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Dell 8600 randomly freezes, goes fuzzy, then black

by bmogie3 / January 16, 2007 1:45 PM PST

I have a Dell Inspiron 8600 running windows XP Home w/ SP2. About a month ago it froze up and the screen did something I've never seen before. The edge of everything on the screen was "static-y" - like this thin line of moving pixels along the left edge of everything; then the screen went black. This began happening maybe once or twice a week, but the frequency has increase to where now it's happening many times a day.

I have to completely shut the computer down and reboot it. I haven't noticed any sort of pattern and I can't remember it happening right after I installed anything new. It's not always the same either - sometimes stuff will go fuzzy and I can't do any operations, but I can move the mouse for a few seconds - then it completely freezes. Other times the screen goes black right away except the mouse is an hourglass, but it won't move, then the screen goes black.

This is driving me crazy and it happens at very inoportune times. Can anyone please help me?!

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That can be a sign the laptop needs cleaning.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 16, 2007 8:12 PM PST

This one sound heat related. About once a year I dust out my desktops and laptops. What's your schedule?


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by ikenfixit / January 16, 2007 9:00 PM PST

Definitley try blowing the dust out and the issues most likey the video card overheating.. This model has a few issues and FET's are way to common for shorting across in the supply line. Video cards are fairly easy to change on these and relativley inexpensive..

Bob.. I think you should place an auto recurring post every week about keeping them cleaned out and being careful with the jacks.. Ive seen you post this a thousand times They'll get it figured out sooner or later..Have a good one guys!

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Many owners don't know that laptops need maintenance.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 16, 2007 9:28 PM PST
In reply to: Duster..

While I don't consider it a lot of maintenance, most laptop owners are blissfully unaware about dust and lint buildup in their laptops.

As to a thousand times, I can write I've cleaned that many over the years. Most of the time, the unit just perks right up and there are no more heat related issues. A small percentage needs the heatsink compound refreshed and the heatsinks remounted. A slightly higher percentage need a new fan.


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Thanks a bunch! I'll give that a shot
by bmogie3 / January 16, 2007 11:26 PM PST

To be honest, I just learn as I go, so I hadn't even thought about dusting it out - I have no cleaning schedule. I will now. Thanks for your help!

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clean, but still having problems
by bmogie3 / January 31, 2007 1:22 PM PST

I cleaned the heatsink - it was loaded with lint - but I'm still having the same issue. But now, when the image goes screwy, it's no longer just the left edge of everything, it's the whole screen that looks fuzzy/pixelated. I have noticed one consistant trigger though: when I try to view video files from my external hard drive, it freezes up almost immediately; first the fuzzy image, then goes black. Any more ideas?

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That could be a clue about drivers.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 1, 2007 12:11 AM PST

Are the drivers the latest offered by Dell?


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not sure
by bmogie3 / February 1, 2007 12:31 AM PST

I get Dell's automatic updates, but aside from that I'm not sure. How would I check? And which driver in particular should I be concerned about?

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The old fashioned update method is...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 1, 2007 12:38 AM PST
In reply to: not sure

We go to and look for our laptop drivers. I would be updating manually the following. The video driver and if they offer it a support package AKA motherboard drivers.

The other possibility is that there are parts still overheating. I often have to go inside a laptop to clean the internal heatsinks.


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still looking for the solution
by bmogie3 / February 4, 2007 2:46 PM PST

Well, my video driver is up to date and I didn't see an update for the motherboard. I did open the laptop up to clean out the heatsink. It had a heavy layer of lint on it. But I'm still having the problem - I mentioned this before in a previous post: "... now, when the image goes screwy, it's no longer just the left edge of everything, it's the whole screen that looks fuzzy/pixelated. I have noticed one consistant trigger though: when I try to view video files from my external hard drive, it freezes up almost immediately; first the fuzzy image, then goes black. Any more ideas?"

Whenever it happens, the computer's pretty hot. The fan is working though. Any other ideas? I'm getting desperate.

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That lint and heat is your clue.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 5, 2007 12:00 AM PST

Try a laptop cooling pad. You want a cure but the damage of heat may be terminal to the chip that can't stand the heat anymore. What damage? That lint and such you removed should have been a yearly maintenance item. At worst every other year.

Don't feel bad, I'm looking forward to thousands of posts like yours in the following years since most owners think laptops don't need cleaning.


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bad news
by bmogie3 / February 5, 2007 6:42 AM PST

So if it really is terminal damage to the chip, what specific part are you talking about? Is it replaceable? I guess I'm learning the hard way about cleaning - wish someone would have told me. Thanks for your help Bob.

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How we find out which chip.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 5, 2007 6:51 AM PST
In reply to: bad news

In a lab we heat the board to failure. Now we take a freeze such as and then freeze a part and retest. If we've guessed correctly we can take the board back to room temperature and take a heat gun to the one chip and heat it up to show that it's just that one part.

