reboot it's a risk to not being able to start up.

Soo, my theory here is that it's the ball grid array under the GPU, some solder in there probably cracked and getting really hot allows it to reconnect, then once it's on it stays warm enough to stay in contact.

Any other theories? Should I go ahead and try a reflow? Or is it more likely something else, like bad caps?

I already have a new laptop (15" haswell rmbp...Quite a step up from this, I'm dying of gooditude. Apart from Yosemite being a buggy pos), so I don't much care if I break the old one.
 
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:57 pm

Your theory is a good one!

If the motherboard is easy to pull a reflow is probably worth a try. Otherwise, this one is ready for the scrap heap.
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Thu Dec 04, 2014 8:02 am

I've seen this in a Viao laptop before - something (probably a surface mount part) must have been loose and as the board warmed and expanded it was enough to make it run stably, but I could only get it to boot by flexing the whole laptop upwards and holding it there for a few minutes. Whatever the problem was it required a contraction of the backside of the motherboard, or the whole board to expand fractionally from heating up, before it would run.

I junked the laptop. No way I was going to reflow the whole damn backside of the motherboard.
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tipoo
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:28 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
I junked the laptop. No way I was going to reflow the whole damn backside of the motherboard.



I'm seeing it as a fun project rather than work I have to do. So, two votes agreeing that a reflow is likely needed?
 
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:54 pm

Based on what you said, yeah - sounds like it.

The Studio15 is the wedge-shaped plastic laptop, right? Since it's plastic there's likely a bit of flex in the chassis (probably what caused it to fail in the first place) so you could try cold-booting whilst applying pressure in various directions to see if that makes a difference. If the short or gap is so close that a little bit of thermal expansion does the trick, you should be able to get a similar result to thermal expansion just with some flexing.
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:15 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
I've seen this in a Viao laptop before - something (probably a surface mount part) must have been loose and as the board warmed and expanded it was enough to make it run stably, but I could only get it to boot by flexing the whole laptop upwards and holding it there for a few minutes. Whatever the problem was it required a contraction of the backside of the motherboard, or the whole board to expand fractionally from heating up, before it would run.

I junked the laptop. No way I was going to reflow the whole damn backside of the motherboard.

For SMT work, manual reflow often isn't an option anyway. Have to remove all plastic bits and try the toaster oven method, and hope you get lucky.
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:42 pm

tipoo wrote:

Any other theories? Should I go ahead and try a reflow? Or is it more likely something else, like bad caps?


As far as boot up oddities good, I have a system that has a bad PMU/SMC unit after 12 years of usage. Manually hitting the motherboard reset putting on the board would enable it to boot once. Once it was working, it was stable but it wouldn't come up after a reboot. Needless to say, reaching into the case every time I needed to reboot/power on got old quick.

With regards to the Dell 15", have you checked to see if there is a means of manually resetting the PMU/SMC ?

I also presume the standard clear CMOS/NVRAM has been performed?
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Mon Dec 08, 2014 10:02 pm

Your first guess is probably right. That said, there's a slim possibility that the CPU fan is partially seized (until it gets hot), and the BIOS is instituting it's "CPU Fan Fail" protection.
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tipoo
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Thu Dec 11, 2014 3:06 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
The Studio15 is the wedge-shaped plastic laptop, right? Since it's plastic there's likely a bit of flex in the chassis (probably what caused it to fail in the first place) so you could try cold-booting whilst applying pressure in various directions to see if that makes a difference. If the short or gap is so close that a little bit of thermal expansion does the trick, you should be able to get a similar result to thermal expansion just with some flexing.



Ah, I should have thought of this! I've repeated it twice now, when leaving it on to heat it up to start it up, I just pressed my palm firmly against the heatsink/fan area, and it started doing the overheating beeping. Every time it gets to that point, I know the next boot will work. It didn't work when I wasn't overheating it and applied pressure though, but maybe I have to try a few more times, maybe takes more pressure when not warm.

So this pretty much confirms it's a flex issue of some sort, and likely the BGA like I originally suspected. Some people with this laptop had success with putting a copper shim between the heastsink and GPU, but this laptop proved to be more of a PITA to open than it might be worth, you have to tear down so much...Bottom panel, then screw under the battery, then flip it around and take out the speaker grille, then the keyboard, etc, lots of flipping back and forth just to get at the mainboard :roll:

Maybe when I'm less lazy.
 
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Thu Dec 11, 2014 3:27 pm

The Egg wrote:
Your first guess is probably right. That said, there's a slim possibility that the CPU fan is partially seized (until it gets hot), and the BIOS is instituting it's "CPU Fan Fail" protection.


That'd be my first thought too. I'd open it up and try poking the fan on a "cold" (badoom-tish) boot to see if that helps things.
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tipoo
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Thu Dec 11, 2014 6:10 pm

Mentawl wrote:
The Egg wrote:
Your first guess is probably right. That said, there's a slim possibility that the CPU fan is partially seized (until it gets hot), and the BIOS is instituting it's "CPU Fan Fail" protection.


That'd be my first thought too. I'd open it up and try poking the fan on a "cold" (badoom-tish) boot to see if that helps things.



The fan moves freely just blowing on it, and doing that while it's in the do-nothing bootup state doesn't help it along. Keeping it spinning while I press the power button doesn't either.

Only the heat thing and now applying pressure around the heatsink help, so I'm sure it's something to do with heat flex. Probably the BGA.
 
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Thu Dec 11, 2014 7:01 pm

tipoo wrote:
The fan moves freely just blowing on it, and doing that while it's in the do-nothing bootup state doesn't help it along. Keeping it spinning while I press the power button doesn't either.

Well nevermind that, unless the machine has more than one fan. How exactly does it react when you try to boot cold?
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tipoo
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Sat Dec 13, 2014 6:24 pm

The Egg wrote:
tipoo wrote:
The fan moves freely just blowing on it, and doing that while it's in the do-nothing bootup state doesn't help it along. Keeping it spinning while I press the power button doesn't either.

Well nevermind that, unless the machine has more than one fan. How exactly does it react when you try to boot cold?


Hard drive spins up, screen stays blank, nothing else. It only starts beeping when it's overheating, then usually when I turn it off and wait a minute (so it's not in overheating state anymore, but still really hot), it turns on properly and starts spewing heat out.


I havn't been able to do more tests on the cold boot while applying pressure, because after appying pressure a few times while hot it's just been starting up normally, even when not hot :o
Careless pressing saves the day?

More testing needed, as a man of science.
 
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Sat Dec 13, 2014 7:38 pm

Is your RAM seated correctly? I'd try the RAM chips one at a time, and also one at a time in different slots. I'd also pull the battery and all the drives while testing for good measure. Does your laptop have a discreet GPU?
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tipoo
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Sat Dec 13, 2014 7:47 pm

The Egg wrote:
Is your RAM seated correctly? I'd try the RAM chips one at a time, and also one at a time in different slots. I'd also pull the battery and all the drives while testing for good measure. Does your laptop have a discreet GPU?


Yup, tried all that early on, its not the RAM or hard drive, or the CMOS battery either. It does have a discreet Radeon 4570 - the failure of which I think is the issue, likely a classic solder crack on the BGA underbelly.
 
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Sat Dec 13, 2014 8:07 pm

So it doesn't involve the camera scanning the person in front of the laptop first, and making a comparison based on an arbitrary "hotness" standard?
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tipoo
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Re: Laptop only boots when hot. yep.

Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:29 pm

entropy13 wrote:
So it doesn't involve the camera scanning the person in front of the laptop first, and making a comparison based on an arbitrary "hotness" standard?


It helps, but you have to talk dirty to it either way.

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