Latitude E6500 Lockup/Freeze Unresolved

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Latitude E6500 Lockup/Freeze Unresolved

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I purchased a refurbished Latitude E6500 back in late November 2008. Unfortunately, it had a defective screen. I opted to for Dell to exchange the laptop for another refurbished laptop. The replacement laptop experiences random lockup problems. I can leave the laptop on and walk away from it, leaving it idle, and it will be locked up. I can be in the middle of using the laptop and it will lockup. When the machine locks up, it stops responding completely to all input (the mouse pointer is frozen), all disk activity ceases, and all network connectivity halts; the machine requires a hard power down in order to reboot. Sometimes it can take 5 hours for a lockup to occur; sometimes lockups happen ten minutes after booting. This issue, of course, makes the laptop essentially unusable as I cannot depend upon it.

The 32-bit Dell Factory Vista Ultimate image, without any modifications (except to disable suspend), locks up in this manner (I have restored the original image from a backup several times). A freshly installed 64-bit Vista Ultimate, with all the latest drivers from Dell installed in the order suggested by Dell, also locks up. In addition, I copied an image from a previous E6500 that I had to this laptop and again, the laptop locks up. The configuration of the E6500 is: NVidia 160m video, 8GB RAM, 250 GB 7200 RPM hard drive, 2.53Ghz T9400 Processor, Dell Bluetooth 370, Intel 5300 Wireless. The laptop also is running the latest firmware for the BIOS, hard drive, Broadcom USH, and Bluetooth hardware.

The laptop passes all diagnostic tests using Dell's diagnostic software. I've contacted Dell Technical support and have a case number (I have talked to them multiple times spending several hours). I have sent the laptop to Dell for repair TWICE with a complete letter detailing the problem and how to reproduce it; however, each time the laptop has come back unmodified with a form letter that states:

"After running a complete diagnosis by certified Dell technicians, we found no hardware failure. We attempted contacting you while testing the system to obtain further detail on the problems you experienced, but were unable to reach you.

Your system is being returned without any service performed, as we were not able to duplicate the reported problem."

In both cases, Dell has not attempted to contact me at all, no matter what the form letter states. In fact, I made sure that the Dell technical support technician listed my cell number, work number, and home number in the case documentation (I also included these with the letter I sent along with the laptop). The laptop still locks up. I am completely frustrated.

Where do I go from here? Does anyone have suggestions? Is it time to demand my money back as Dell is unwilling or unable to fix the lockup/freeze problem? I've researched the internet and it seems that I'm not alone with the lockup problem. Is there anyone else out there on this forum who has had this problem? What was done to address the issue? Can anyone from Dell with specific knowledge help me?

 

All Replies
  • Geech,

            Are you using an E/Port Replicator at all, or connecting to an external display?  Do you notice this happening more frequently with peripherals attached via USB, SD, EC, or Bluetooth?  I'm running an E6500 with Vista Business 32bit, in an E/Port Replicator, and have been noticing sudden CPU spikes to 100% that eventually leave me unable to do anything, its not a full lockup, because the mouse is semi-responsive, but I have been unable to duplicate the issue when un-docked.  I have swapped HDDs, docking stations, and rebuilt the OS twice.  I am starting to wonder if there is a hardware conflict with the E6500 series.  It's almost like a resource conflict of old.

     

    You may try removing one of your 4GB Mem sticks and seeing if the problem persists.  If it does, swap out the removed one with the one in place and try it again.  Basically start ruling out individual Hardware pieces that you can.

     

    -Sandpaper

  • I'm not using an E/Port replicator, but I'm thinking about purchasing one if I can get my issues resolved. It looks like I should research the E/Port replicator on the forums before I buy one.

    I am expecting a call from the Dell Resolution Dept. on this issue, so I'll have to wait and see what happens. In the meantime, I decided to pull 4GB (2GB sticks) from another system and give that a try while I'm waiting on the call. I don't know if this will make a difference since the original 8GB memory tested okay outside of Windows, but it's worth a try. I'll update my post if I get lucky and discover if that is the problem. Of course, if it turns out to be the memory, I'll probably have to reinstall again as who knows what the memory could have corrupted.

