Dell Inspiron 1520 laptop sudden death - motherboard falure?

  br1anstorm 11:35 17 Feb 2012

I have a Dell Inspiron 1520 laptop running Windows XP Pro. It's 4 years old, although I only started using it seriously 18 months ago when my previous laptop had a problem.

Last night it suddenly died. It was connected to mains power via the adapter, and it has a good, fully-charged battery. I was in the middle of some routine emailing when the laptop went off. No fatal exception, no announcement of need to shut down, no blue screen of death. It just went instantly and totally black, as if there had been a power cut (the mains power was normal and router, printer etc are all fine.

I unplugged laptop from adapter, removed and then refitted the battery, and left it for 30 mins to cool - in case the CPU might have got too hot (the fan had been on) and had shut itself down. I have looked at the fan area: no obvious build-up of fluff or dust.

But the laptop appears totally dead. No indicator lights show on the laptop. The "power on" button simply doesn't do anything. I have tried both on battery alone, and with mains power adapter. Nada. Zilch.

The only clue - and it is possibly significant - is that when the power adapter is plugged into the mains, its little green indicator light comes on (as it should...) BUT, when the other end is plugged into the power-in socket on the laptop, that green light goes out.

I have been searching the forums. This suggests (a) that there have been a great many such instances of"sudden death" of the Dell Inspiron 1520. The Dell community pages are full of grief about design faults, warranty claims, and general unhappiness and it seems this is specific to the 1520. And (b) the advice or diagnosis almost always seems to be "catastrophic motherboard failure". The evidence about the power-adapter light going out when connected to the laptop is apparently a clear pointer to this.

So I have three questions:

  • 1) can anyone else confirm this diagnosis or suggest other causes for the sudden death?

  • 2) is it worth trying to get the motherboard replaced? This is what Dell or a repair firm might do, but it's a major and expensive job.

  • 3) since the hard drive is, I hope, unaffected and is removable, how feasible is it to recover and retrieve all the data on that drive, and is this a possible DIY job (Can anyone point me to a step-by-step guide to, for example, putting the hard drive into a 'caddy' to turn it into an external drive I could run on another computer?)

Any thoughts/advice would be welcome!

  birdface 12:02 17 Feb 2012

The old trick was to take the battery off and unplug the power supply then hold down the start button for 30 seconds.Refit the power cord and try and start without the battery.

Whether it would work on your Laptop i have my doubts.

If it doesn't work go through that procedure again this time gripping one of your radiators while pressing the start button.Not to laugh but that worked for me twice when trying to start my granddaughters laptop.

Mind you it would not start was the problem but it never shut down like your one first.

  robin_x 12:15 17 Feb 2012

Your own research of a catastrophic sudden failure seems likely.

(You have tried with battery removed and mains only? I can't quite tell from your description)

If you have lots of reports of same problem you could try a Warranty claim under SoG Act against retailer. Upto 6 years is possible.

But 4 years might still be a struggle.

If the laptop is beyond repair, you just need a small Philips screwdriver to undo the access panels underneath and remove the hard drive.

I can't recommend a USB caddy/2.5" SATA enclosure specifically beyond a general amazon/ebuyer search.

Others will have their favourite £5-10 links I am sure.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 16:02 17 Feb 2012

Sounds like the laptop is dead but the data should be recoverable using a caddy and another PC.

You will probably have to "take ownership" of the files on the old drive befor windows will let you access files in My documents folder etc.

How you do this is dependant on which op system is being used.

  br1anstorm 00:02 18 Feb 2012

Thanks for the replies (as usual, helpful wisdom especially from robin and from "the bat"....).

To answer robin's question, I tried with battery alone, and with mains power adapter with battery in place. I didn't try to switch it on with mains power adapter connected while battery was removed - though I did just plug the adapter in while battery was out, and that little green light on it immediately went out (and of course the little indicator light on the side of the laptop didn't light up..)

I think it's shot dead. I did think about taking the issue up with Dell under Sale of Goods.... but the tales of woe on the Dell community forum (all the way from despair to fury) are enough to make you lose the will to live. Dell's responses seem to be consistently incoherent, confusing and unhelpful. Like insurance companies they seem to try every possible tactic to avoid offering help, never mind repair or replacement. I just don't think I'd have the will or stamina to pursue it.

Even if I struck lucky, I'm not sure it would be worth it. One Dell 1520 owner has been through three motherboards... Hence the references to fundamental design/construction deficiencies. Moreover, even though my 1520 was decent spec for its time (XP Pro OS, Core2Duo 2.00GHz, 2 x 1024MB RAM, 250GB hard drive), I was begining to think I ought to move on to a newer model running Win7 anyway. So maybe I'll just have to write it off as bad luck and an expensive paperweight.

One final question, fruitbat. What exactly do you mean by "taking ownership"? If I can get the hard drive out and into a caddy, I was planning to plug it into an older laptop running XP Pro. I assumed I could simply access, open and copy all the usual folders and files (My Docs etc) and get at the email files and browser favourites, just as if they were on any other external drive? Am I overlooking or missing some vital step?

  robin_x 00:16 18 Feb 2012

W7 may give you Access Denied (because Security Permissions are improved).

Take Ownership is just a way of forcing the permissions to the new account login on a different computer.

Post back if you get any Copying/Reading problems when you move the drive over, but you should be OK.

  br1anstorm 14:55 18 Feb 2012

Thanks robin.... but at least initially I'll be trying to retrieve stuff from my rescued hard drive using an older laptop running XP Pro, not W7. There's no User Account Control in XP.

I confess I have never heard of, or come across, a "Take Ownership" option: is it something that UAC or W7 pops up when you try to access other users' folders?

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