For commercial boards like laptop boards such diagnostics cost more than the board so I share what we do for custom boards that costs much more.


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by ikenfixit / January 16, 2007 11:28 PM PST

I May have over-exagerated slightly as to the ammount of posts.. But you do keep telling them over and over..Did I remember a year or so back that you office had aquired quite a few of the HP ZX/ZV series? Or am I thinking of somebody else? Just curious as to how well they held up?

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The office's Compaq R3000s are doing great.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 17, 2007 12:36 AM PST
In reply to: Cleaning..

Can't complain since nothing has gone wrong. Remember that we treat them with care and know not to put the unit in the bad with the power cord still in the laptop. That's a sin I see others do.

The screens are the highlight of these models. Big and bright for demos. These are heavy units but have paid their way.


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Inspiron 8600 Freezes are a known problem with the model

Actually, this is a known problem with the Dell Inspiron 8600. I own one also. Since it was released, it has had problems with random freezing multiple times per day. Dell has refused since the day it was released to recall the 8600 or offer assistance to uses who own the model. Do a Google search for Inspiron 8600 freeze on the web and newsgroups, and you will find hundreds of people who have had the same problem. It is probably the most unreliable piece of computer equipment that I have ever owned due to this freezing problem, and Dell will not help you with the problem.

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doesn't seem to be heat
by bmogie3 / February 5, 2007 2:21 PM PST

Here's what I've found: I cleaned a bunch of dust off the heatsink, let the computer get cold, then turned it on and immediatly did what always triggers the problem, and it froze up. Didn't have a chance to heat up. So that rules out overheating right?

So here's the consistant trigger: I've downloaded video files off of my camera into one folder on my external hard drive. When I access that folder and try to view the thumbnails, it freezes every time. -Screen goes fuzzy, then black. Other folders on the external h.d. don't have issues. BUT, at other random times, even when the h.d. isn't attached, it will do the same thing. Even if I just turned the computer on. And it happened before I bought the external h.d. Happens whether it's a big program or not. Video files sometimes, other times not. Sometimes with certain programs, other times not.

Asside from the thumbnails on the h.d. I see no consistant pattern. What in the WORLD?!! Please help me!

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That's a great clue and a known problem.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 5, 2007 10:30 PM PST
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here's what happened -
by bmogie3 / February 6, 2007 4:03 PM PST

I succesfully unregistered the DLL and tried to view the video thumbnails on my external h.d. - it reacted differently, but still ended up freezing. It normally will go fuzzy & freeze w/in 1-3 seconds. This time it was fine for about 5 seconds, then went fuzzy for a split second and back to normal (~3 sec.), then fuzzy for a split sec. & back to normal (~3 sec.) - did this about 5 times, then went fuzzy & froze for good, then black screen.

Throughout the day the computer did randomly freeze while my wife was using the computer - don't know what she was doing. So it still is having issues even with the DLL unregistered. I'm keeping my hopes up though - gotta be a way to fix this.

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It seems that we are looking at a known Windows issue.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 6, 2007 8:13 PM PST
In reply to: here's what happened -

Windows Explorer has an unresolved bug in that a corrupt picture or video file or "codec" will cause what you are describing. Unregistering that dll usually helps. But in this case not.

Now we get to find which file(s?) is causing Explorer to go belly up. Remember that Microsoft has not issued a fix for this one but tells us not to have such files on our machines.

Here's how I track that file down. Once I know the directory Explorer crashes on I use Gyula's Navigator (see to put 1/2 the files in another directory. Then I retest with Explorer on one then the other directory. I repeat this till I have narrowed down to the bad (according to Microsoft file.) Depending on if it's an avi or jpeg I then use what tools I have to fix that so Microsoft Explorer no longer crashes on that file.


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same deal with my laptop
by lookitsdavid / February 18, 2007 1:28 PM PST

Hey there I've been dealing with the same issues with my laptop Dell Inspiron 8600. Whenever I use a new hardware, sometimes with the thumbnails, and sometimes just randomly it would go fuzzy and then black and freezes. Has anyone figured out what the problem is yet?

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Finally found a solution!
by bmogie3 / April 1, 2007 8:50 AM PDT

After almost a year with this problem, I think this thing is finally whipped! Dating back to my original post, I had downloaded the latest video driver from Dell's website. But I just found a newer upgrade and it worked! At least I hope so - the freezing was always random, but there was one consistent trigger - viewing the thumbnails of some video files from my video camera. I just viewed them after the upgrade and for the first time ever, it didn't freeze. What a glorious day!

Here's where I went for the newer video driver:

David - hope that helps you and anyone else with this problem.

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