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I have a DELL XPS 1710. Yesterday night while I was doing nothing special (browsing the web and chatting on the IM, it all of a sudden froze. I restarted it and now the screen is filled with green dotted lines as soon as the monitor goes on (see screenshots at the bottom).

I have multiple OS's installed, but all of them fail to start unless I use them in text based mode (linux shell, for example). As soon as I try to go in graphical mode, the screen goes black and after a little why the computer switches on.

I suspect it is a GPU failure (which is a 512MB NVIDIA® GeForce™ 7950 GTX), but - since I intend to purchase the spare part and change it by myself - I thought about opening a question here and see if any other superuser have alternative diagnosis and/or experiences the same problem and would like to share how they fixed it.

Thank you in advance for your time and advice.

EDIT (Update 13.12.09 10:30 GMT)

After digging into the intertubes for a lot of hours, I am now 99% sure it's a case of "GPU toasting". Most probably the heat has damaged the memory banks in use on the graphic card itself. It seems I am not the only one who suffered from this failure. See this post on the dell site, and this other petition. Nvidia has in the past shipped to dell and others defective chips and therefore dell has extended the warranty of computers with said problem. Unluckily my model is not in the list, although the Vostro 1710 has substantially identical specifications, and therefore I wonder if my model has simply been forgotten...

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I think you are right. Borrow another graphics card and try that to make sure. –  Nifle Dec 12 '09 at 11:24
    
@Nifle - I know nobody with the same computer model, and even if I knew them, I have doubt they would appreciate me taking apart their computer to dig out their graphic card with the heat sink attached... –  mac Dec 12 '09 at 12:47
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It has all the hallmarks of being a GPU failure.

If this were a desktop it would be a simple matter to take out the graphics card and either use a borrowed replacement or the main board graphics to verify it.

However, as it's a laptop the only way is to do what you're planning.

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Been there, done that.

Your graphics card is failing. Look and see if the fan on the card is still turning. I'll bet it's not.

Chances are high the card has to be replaced. Even if you could manage to replace the fan, graphics cards will damage themselves in no time without proper cooling.

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@Wade - Thank you for the suggestion (+1). Fans are OK and - before you ask :) - the ventilation grids are clean or any dust or other obstructions (I clean that at least once every 6 months of operation). –  mac Dec 13 '09 at 10:05
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It looks like a GPU/graphics problem of some sort. If possible, try reinstalling/updating your graphics card drivers first? Also, if you're looking to replace the GPU yourself anyway, try opening up the laptop and cleaning it out and making sure everything is hooked up tight and correctly and then check again.

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@Adam - I don't think this is applicable. The splash screen in the photo, and the BIOS do not make use of any driver, and the problem persists even when I start the computer after an entire night of cooling down. –  mac Dec 13 '09 at 10:07
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Try to Re Seat your RAM... maybe the system is using your ram to display or cache some part of the video... try to take out BOTH sticks of ram... then put just ONE in.. After if it shows a good screen try with both.. Good Luck...

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@mike - Thank you for the suggestion (+1). I already tried that (individual bank testing) and as soon as I will have finished to transfer the data on the other computer I will also run the memtests available with linux è [they take some hours to run]. I am skeptical thought that could be the problem, as the GPU has 512 Mb of dedicated memory. –  mac Dec 12 '09 at 13:21
    
@mac thanks...but maybe this might have something to do with the gpu...because you said that you tried with just one stick on each bank tells me that there might be some overheating or the gpu was damaged due to overheating.. i have a radical sugguestion..open up the lap and look at the heat sink... the one for your cpu and gpu.. for your gpu add a dab of thearmal paste..be careful..just the dark part..and maybe your cpu while your at it...check the wires connecting your display as well...now heres something to check...does it do that on an external display??? –  mike Dec 13 '09 at 7:55
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