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Dell XPS 410 that wont boot.

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So it seems like this is a common problem, but here goes...

My XPS 410 will not boot. I came back from vacation, turned it on without problem, uploaded my vacation pictures, and then was flipping through them when my computer froze. I had to hard boot it to get it to turn off. When I powered it back on, my fans spun up, but i got no video on the screen. Diagnostic lights showed a 1,3,4 half the time, and a 1,2,3 the other times.  I assumed that it might be a video card issue, and went to turn the machine off, but rather than taking its time to turn off (even though I couldn't see it loading up), it powered down immediately. I opened the case and inspected my motherboard for bulged capacitors, which i did not find. I unplugged and reseated all parts, and it still wouldnt power on. I pulled parts one by one, video card, ram, dvd-rom, hard drive, and nothing seemed to let it boot up. I replaced the Power supply with a spare brand new 750 W unit i had, thinking that my underpowered system might have finally realized it was so, but this didnt fix it. (375W PSU in a Q6600 quad core with a Geforce 8800GTX 768mb video card is a bit low). I took it to a local computer repair place, where they looked at it. Three days and 50 dollars later, they said my video card had died. I replaced it with a Geforce 450 and put the 750W PSU back in. It started up on the second attempt, and ran for about a week.

I left for 4 days for a work trip and returned to find my computer locked up again. I turned it off, and back on, and had the same problem as before, except now i solely get the 1,2,3 lights for diagnostics. I thought this might be a heat issue, although the inside of my case is clean and i have tried on cold boots, with the case open, and still nothing. I reapplied thermal paste to my heatsink/cpu, and tried reseating everything again but i still can't get any boot. In researching elsewhere, i found that this is a very common problem with this system model, and that more often than not, it is a motherboard/cpu issue. As Dell uses btx motherboards and cases only made for this type of motherboard, I am unable to swap motherboards to see if this is the problem. I also don't want to puchase an OEM replacement board from Dell until I know this is the problem. It could be my CPU, or a motherboard to usb/case periferal issue, and want to figure it out before i start handing out more money, as much as I like to prop up the economy more.

Does anybody have any idea what might be my issue? As i can't boot my computer, i am unable to run diagnostics, check my cpu temp, or system restore.

All Replies
  • When was the last time you replaced the motherboard battery? If the battery is more than ~2-3 years old, it may be too weak to hold BIOS settings correctly (as suggested by the failure after your 4-day trip).

    Power off and unplug. Press/hold power button for ~15 sec. Open the case and remove the motherboard battery. Press/hold power button again for ~30 sec and then replace it with a fresh 3-volt CR2032 lithium ion battery (right-side-up!), about $2-$3 at discount stores.

    No promises, but that's a lot cheaper/easier than a new motherboard. Wink



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    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • You know, that might work. I will pick one up on my way home from work and let you know how it goes. Thank you very much for the suggestion.

  • So I picked up a new 3 volt battery for my motherboard and it didn't help. It still turns on but doesn't boot or read anything from the hard drive. I get fan spins, and the initial startup noises for about 2 seconds, then the computer hangs with no video output on the screen. It will give me the 1,2,3 code and two quick beeps after a few minutes. If i hit the power button after that it will turn off instantly.

    I am assuming it is my motherboard or cpu now, but hoping there is something else I haven't thought of.

  • If you reboot and press F2 can you open BIOS setup?

    If you pulled the video card, it certainly isn't going to boot that way. When you pulled the hard drive, did you try booting from a bootable CD, because it won't boot that way unless you used a bootable CD.

    Unfortunately, 1,2,3 is not a very informative error code. And 2 beeps isn't a listed code either.

    Strip it down again to bare essentials. Leave only the video card, hard drive and one RAM module in slot 1. Pull the battery and press/hold power button for ~30 sec and try booting with just mouse, monitor and keyboard. If no go, swap all RAM modules into slot 1, one at a time. If that doesn't do it, swap them all one at a time into slot 2 and then slot 3. Always power off, unplug and press/hold power button for  ~15 sec before removing/adding any hardware.

    If none of that helps, try booting without keyboard and mouse.

    And finally power off and unplug again. Press/hold power button for ~15 sec. Now carefully inspect all USB ports, front and rear of the tower, to see if any of them are shorted.