    Other than the memory, I've already tried swapping power supplies, swapping batteries, running without battery, and running without the DVD drive. I can't swap hard drives as I don't have an extra one at the moment, but I would to be surprised if it was the hard drive. However, this begs the question: Shouldn't the Dell technicians have done this troubleshooting since the system is under warranty? What if I was not a computer professional, but a novice computer user?

    I appreciate your input. I hope you find the source to the E/Port problem. I would be curious to find your solution.

     

  • Sounds like it might be overheating. We are experiencing the same effect.

    We first noticed the problem when the software for the wireless communications card was running the CPUs at 100% for some reason. The machine was still responsive, but taskmanager always showed 100% cpu usage and that SMManager from Smith Micro Software (part of the Dell Control Point Connection Manager system) was taking all the spare cycles. An update of the wifi drivers seems to have solved that problem, but running several CPU heavy apps at once (which this unit is specifically advertised as being capable of) still caused excessive heat.

    I've installed a little utility called cpufan which reports the temperature of the internal components and I found my E6500 CPU's were hitting temperatures over 160'F when running an AVG anti-virus scan in the background and watching a video on youTube. The laptop would lockup and/or restart to the famous blue screen soon after.

    Dell support is currently replacing the motherboard with one the tech said had been updated around January of 2009. Hopefully that will help with this issue.

     

  • James,

              Thank you for the input.  I have wondered about the overheating of this as well.  My company uses Dell exclusively, and we have replaced numerous D620, D820 and D830 Motherboards, almost all related to heat issues.  The D620 in particular had many overheating issues because the original bios configs wouldn't enable the system fan until it was too late.  

    I will be sure to check the WiFi drivers and firmware to see if any changes happen.

    I'm running Vista on my machine, and use the AllCPU sidebar gadget which has a nice tie-in with speedfan.  I have been monitoring the heat of the system, and have noticed the GPU runs hot always, 56-65* C.  is not uncommon.  I have swapped chassis's with another E6500 in house, new out of the box and noticed the problems happened right away.  Interestingly syncing my iphone seemed to be the catalyst.  Itunes would finish the sync, and then the cpu would run away to 100%, but I could still use the mouse and get limited application response for a few minutes before the machine became completely unresponsive.  I have tested extensively outside of the docking station, running every heavy app I could at the machine and syncing my iphone to iTunes, and the E6500 just shrugs it off, no problem.  This is why I think there is something specific to the docking station for the E6500.  I swapped it out with a new in the box E/Port Replicator Plus and the problem persists.  I think this is really a resource issue.  It is frustrating as my docking station is a real requirement for my job, so running on the laptop by itself isn't the answer to me.  I haven't contacted support yet because I don't feel I could communicate my concern to them without them point the finger at Vista, iTunes, etc.  

    As a side note, when I first started troubleshooting this issue, I had Microsoft Keyboard and Mouse software installed on my machine, which allowed me to control volume from the keyboard, this would duplicate the Dell ControlPoint software's on screen display for volume level, within 1 minute of a volume change with MS Keyboard and Mouse installed, the cpu would spike to 100%, I would open TaskManager, and noticed that the IDT Audio software was using most of the cycles, I would kill that, then ControlPoint would error out and stop working, requiring a reboot to get any use out of the system.  I firmly believe ControlPoint's software/hardware combination is not ready for primetime, and think it may be causing the resource conflict.  I have since uninstalled the MS software and volume inputs from the keyboard don't cause system lockups/ CPU spikes anymore.

  • After I installed the 4GB of memory from the other system, my laptop stopped locking up. I ran the laptop off and on over 3 days and the laptop never locked. This isn't necessarily definitive as only 3 days have passed, but it certainly points to the memory being the source of my problem.

    I contacted Dell Technical Support and they shipped me out replacement memory. I have installed the memory, but I have not been using it long enough to determine that everything is alright. I will probably run a memory test overnight to verify the memory does not have any errors.

    I have not encountered any overheating problems yet, but then again, the laptop hasn't remained functional long enough for me to encounter overheating (due to the lockup issues I've had). I'll keep a lookout for that problem (maybe run some benchmarks to exercise the CPU).

     

  • Interesting. I'd be curious to find out whether or not the "faulty" memory passed a Memory Test...

