Warning to Dell Inspiron 5100/5150 owners

I know a lot of folks chose the Dell Inspiron series laptops because they're very reasonably priced and offer a lot of features for the price.

However, I thought I'd share this, as my Inspiron 5150 just totally died due to a hairline crack in the motherboard. Apparently, this is a somewhat common occurence, possibly brought on by processor overheating, warping and cracking the traces on the motherboard. I know the chase vehicle environment is not particularly laptop-friendly. I had mine mounted on a homemade "desk" behind the front seats, with a clear path for air to get to the fan. And yet, it still got very hot on most occasions, especially if I left it in the car without A/C for 15 minutes or so. Couple this with vibration in the vehicle, and it enhances the risk of developing a motherboard crack.

Midway through my chase trip, mine began randomly shutting down. I attributed this to overheating, so I would wait a few minutes before firing it up again. But it would do this in hotels sometimes too, when I picked it up off a table. It got to a point where I can no longer turn the machine on. Now this machine is 14 months old - 2 months out of warranty, so Dell basically told me where to stick it. $700 for a new motherboard. I don't think so...I'll be buying a new laptop...a NON-Dell laptop.

So, I'd recommend that if you own one of these machines and it's still under warranty, purchase an extension on the warranty. It's pretty reasonable (less than $100 I think), and you can do it anytime while you have the original warranty still in effect.

If you're curious, there is a message board with 60 PAGES worth of posts from people with the SAME problem. Seems like a design flaw to me, but good luck getting Dell to admit that...

I as well have a Dell laptop and use it on the go very often. I'd suggest a program like "Centrino Hardware Control" (which works on most Dells) to underclock your processor and graphics card. It allows you to have complete control over how powerful your processor is running. This could have helped to prevent your problem. I think all laptop users should at least check out the link below.

CHC: http://www.pbus-167.com/chc.htm
Sorry to hear that Dave. (and I was one to recommend that model to ya!!) I've had my 5100 since Nov 2003 and it's still going. *knock on wood* Since I updated to the latest BIOS (A32 I believe) it seems to shut off by itself after it reaches a certain temperature. Alot of people have complained about this, so who knows if it's good or bad. Maybe that's why Dell has stopped making laptops with the P4 processors and went to the Pentium M chip. Here's the program I use to monitor the CPU temp:


I'm assuming you don't want to buy a new Dell, but if you are they're having like $600-$750 off certain laptops. :)


Good luck!!

Well this post makes me wonder about my 6000. I purchased it this year and it is what I use on the road. I have noticed one little thing. Every now and then the screen will flicker. But it dosen't do it all the time. I thought it my be just my imagination but my chase partners have noticed it too! Maybe I need to get ahold of Dell!
I have a Inspiron 5100 and it has worked fine, but from talking to friends and reading all these posts, I think I might be an exception!

I have had my 5100 for almost two years. Its hard drive crashed earlier this year, and the battery went out during my chase trip this year.

That sounds bad at first, until you know what my laptop has gone through. I have put it through some of the worst operating conditions that a laptop could be subjected to. It is running literally all day long for 4 or 5 days out of the week. I use it on the road frequently, where it endures jarring shocks, extreme heat and cold, rain, dust, moisture, etc. Before I got my Jotto Desk, it's slid off the seat and hit the floor HARD several times during heavy braking. During Plains chase trips, it is on continuously in the car for 10 to 12 hours at a time, running processor-intensive applications (IE StreetAtlas and WxWorx) while it gets jarred around, splashed with rain, caked with dust, baked in sunlight, bumped around with luggage, etc. It has been through two hurricanes and the associated moisture, running continuously through most of the duration.

In all, it has held up pretty well despite the punishment.
If you own a Dell Inspiron 8x000 series laptop, I strong suggest the use of a little utility called "I8kFanGUI". This program gives you manual control over the fans, and it also lets you set the points at which the fans turn on (and what speed they turn) for the CPU temperature.

Additionally, I use another utility called SpeedswitchXP (for Dell notebooks running WinXP and a pentium-M), which gives me easy-access to the speed of the processor. For example, I change it to "Max Battery" when I'm on battery, which underclocks my 1.7G P-M to 600mhz. There's the standard Dynamic Switching (which underclocks the CPU when processing power isn't needed, but kicks it up to full power when needed), and there's Max Performance (keeps the CPU at full power at all times).

Download I8kfanGUI at http://www.diefer.de/i8kfan/index.html
Download Speedswitch XP at http://www.diefer.de/speedswitchxp/index.html
Found some more info on this subject. There's a company called AQSTech near Buffalo NY that claims to have developed a technique to repair this particular problem. They want $160 to do it, but that's a darn sight better than $700 for a new motherboard, or $1200 for a new laptop. They have some details here:


If I am able to get this repaired, I will definitely install the fan and CPU temp monitoring software suggested in previous posts (thanks for the links!)

Also, it pays to find out if your credit card company has any kind of extended warranty service built into any purchase. I bought my Dell laptop on a Citibank World card (miles on American Airlines), and one of the benefits is that they double the manufacturer's warranty, up to a full year. So, I've filed a claim with them. Hopefully, I won't have to pay for this potentially very costly repair.....we shall see....
Dell Laptops

Ok, i probably can't read, but i just got a Dell Laptop for school/chasing. It is just the basic. What do I need to downlode and/or buy for my laptop. :?