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I have a Sony Vaio VPCF11SE, i7 QM 720 CPU running Win7 home premium.

Yesterday, after an hour or two of mostly just surfing the web, my laptop just suddenly died. There was no BSOD, noise or any other forewarning, it just went black. Due to battery problems, similar things have happened before when not plugged into the mains. The difference this time was that when starting again, Windows did not seem aware of the crash. Otherwise, I normally get the screen suggesting to boot in safe mode since it was shut down unexpectedly, but now Windows just booted as normal.

Once in again, I had a look at the Event logs, but the only thing of interest was an entry saying something about "unexpected shutdown" or similar. The same type of sudden shutdown happened once or twice more, after only a few minutes.

Then matters became worse, as the machine started refusing to boot at all. It powers up and I hear the blueray drive waking up, but nothing appears on screen and it appears the BIOS never even loads.

About a week ago I migrated the whole HD to a brand new Samsung SSD, and yesterday, a few hours before this started happening, I replaced the 2 gig RAM module with a 4 gig, giving me a total of 8 gigs of RAM (2x4). But as I said, the machine had been running for a few hours with the new RAM before this problem emerged.

I tried removing the new RAM, swapping the two modules, and removing and re-fitting the hard drive. I have not yet tried using the old hard drive instead.

Can anyone make a qualified guess as to what might have happened? I assume some hardware has become damaged somehow, but I don't know how to proceed from here...

Thanks in advance.

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Is the laptop heating up? – terdon Jan 10 '13 at 14:39
Yeah, this one is not great handling heat it seems, so the fan is very loud and the machine gets pretty hot even under moderate loads. But then, it's been like that since I bought it 2-3 years ago and there has never been any problems. – Peter Herdenborg Jan 10 '13 at 14:42
Good that you have the other drive as a backup of your data! Since it happened after the memory upgrade I think that's more likely. So you have put back the old memory sticks now and still no booting? – Nicholas Tolley Cottrell Jan 10 '13 at 14:48
Yeah, that's a relief at least, it it turns out the SSD has fried too. I did try removing the new RAM module, using only the original 4 gig module, but I never tried putting the 2 gig module back thinking that would probably not help. – Peter Herdenborg Jan 10 '13 at 15:14

If the laptop is heating up, that is very likely the problem. I would recommend you test it but since you can't boot that might be kinda hard... Ideally, I would leave the laptop on at the BIOS temperature monitor screen. Try that if you can manage to make it boot again.

If it is a heating problem you could try the following:

  1. Open the laptop up and clean it thoroughly using compressed air. Make sure you clean the CPU fan, heatsink and air intake and exit grilles.

  2. If the previous step makes no difference you may need to change the thermal paste between the CPU and its heatsink. You will need to remove the heatsink, carefully scrape off all the old thermal paste from both the CPU and the heatsink and then apply a new layer of paste. Bear in mind that once you remove the heatsink from the CPU, the old thermal paste is destroyed and you will have to apply a new layer. So don't try this unless you have some paste available.

I can't guarantee that this will help but it seems likely. If you do this and still have the same problem you will at least know that there is a hardware problem somewhere.

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Thanks for the suggestions terdon! Yesterday I never tried booting after allowing it to tool down, so if I'm lucky it will boot again when I get home today. I did clean it when installing the new hard drive, though with a vacuum cleaner rather than compressed air. It was surprisingly clean considering I hadn't cleaned it since I bought it. I'll go buy a compressed air canister and some thermal paste see what happens. – Peter Herdenborg Jan 10 '13 at 14:54
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Answering my own question from the now seemingly well laptop!

When I got home yesterday it was still just as dead as before, not even launching the bios as far as I could tell. I opened it up with the remote hope of maybe seeing something wrong on the motherboard, and when I removed the bottom cover, I noticed that a metal "tongue" had been bent and was probably touching components on the motherboard when the cover was on. Without the cover on, the machine booted as normal, and after bending the thing back into position and re-fitting the cover, the machine now seems as good as new.

I tried including an image of the metal thingy but apparently I don't have enough rep.

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Automatic cut off is a normal safety feature implemented by the bios during an overheat and it will refuse to boot until the cpu has cooled down.

Because you're getting 'lights on but no-one's home' when booting, sounds like the mobo itself has fried because it isn't posting. If you get a beep error, then the mobo is ok and is beeping out the problem to let you know. I therefore don't think it was an overheat that caused the cutouts unless board temperature is monitored by the bios as well as the cpu temp, as auto cutoff is usually CPU overheat related. It's very rare for the board to get that hot. It does sound like whatever the problem was, the board has suffered beyond the point of letting it cool down. If it was a safety feature keeping your mobo from posting, it'd cut the power completely and immediately, and not spin up the blueray drive.

It may well have been the memory that killed it, but there's no way of knowing without sending your memory off to be tested.

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Thanks for your answer. There was no beep during these failed boots. If it's not heat related, but a permanent hardware damage, I wonder why it emerged so gradually. – Peter Herdenborg Jan 10 '13 at 15:16
It could well have been heat that caused permanent hardware damage. Why it got so hot is the next question. Laptops are notorious for getting hot, but not hot enough to kill it. If you follow laptop user guides, they must ONLY and always be used on flat hard level surfaces, and never moved when switched on. So for example, if you have been using it on a duvet at an angle on your bed like so many other people do, this could have done it. Air intakes need to be clear. – Simkill Jan 10 '13 at 15:20

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