     

    We're dealing with similar lockups on multiple machines we recently deployed (Latitude E6400's with a custom Windows Vista 64-bit image w/ Port Replicators) and the problem seems to be spreading. Our issue is.. a bit unique, though. The lockups seem to manifest themselves in 1 of 3 ways:

    1 - *Some* users note that the laptop locks up as is. The Windows Desktop is still displaying, but the machine is unresponsive

    2 - The screen goes black, but num lock is still lit. The machine is equally unresponsive

    3- My favorite. The screen FREAKS OUT! The screen becomes distorted. It takes the screens image and displays in what looks like multiple stripes; kind of like a bar code. Overlaying these strips are jutts of color and jumbled pieces of text from throughout the screen. And again, the lights are on but no one is home. A picture may be worth 1000 words in this case. Since this is a subpar picture, it may only be worth about 100:

    All people who have their system lockup have noted having #3. But only some users have noted #'s 1 + 2. Also the docking station doesn't seem to be a significant factor either. Some people mentioned that #3 happens *only* after taking the laptop out of the dock. But some have had the issue while their laptop is docked.

     

    Where was I? Oh yeah. What about that Mem Test? Smile We ran a Memory Test on a laptop which has been experiencing these screen "freak outs", but it passed...

     

    To clarify, out of 47 users, 8 are currently affected. But the number is creeping a little more each day. The problems are intermittent (just like you noted initially Geech). We're in the process of ruling things out one by one and jumping through hoops with Dell Tech Support; e.g. doing a fresh install with "proper drive installation order", hardware component swap out, reloading our image to verify that nothing was corrupted during Ghost Casting over the network, BIOS configuration tweaks. Initially we've also seen Blue Screens. But these have been alleviated by upgrading to the latest BIOS version.

    I know that this thread is about E6500's, but its the closest thing to our model and problem that the Dell Forums had. We're throwing alot at this but haven't made a dent yet.

     

    Sincerely,

    Running out of ideas

  • Chris,

    Thanks for your $.02. Our laptops were manufactured on December 22nd-26th.

    Per Dell's recommendation we built an image from scratch and used drivers they specified; using their directives on installation order. After doing so, the lockups still persisted.

    I did find an interesting bread crumb, though. After the laptop suffered from a "Black Out" I let it sit for a bit, then booted into the BIOS. I reviewed the BIOS's System Event Viewer and noted the following: "02/15/09, 11:08:31, POST EVENT (CPU), LED CODE (FLASH-ON-ON)". I looked up the LED Code in the E6400 User Manual, which said: “A possible processor failure has occured. Reseat the processor. If the problem persists, contact Dell Support”. Rather than take apart the laptop, we decided to look into the Chipset a bit first.

    On our laptop we found that the Intel Chipset type is "GM45" and that the video card is based off of this chipset. So to start small, we tried changing out for newer video card drivers. The ones that Dell has on their site (and what was recommended to us) were from July 2008. The ones available on Intel's site are from December 2008. Since installing them the laptop has been on for ~30 hours without any lockups.

     

    Sincerely,

    Crossing my fingers

  • I am experiencing problems with my laptop going into standby and either not recovering, recovering but the fingerprint reader is no longer active, OR (the worst) coming out of standby in my laptop bag.

    I have updated my TPM module with the latest firmware found on the download site dated Feb 13 and it addressed the problem with the fingerprint reader.  Anyone have any experiences with the laptop coming out of standby by itself?  The worst part is that it happens when I am on a flight and it is in my bag and then I get to my destination to find a dead battery and a warning about thermal shutdown.

    :(

     

  • DaveE,

           That is interesting about the integrated graphics drivers being so far out of Date.  My machine uses an Nvidia card, and you cannot get drivers from Nvidia directly, a long standing complaint of mine with Dell.  It would be interesting if the standard chipset drivers were newer while the video driver was out of date and causing the conflict.  Hope the video drivers will resolve your problem.  I am now almost a week into my third E6500, new HDD, and new OS build.  So far all is quiet on the western front...  I did have one spike to 100%  CPU that turned out to be spoolsv.exe (printer server had some documents piling up from an offline printer).  While the system showed a 100% CPU utlization, the actual performance of the system was unaffected, I could launch apps, close them, etc without any lag or slow down what so ever.  In my previous CPU spikes that I reported the affect of hitting 100% was instant, and spoolsv.exe never popped over 5%, so I believe that the two are unrelated.  I am starting to think that it was hardware on both previous E6500s, which is a sad statement on Dells QC.  Will stress it a bit more for the next two days the re-introduce my Dell BT 370 chip to see if that is related.

