As it turns out, it wasn’t the hard drive, nor was it the memory…directly. Stupid Dell/Alienware put a really, REALLY, dumbed down BIOS in it. Basically the CPU would try to downclock, the FSB would TRY to lower itself, and the memory would downclock itself 80 MHz. So, the CPU was running at 1600-2533 MHz, the FSB was stuck at 267-534 MHz, and the memory was stuck at 534 MHz. To fix this I had to update the BIOS with different software (obviously), so the CPU can now drop down to 800 MHz, the FSB can drop to 133 MHz, and the memory can now run the whole gamut, but it’s now fixed at 667 MHz.

Everything else in the BIOS remained the same. Now it’s able to have OSs installed on it and it can play games without freezing!

My brother has an Alienware M17, and a couple days ago he decided that he wanted to put Windows 7 on it. By all means, that should be a fairly simple fresh install/upgrade. It consistently froze up at “Expanding Files” at about 40% or so. So I figured I’d try putting everything on a USB stick (I should mention that I tried 4 different presses/burns of Windows 7 that we have laying around) and trying it that way. I got the same result. So, I decided that since Windows 7 wasn’t working, it’d be time to go back to Windows Vista. I popped in the DVD that he got from Alienware to do a fresh install of Windows and it froze up in the exact same place as the Windows 7 install. After that I put in the system restore DVD and everything worked fine, until it got to doing the updates for Windows, whereupon it would freeze. I then grabbed another pressed copy of Vista and it installed just fine. When it came time to do the updates, it froze again. I eventually narrowed that down to it was freezing when it was making a restore point; I turned that off and the updates went just fine. Though, when he tried to copy back some of the stuff he backed up onto an external drive it froze again. It obviously has something to do with the large files, so I was thinking that the hard drive is starting to go. But, here’s the weird part, when we go into safe mode it’ll copy the files over just fine. I’m hesitant to say that it’s the hard drive because of that.

Does anyone have any ideas?

  1. #1 by Joshua on January 1, 2011 - 6:22 PM

    I’d be leaning toward the drive also. The first thing I’d do is run memtest86+ and rule out memory / motherboard issues. Then I’d test the drive.

    How old is the machine? The original hard drive that came with my 2003 Alienware Area51 is still alive and kicking. Likewise, the two drives in my 2009 Alienware Area51 have had no issues so far. I would be surprised if a Dell machine passed the factory burn-in tests and then failed shortly afterward.

    • #2 by Phillip on January 1, 2011 - 6:29 PM

      I ran a memory test for about 18 hours the other day and it didn’t find any errors. I think tonight I’m going to run memtest86+ though.

      It’s about 2 years and some months old, so I could see it going. As a side note, I will admit that I love how they they give various benchmarks that they ran on it before they shipped it out.

    • #3 by Joshua on January 2, 2011 - 1:59 PM

      And being a laptop, the drives take a bit more abuse than desktops.

      • #4 by Phillip on January 2, 2011 - 7:51 PM

        Well, this one more so. It sits on a bed when it’s on. So every single time someone or some dog touches/jumps on the bed, I can just imagine what’s going on inside the poor thing.

  2. #5 by Joshua on January 10, 2011 - 4:59 AM

    Wow. That’s a dumb way to build a laptop. I never would’ve thought to check that, either.

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