Forum Thread

Trying to fix an older Dell Inspiron m5010 laptop; basic questions; error = 3 blacks and black screen

GBAstar 5,137 1,916 March 3, 2016 at 09:00 PM
Hello all,

I know I'm going to sound very ignorant and what I'm doing is probably a bad idea but live and learn bounce

A close friend of mine is having a problem with his mother-in-law's laptop. It's an older Dell Inspiron m5010. I'm not sure of the specs but it looks to be a few years old.

Apparently his child spilled water on the laptop, at least that is what his mother-in-law claims. He took it to Best Buy and was told it'd be cheaper to replace then fix (I'm sure that's actually correct based on what they quote for prices).

I told him I'd fool around with it and at the very least see if I could salvage the hard drive. He has money, and I'm sure I could find a comparable laptop for about $350, but I am curious if I can fix this.

-----------------------------------------

I have a little experience playing with laptops but not much. Basically I've replaced hard drives, added RAM and small components like an internal bluetooth chip. I've dismantled older computers before for fun and am aware of how things connect (ribbons, plastic teeth, etc.) but do not know the correct terminology for these things nor can I easily tell what is what but I have a general idea.


To start, when you try and power the laptop on you get three beeps a pause and then three beeps again. This continues to infinity. The laptop tries to power on but the screen stays black.

According to dell three beeps means the following:

Quote :
Beep codes can be used as diagnostic indicator.3 beeps indicates system board failure.

It may involve any of the following failure :

Chipset Error (North and South bridge error, DMA/IMR/Timer error)

Time-Of-Day Clock test failure

Gate A20 failure

Super I/O chip failure

Keyboard controller test failure
I've seen some forums and youtube videos where users have suggested removing and reinserting the RAM and/or the battery on the motherboard.

I tried this and it did not fix the issue.

Others have suggested washing the motherboard (what????) and/or wrapping the laptop in a towel and applying heat from a blowdryer.

The thought is, that Dell used defective paste on these motherboards, similar to the problems people had with the OG PlayStation 3 (Fat) consoles.

The setup of the internals on the Dell laptop is ass backwards. I had to remove the keyboard, and about two dozen screws to get far enough to even access the hard drive (unlike most models that have a trap door for easy access).

Furthermore to access the battery on the mother board I had to remove the motherboard because it's on the reverse side.

This means about a half dozen plugs and ribbon cables had to come undone but thankfully I took before/after pictures and was able to match everything (accept for one piece that was left over that I accidentally forgot to put back, but I found it's home eventually (I think it was the internal bluetooth dongle).

I had a tough time getting the motherboard battery out and a small piece of plastic broke that I'm guessing helped keep it in place since I could not get it to look back in. I used a thin piece of electrical tape and I hope that solved the problem.

Anyways, I put everything back and unfortunately had the same error.

[I wanted to double check and see if the hard drive was salvageable but could find my SATA to USB cable, I think it's at work so I'll try later].

Can anyone think of any other things to try? Could the heat work? Or as someone else had mentioned would "washing" the motherboard gently do any good?



P.S. this is more of me just curious if I can fix a problem versus NEEDING to fix a problem.


Thanks for any suggestions and/or criticism! It's always helpful!

8 Comments

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Joined Feb 2008
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#2
Cool. Have fun. Get a hard drive docking station. Not sure what you are doing with all those mess.
If the laptop got water spilled while running, the motherboard and CPU and GPU were gone. Just test the hdd on docking station.

If you think The setup of the internals on the Dell laptop is ass backwards.
Wait to see the cheap Toshiba laptop under $250. You need to take the keyboard out first if you want to get the RAM.
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Last edited by xxxHolic March 4, 2016 at 05:21 AM
#3
Good practice, and you did some good research. When all basic fixes don't work and the motherboard is damaged for me its replace the mobo or chuck the laptop. In this case I would chuck it, you can try to salvage the HDD but I wouldn't trust your data on it unless you have fully tested it since the laptop has water damage.
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#4
The idea behind washing the motherboard is you wash away contaminants that may be bridging connections on the board and corrosion. You use 91% isopropyl alcohol. I don't think it will have a huge effect here because you have already applied power to the computer so any damage shorting damage has already happened.The alcohol helps to displace water too.

The standard procedure in anything like this is to remove power as soon as possible, then tear it all apart, rinse with alcohol and then dry for at least 24 hours in moisture absorber. Some people will bake it out even further.