    And finally, it may be the motherboard or the CPU...



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    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • Oh, if the system has the option of on-board video, and add-in PCIe video card, remove the video card and switch to onboard graphics. Don't forget to plug the monitor into the onboard VGA port.


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    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • Did you ever figure out what the problem was? I'm having the same exact issue with the same computer, and it's seriously driving me insane! Thanks

  • Bump... I have the same problem and have attempted the suggestions above.  Computer will start, showing green light on start button, the fan comes on for a couple of seconds, but the monitor stays black and diagnostic lights 1,2, and 3 come on ending with two beeps.  The boot up process does not go to the Dell splash screen.  F2 does not take me to the Bios setup.  F12 will not take me to diagnostic.  F8 will not take me to safe mode (since computer never gets to Dell splash screen.  If I push one of the buttons on the monitor, it indicates that the computer is in sleep mode and that I need to push a button on the keyboard or move the mouse, which does not help.  I have tested the monitor, which is in good shape.  

    Dell XPS410/Dimension 9200, 4GB RAM, 320GB HD, Core 2 duo 2.13 Ghz processeor, Windows Vista OS.

  • So with my machine the issue ended up being my video card. Essentially the video output on my computer broke, which was in my case was a Geforce 8800 GTX. If you have a video card, you could try swapping in a new card (borrow one from a friend?) and see if it will boot. If you dont have a video card, then i would guess it is the graphics portion of your motherboard.

    For myself, I replaced my video card with a new one, which was defective, and made me think that it was something else. So 600 dollars later, I built a machine that still didnt work (as I had the same replacement video card in it). So I returned the video card to the online retailer, and got a replacement, then both computers worked fine.

    I am a bit angry about how the situation was handled by a certain manufacturer of computers, but I guess this isn't the place for that.

  • Try swapping in a new video card. Mine died, and as the Dells do not have integrated video, the machine wouldnt boot. Just the fans. With a new video card, it works better. Read below for my full story. Also, these cases get very hot, so make sure to blow out the dust every couple months.

  • I'm gonna try that tonight, I just hope it's that simple! I was out looking at new computers yesterday, and I brought my hard drive into a local pc repair place today, but they said it seems to be working fine, so that's good. I've just been dreading that it might be the motherboard. Thanks Nate!

  • Thanks for the info - it was the video card.  I got a new card, slapped it in, and presto, it works again.  

  • Same here, I put in a new video card, and everything's working again!

  • Nate,

    Are you saying a MB won't boot in a Dell machine if there is not a working video card? That changes my troubleshooting strategy drastically.  I'm at a point where I need to start isolating down to the MB itself, or PSU.  Currently (after replacing a blown MOSFET and some blown caps), it will start to power on with a solid amber light, then shutdown after a couple of seconds and then cycle again repeatedly.

  • As odd as it sounds, the motherboard would amber up, my fans would spin up, and then the motherboard would turn itself off. It wouldn't stay on without a working video card, although the fans would keep running on low. It seems like the motherboard and computer should startup, but should just be unable to display video.

    My machine had no integrated video, so was unable to display or turn on. I pulled my 8800gtx and put a brand new 450gt in. Same problem. Turns out the 8800 HTC had fried and my 450 was Doa. But I returned my 450 and replaced it with a new one and it worked fine.

    I would guess the issue was heat, or underpowered video cards. On the side of the 8800 it states that a minimum of a 450w psu is required (if I remember right) but dell ships the system with a 315 if I remember. I built a new system with the 450 and put a 7200 into the XPS and both work now.

  • I know this is an old thread but it still comes up high in the search engines for the "won't boot" "lights 3 and 4 lit" "dell" search.

    For those who pulled memory, video cards, reset the cmos, etc. and still had the amber 3 and 4 lights come on, try pulling the electrical cord from the back of the computer as well.  Once I did that, I started getting the beeps indicating no memory and finally got my computer to boot.

    One caveat.  Just before doing this, I had plugged in a new video card.  So I'm not entirely clear whether I had a video card problem all along or whether just re-seating the memory or the old video card might have fixed it.  But it's working now and I'm leaving well enough alone.

    Just wanted to add "pull the electrical cord" to the mix of things to try if you've run into this problem and before you go running out to buy video cards and/or other hardware.