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So the graphics card on one of my laptops is officially dead. I'm currently using it as a web server, by logging in remotely to the machine whenever I have to configure something.

Where I'm uncertain is how would I go about reinstalling Windows for instance / or accessing the BIOS settings?

I assume those USB Video cards out there don't really work before the OS boots up. What are my options?

I have a PC card slot on the machine also. Do PC card slot video cards work during the boot loader? Or do they only have drivers on top of the OS.

Any suggestions?

UPDATE: The laptop is a Dell Precision M65, and the graphics card is Nvidia Quadro FX 350M. You can see the machine specs here

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A lot of this depends on the system board, sadly. Can you be more specific about the machine? – Shinrai Jul 27 '10 at 22:55
Is your laptop's video card on board (built into the motherboard)? Or is it an add in card, like a mobile nVidia card? – James Watt Jul 28 '10 at 0:34
I've updated the post with more details. It's basically a Dell Precision M65, with a NVidia Quadro Fx 350M graphics card. – Mircea Grelus Jul 28 '10 at 10:52
up vote 1 down vote accepted

As Hotei said, my first suggestion would always be that if your laptop has an alternate video output, you can always try using that... However, in the past year or so, this solution has worked less and less - in fact, not at all on recent models (where the actual GPU is dead).

You are sort of in luck that the computer actually boots (some of the time, faulty GPU causes the computer or the OS to fail booting)... If you are happy with it like that at the moment, I would stick with it.

I personally have one laptop like this that a client gave to me as part-payment and I use it for testing purposes. (Recently, a little hobby of mine is PXE booting Linux boxes and starting a web server with a control panel!)... You could always look at PXE installing OS's, but it isn't that easy to get right.

If you want to use this computer again, and it is under warranty or you have an Nvidia 8 series card, it may be worth speaking to your manufacturer - In the case of Nvidia, many have extended warranties due to heat problems and as for manufacturer - it may just be worth trying your luck!

If you do not have any luck with the above, it may be worth getting a cost from your local IT Specialist (Going to a professional is not admitting defeat!)- I do not know how they do it in Amsterdam (profile!) but in the UK a few shops do repairs themselves, others send laptops to a third party for component repair. You can usually get a BGP reflow for under £150 that should correct "most" problems... but you may be pleasantly surprised by the fee.

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Thanks Wil for the suggestions. I've updated the post with details about the machine. I have a docking station also and I've tried both the DVI and RGB video outputs with an external monitor but it just displays color vertical stripes. See my comment on "hotei"'s post for a similar picture. The warranty is out and I'm not keep on spending money on another NVidia card for this machine. This is the 3rd time the graphics card burnt out. The other two times the machine was in warranty, and they've exchanged it. But it looks like there's a problem with this machine. Looking for alternate solution – Mircea Grelus Jul 28 '10 at 11:17
@Mircea Grelus - The graphics card is certainly to blame, if it is an Nvidia 8 series one / based off of it, they are manufactured faulty and you should be able to get a replacement or refund... Simply put, the goods were not satisfactory quality and there are enough reports (even Nvidia admitted) of problems. ... However, you may be out of luck. I think I have given all the options above and can't really suggest anything else - Sorry I couldn't be more help! ... If you can install remotely, you may have luck with a USB video card, but I can't really advise (and a repair may be cheaper!) – William Hilsum Jul 28 '10 at 16:08
.. Should say, USB video card would work for getting a screen up - most likely NOT for installing the OS... – William Hilsum Jul 28 '10 at 16:08

This is a longshot but does your laptop have an alternative output like a 15 pin monitor port or S-Video or HDMI ? If so, hook it up and see what happens when you hit the function key to switch screens. You might get a surprise...

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Tried that right after the card died. Connecting an external monitor shows just vertical stripes of different colors from boot till OS load. Similar to these ones: but multicolored and without a pattern. – Mircea Grelus Jul 28 '10 at 11:04

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