The hard drive is most likely still working assuming it was not submerged in liquid. Hard drives (In this age of system) are not sealed and have an air breather port or two. You should be able to access data on it. Being safe it would be good to let it sit in rice for 12-24 hours just as a precaution.

All this being said this was a budget machine 5-6 years ago and it looks like it's not known for it's longevity, all types of issues plagued it. It's not worth repairing or really spending much time on. You can buy a replacement motherboard for about $75 and chance it with your current RAM and Processor but I would think the chance of getting it to work again is slim.

If it was me I would focus purely on data recovery and put all money and most of my time to a new computer. SSD's are really nice. After 5+ years she is due for a new computer. Dell does offer a nice accidental warranty that covers stuff like this Smilie

The idea behind washing the motherboard is you wash away contaminants that may be bridging connections on the board and corrosion. You use 91% isopropyl alcohol. I don't think it will have a huge effect here because you have already applied power to the computer so any damage shorting damage has already happened.

The standard procedure in anything like this is to remove power as soon as possible, then tear it all apart, rinse with alcohol and then dry for at least 24 hours in moisture absorber. Some people will bake it out even further.

The hard drive is most likely still working assuming it was not submerged in liquid. Hard drives (In this age of system) are not sealed and have an air breather port or two. You should be able to access data on it. Being safe it would be good to let it sit in rice for 12-24 hours just as a precaution.

All this being said this was a budget machine 5-6 years ago and it looks like it's not known for it's longevity, all types of issues plagued it. It's not worth repairing or really spending much time on. You can buy a replacement motherboard for about $75 and chance it with your current RAM and Processor but I would think the chance of getting it to work again is slim.

If it was me I would focus purely on data recovery and put all money and most of my time to a new computer. SSD's are really nice. After 5+ years she is due for a new computer. Dell does offer a nice accidental warranty that covers stuff like this Smilie
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Last edited by LiquidRetro March 4, 2016 at 06:13 AM
Vague questions receive vague answers . . . . . .
#5
Washing of electronics can also be done with high purity de-ionized distilled water possibly finishing with isopropyl. You can actually buy 99% isopropyl, locally micro center sells it.

If washing were attempted with tap water, it would eventually (possibly years later) cause corrosion that would damage things. Spilling water is better than spilling juice, soda, etc, but is still a big problem. The time it would take fix is unlikely to be worth it.

You could replace the motherboard if you want, but other than that it's probably not worth it.

To actually fix it without replacing the motherboard, you'd probably need a few hundred dollars worth in parts and tools and a degree in electrical engineering. And that assumes you bill your time at $0/hr.
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#6
^ Thanks everyone.

That's what I what I was expecting. I always find it good practice to tinker, especially on something where a bad outcome is already expected.

I believe the hard drive is salvagable, maybe the RAM too.

Is their any value in selling a laptop casing (i.e. everything except the HDD and RAM)? I know this is/was a budget laptop but I didn't know if that was something I could get $50-$100 out of on eBay.

Lastly, would this be a comparable laptop for him to buy as a replacment?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lenovo-B5...rmvSB=true

$190 with these specs:

Intel 3205U Dual-Core CPU
4GB DDR3L Memory
500GB Hard Drive
15.6" 1366x768
Intel HD Graphics
Win 10

His mother-in-law is older so I think she may struggle with Windows 10 (I believe old machine had Win 7) but all she really does is web browse and check e-mails so I would think this would certainly be comparable to a budget machine from four years ago.
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#7
Yes, that laptop would be better than the one she had. Simply install classic shell and it will feel like win7.
Doubt youll get any money for the case.
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#8
please consider screen resolution when purchasing new laptop
also, even though the CPU is better, you having Win10 on is will use up resources a lot diff, as it has the tiles and apps updating. I wouldn't be cheap and get something bare minimum. Throw in another $50 or $100 to get a better CPU. lots of deals here on SD.

GJ on the troubleshooting and research Wink
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#9
Quote from aznboicn View Post :
please consider screen resolution when purchasing new laptop
also, even though the CPU is better, you having Win10 on is will use up resources a lot diff, as it has the tiles and apps updating. I wouldn't be cheap and get something bare minimum. Throw in another $50 or $100 to get a better CPU. lots of deals here on SD.

GJ on the troubleshooting and research Wink
There is no need for 1080p in a 15 inch...been using 1366 for the longest time its perfect. In fact its better for older folks since the text/icons appear larger without having to increase size in windows which can cause issues with some applications. Windows 10 is no more resource intensive than win7 its actually faster. That laptop is just fine. If he wants to make it snappy a cheap ssd will work way better than a faster processor.
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