Non-booting Alienware M17x R4; continuous intermittent beeping at powerup

adarryladarryl No Man Stands So Tall As When He Stoops To Help a Child. Icrontian
I purchased an Alienware M17x R4 notebook in May of 2012 so it is no longer under warranty. It has sustained no damage through any means.... no water spills, drops, etc. However, within the past few days, it has developed booting problems. Sometimes it would boot to desktop and others not, but would emit a black screen and an intermittent, non-cyclical beep about every 1-2 seconds. Now, it just gives a black screen and the rhythmic beeping. I searched online and found this issue reported elsewhere but found no solution. Some have said, remove the CMOS battery, the system battery and the AC adapter cord and hold the power button up to one minute, then put all back in and power it up. I did that several times and maybe one out of 3 times, the notebook would boot up properly. Yesterday, I found it would not boot but beeped as I have described and by removing the system battery and power cord, I could stop the beeping and then get it to boot to desktop again maybe 1 out of 3 times upon reconnect. When I did get it to boot, I ran Dell's built-in system tests and all came back without any errors. I don't want to send this unit in to Dell itself for repairs but maybe an independent shop if I can find one. I am stumped and would appreciate anyone's insight into troubleshooting this issue. Thanks!


  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    Did you replace the CMOS battery when you took it out or just put the sam eold one back in?
  • adarryladarryl No Man Stands So Tall As When He Stoops To Help a Child. Icrontian
    I did both. Old or new CMOS battery made no difference. Thanks for the try.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    If it's "rhythmic" now, you might get some idea from the number of them. I saw, on non-Dell sites, reports of issues with solder reflow, so that doing the (honestly not recommended) heating of the laptop via turning it on and wrapping in blanket/something to prevent air escape and provide insulation could potentially fix it (and that would only be temporary). Very similar sounding to the baking of a video card, which does actually work in certain conditions, but I don't know your laptop and comfort level with disassembly and inspection of the motherboard. Your sporadic results do sorta lend themselves to a solder issue since they are transient rather than constant like a component failure usually would present.
  • adarryladarryl No Man Stands So Tall As When He Stoops To Help a Child. Icrontian
    "rhythmic"............but with an indefinite number and no start/stop pattern. There is no counting's endless with one beep every 1-2 seconds, just a slow rhythmic beeping. My experience with system beep codes tells me this is not a beep code pattern signaling a particular type of hardware failure unless single rhythmic beeps indicate motherboard failure.............................which has crossed my mind though that doesn't match with the system tests indicating no hardware issue. (scratches head with gusto)

    The blanket trick you mentioned sounds scarey. Sounds like an invitation to fire! LOL!

    Since I have built and repaired desktop pc's for years, I would not be afraid to open and inspect the motherboard. However, I don't know what I would test for specifically. Logically speaking, transient problems, by defintion, seem to defy logic.
  • There's not a lot you can do, some core piece of hardware is dying and seemingly mostly dead. Probably the cpu, motherboard, or other essential thing. The memory, disk, gpu, and lcd are likely fine otherwise you would get a beep code or diagnostic from the utility you were able to run.

    You can open it up, look for loose connections, bad capacitors, and give her a good clean in general. Otherwise, I'd say you need a new board and possibly a new cpu. Why don't you want to send it to Dell?
  • adarryladarryl No Man Stands So Tall As When He Stoops To Help a Child. Icrontian
    I am fearful that it is the mobo, but I have not seen intermittent problems with mobos, mostly permanent ones.

    Oh, with Dell support, I don't have any confidence in them. Years of returns of work notebooks has ruined it for me. However, there is a Dell authorized service center in town so I may resort to that.

  • That's understandable. In college I worked for a Dell authorized reseller and service center. We would tinker with things, and if we couldn't fix it quickly we would just ship it off to Dell and markup our bill from them about 100% to the customer. That's not representative of all shops, but it was how most of them in the LA area operated at the time.
  • adarryladarryl No Man Stands So Tall As When He Stoops To Help a Child. Icrontian
    Update: After I got the notebook to boot to desktop by fooling with a number of false starts and pulling the power to clear the failed boots and beeping, I ran a series of online test through Dell and it passed all. Not satisfied, I went to the beep codes referenced by Tushon once more and if I interpret the beeping I am getting as beep code #1, then it could be: System Board, covers BIOS corruption or ROM error. I did a BIOS update and will report back with results.
  • adarryladarryl No Man Stands So Tall As When He Stoops To Help a Child. Icrontian
    Well, after flashing the BIOS to the latest version, it has booted flawlessly..............maybe 20 times or more. So, unless things go south very quickly, a BIOS update to correct a corrupted BIOS seems to be the fix. So thanks and kudos to Tushon for pointing me toward beep codes. I guess it was a single repeating beep code that I thought was something else. If it craps out again, I'll post back, but for now, all is well.
  • NiGHTSNiGHTS San Diego Icrontian
    For what it's worth, unless things have changed within the past year and a half or so, Dell treats Alienware customers separately with a slight "premium" (for lack of a better word) over their OEM/consumer counterparts.

    I had the dreaded hinge failure on my m11x and was greeted with in-home service with a warranty replacement of the part. Granted, this was a recall of sorts, but they definately didn't need to show up at my house to do the repair, either.

    I was told they typically employ reps in regions, who are sent on location for fixes, given the circumstances.
  • adarryladarryl No Man Stands So Tall As When He Stoops To Help a Child. Icrontian
    The notebook seems to be operating as it should now. The pulsing, single beep code (which I foolishly misinterpreted) was the clue to the fix. However, what caused my BIOS to become corrupt in the first place? There were no power spikes or hardware changes. Was this just a fluke or is it a harbinger of bad things to come? There was a gaggle of Win 7 updates just before this event. Any correlation?

    While I am still scratching my head as to the causation, I remember my online search over this issue and all the hits I found for the very same event. No one in the forums where I visited reported or interpreted it as a single, pulsing beep code signifying BIOS corruption. Odd.

    Billy Mays (now dead but of Oxiclean fame) says: "Does your Alienware notebook fail to boot? Does it issue a single, pulsing, never-ending beep at power up? Then, consider disconnecting the power cord, the system battery, the CMOS battery and then clear the system by holding the power button down for up to 1 minute. After that, reconnect all and have a new, executable BIOS on a bootable usb flash drive ready at first power up. You'll be AMAZED!"
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    Could just be a bug that only came to the surface recently. Dunno why I didn't think to suggest that earlier :/ Oh well, glad it is working for you now!
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