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I've got an old Dell Latitude D610 running XP Pro that's given me six years of trusty service, though it might've finally met its end.

The lead-in:

About a week ago I was using the laptop for mundane tasks (reading a .pdf, listening to some music, and on Gmail with Chrome), nothing unusual, when everything froze up. No blue screen, but no sound and no movement, though the screen was still up and running - your typical freeze. This was odd to me as I've rarely had any freezing moments on the laptop, but there it was. So I hard restarted, which is when the problem began in earnest.

The problem:

Since that point (with one exception that I'll mention in a moment), every time I press the power button, the laptop powers on, the screen does not light up, and after a three-or-so second hang it powers itself down. I never see anything on the screen. I've done this quite a few times at this point, and the only exception was that once, for no reason I can account for, it booted normally and got to the desktop, but then froze up again while startup programs were still loading. Same deal since then.

My initial thought is a RAM issue, but after looking around online, it seems that a couple other people have had this same problem where it was a fried mobo or even a broken HDD. I've got my fingers crossed for RAM, but does anyone have concrete ideas?

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Best option here is to test your variables. Remove the HDD, remove all but one stick of RAM (unless there is only one, then just change slots) and try again. If you can borrow a spare dimm from someone, try other RAM too. –  MaQleod May 16 '11 at 19:23
    
@MaQleod: Yep, I'll be doing that when I get home today. Good call. –  erekalper May 16 '11 at 19:25
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2 Answers 2

Mainboard or CPU.

Memory isn't involved in the boot really until after the BIOS loads. Sometimes memory errors can be significant enough to cause a problem pre-BIOS, but that is the exception, not the rule.

As RAM is much cheaper than either mainboard or CPU, and you're much more likely to have some lying around, check that first. But don't be surprised if the issue is a mainboard or CPU issue.

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Agh, the words I was fearing. But it's time to face the music. Thanks for the advice. –  erekalper May 16 '11 at 20:24
    
NP. Same thing just started happening with my 7 year old HP DV1000. It had survived as long as it had partially due to friends with the same laptop that failed. I'd been able to cannibalize theirs to keep my going. But then I ran out of friends and it failed again... –  music2myear May 16 '11 at 20:38
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Dells usually ship with a diagnostic partition. If that is still present, access by pressing F12 as system BIOS screen is displayed and then selecting diagnostics from the boot menu. Sould help identify teh problem area.

A second part runs as a GUI based app and can be run multiple times to test more deeply.

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Can't even get to the BIOS to do that, that's the issue. Nothing appears, I have no control, and it powers down. Plus, it's undergone multiple reformats, so I don't think the partition still exists. –  erekalper May 16 '11 at 20:22
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