     

    Cornloaf:

            Are you using the Dell Recommended power settings, its a file you can DL off of support.dell.com.  I really don't ever use Standby personally, just bad luck with it in the past, so I can't attest to any issues with it and the E6500.  I haven't had any users complain about it with XP SP3 at all though.

  • And there's the rub. Just a bit after posting, the laptop locked up as it had in the past.

    The Tech. we've been working with on Dell's "Escalation Team" says that she is running out of ideas and that we will be getting transferred to the "Customer Quality Assurance Team" (or something like that). We asked for clarification on what this team's role is. From what we could gather, it sounds like they don't do any direct troubleshooting with the customer.

    Does anyone have any experiences with this department? Or such a poor showing of Escalated Dell Support?

    Tomorrow we'll try updating the Intel Chipset drivers to coincide with the integrated graphics driver upgrade.

     

    Sincerely,

    Frustrated with Dell

  • EZ Sandpaper OX,

    I have the Dell Recommended power settings file.  I bought the laptop and got the XP downgrade with it.  I ran it with XP for a bit and had a problem with the fingerprint reader so I upgraded XP to Vista.  Started having problems with the Embassy security software, fingerprint reader, and standby/hibernate so I did a fresh install of Vista.  Installed all the latest drivers from Dell website in the proper order.  Standby problem persisted in this install as well.  It has been 24 hours since I did the firmware update to the TPM and I have not had any resume from standby problems or fingerprint reader problems, but my laptop did spontaneously wake up from standby in the middle of the night and drain the battery.

  • Cornloaf,

        Sounds like there may be a background process or app that is causing it to kick on.  Do you know of any scheduled activities for your system, like a defrag, chkdisk, etc?  Also were you having the spontaneous power on in XP?  Lastly, have you reviewed the power-management menu to see what events can "resume from standby" for the computer (i.e. open lid, press power button)? 

     

       -Sandpaper

  • DaveE,

      Can't say as I have had the pleasure of working with Dells Quality team, but if you have an account rep that you do your orders through, you should probably advise them of whats going on to see what kind of pressure they can put on that team to work the issue directly.  The way Dell is going financially, the sales rep should understand how important getting this resolved is.  Also, what level of service do you purchase with your machines?

     

       -Sandpaper

  • I just wanted to let anyone following this know that my issue with the lockup has been resolved. Dell replaced the motherboard in the unit with an updated design and the operating temperatures have dropped radically. It no longer overheats and hasn't locked up in the last week. The tech who came out (who was very polite BTW) said there was a lot of dust in the fan and heatsink, which doesn't make much sense to me as it has just been here in the office which is a pretty clean space and home with me once or twice; it really shouldn't have had a chance to get dirty. If it starts overheating again, I'm going to just remove the cover and blow out the heatsink before I try anything else.

    I would really recommend that anyone who is experiencing wierd problems install a program like CPUFan to monitor the internal temperatures and see if they are unreasonable while under heavy CPU and hard drive load. Actually, that is just good advice for anyone: Keep an eye on the temperature. CPUFan is free, not adware or spyware (as far as I can see) so there really isn't any reason not to. You can even setup "warning" events that will popup or beep if the temps get high. There is a slight bug in that all the event temperatures must be specified in 'C even if you have the option set for 'F on the display, but it's easy to work around.

    Best wishes and good luck to anyone else having this issue.

  • Glad to hear that a hardware swap seemed to fix your issues, James.

    We're getting some new hardware in house to test with (10 laptops). After extensive troubleshooting, we're suspect of the hardware more-so than software since we've had laptops lockup outside of Windows Vista; in Symantec Ghost and Ubuntu Linux.

    But we haven't ruled out the idea that our issues are caused by multiple things. With that, it may be worth noting that systems without drivers installed on them and those in Safe Mode have yet to suffer from lockups; Vista x64, XP x86. But here's to hoping that new hardware makes the problem unravel.

     

    Sincerely,

    Crossing my fingers (again)