Video Problem- Dell with ATI Mobility Radeon 9000

PurdueMarc

Junior Member
Apr 25, 2006
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Short Version:
My laptop worked great for a year, then all the sudden 3D stuff stopped working. I've tried everything I could think of with zero results.
I tried to ask about this on Dell's forums, and I haven't recieved a response yet. You can go there to see the pictures. The computer's two years old, but it has stopped running programs that it used to run fine, and that bothers me.

Long version:

Dell Inspiron 5150
BIOS A38
Intel Pentium 4, 3.06GHz
512 MB of RAM
ATI Mobility Radeon 9000, Driver ver 6.14.10.6371
DirectX ver 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)

I bought this laptop about 2 years ago, and it always worked fine. One fateful day, my fiance purchased the Sims 2 and we installed it. Everything was fine for upwards of a year. However, one day, it stopped working. When you try to run the Sims, this is what happens.
Once you exit the Sims, you get this. Everything else (e-mail, web, office) works fine.

I tried to fix it for a long time- I'm pretty computer literate, so I've done all the obvious things: I installed all the latest drivers & patches, and did all the windows updates. Nothing. I was so desperate for a solution that I actually formatted the hard drive so I could start over with a clean slate- Nothing. The problem kept coming back. After all my effort I finally gave up and figured it was a problem with the game.

So, flash forward to now. I tried to play Star Wars: Empire at War, and it has the exact same problem. This changes everything, because now I know it's a problem with the computer, not just one program. I discovered if you run the DirectX self-test, you see the same type of effect. So, I spent the better part of last weekend trying to make it all work. I did all the standard fixes again, but still no effect. After web-chatting with Dell (you can't really get a human on the phone anymore; for that matter the chat may have been a clever computer program) for 2+ hours, we came back to the old "Re-install windows." But this time there's a twist: I should flash the BIOS first! Since I had version A03, and the newest version is A38, I'll assume that they've made some updates. So I bid goodbye to the chat tech and began the BIOS upgrade. Of course that in itself didn't fix the problem, so today I reformatted the computer (again). So, 7+ hours of work, and what do you know? The problem shows up immediately!

So, I went back to something the tech said, and I've seen mentioned elsewhere on the web: reseat the video card. I was terrified of trying to do this myself, but Dell actually has very good instructions on how to do this on the web. Plus, a hardware solution was the only thing I could think of that would still affect the computer after I reinstalled windows. So I took a deep breath and went for it.

I took stuff apart, blew out lots of dust, reseated the video card, and put it all back together good as new. I ran the DirectX test, and joy of joys, it worked! Then it worked again! On the third try, the problem came right back.

I'm all out of ideas. I would love to hear any suggestions you guys may have. If you're interested in a transcript of my Dell tech support chat, it's at the bottom of this post. I would really like to get this fixed!

Since I made the Dell post and discovered Anandtech, I've researched the video card a little more. Is it true that the Radeon 9000 is only meant to run with DirectX 8? Maybe when windows upgraded itself to DirectX 9 is when it stopped working. If that's the case, should I switch to the nVidia GeForce 5200? They seem to also have a Inspiron 5150 version of that card on eBay.

I appreciate any and all help. Thanks!
 

framerateuk

Senior member
Apr 16, 2002
224
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0
It sounds to me like the newest version of Direct X isnt compatible with your old graphics drivers. Firstly you need to get updated drivers for your graphics card, you can get Omega drivers for the mobility range which will update your card to the newest one (ATI dont do catalyst updates for mobile graphics, although dell *may* be able to supply you with an update). If you google "Omega drivers" youll come up with a link for it, id get the link for you but im in work and lots of sites are blocked :)

After you install the drivers you should be ok, unless its something more serious and hardware related. I wasnt aware you could swap the graphics cards on certain dell laptops? (?) but i dont see much point in switching to a 5200, you wont get any major performance increase from that.
 

ElFenix

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Mar 20, 2000
102,414
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that really looks to me like overheating. i expected that a good cleaning would fix it, but i guess not.

the radeon 9000 is a dx 8 card, but the drivers should enable it to work with dx9 games. the games simply won't run the advanced dx9 effects.
 

framerateuk

Senior member
Apr 16, 2002
224
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0
After reading your tech support conversation it looks like the card might be damaged in some way. How much is the replacement card? you could try it to see if it works if its not too expensive?
 

PurdueMarc

Junior Member
Apr 25, 2006
3
0
0
Thanks for the replies!
I looked at the Omega Driver, and saw that it was called "Catalyst 6.3." Once I knew I was looking for something called Catalyst, I went back to ATI and saw that they were providing Catalyst 6.4. I figured I would give the supported driver a chance first. Guess what? It didn't even install, even after I installed the .net framework first. It kept telling me to install a VGA driver first. So, moving on.
The Omega Driver version installed just fine, and the ATT is actually a nice little utility. Alas, no dice. DirectX still doesn't work. At least now I have a driver that's less that 3 years old for future reference.
The further I go the more convinced I am that it's a hardware problem. Since I haven't found any actual dealers that still carry the 5150 compatible video cards (you can actually swap them outswap them out- one of the few advantages of the inspiron), I've been looking on eBay. It looks like a replacement will run me about $70, and if it doesn't work I can sell it again and just be out shipping. I don't really want to buy a new one but it would be worth it to salvage the machine.
I'm out on the road for the next few days, but I'll get back to work on it next week. If anybody can think of any additional hints, I'd love to hear them. Thanks again guys!
 

blckgrffn

Diamond Member
May 1, 2003
9,120
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www.teamjuchems.com
The mobility 9000 in my 600m is still working perfectly even with all the newest DX9c stuff, I have gone back to using the drivers from Dell's website as well. Good luck!

For what its worth, the only card that I couldn't get to work with a newer DX version was my Voodoo2 12 meg :p
 

PurdueMarc

Junior Member
Apr 25, 2006
3
0
0
Well, I bought an nVidia GeForce 5200 card off of eBay for a thrifty $41 shipped, so I installed it as soon as possible. Lo and behold, everything works perfectly. Now, I haven't done a whole lot of gaming with it yet, but everything seems to be in order.
Now, the crappy part is that the card I bought clearly says 64MB in the description, yet once installed it shows up as a 32MB card. I've e-mailed the seller twice about it, and still haven't gotten a response. I don't really want to deal with the hassel of taking it back out and shipping it back, so hopefully the guy will just give me half my money back or something. Time to contact eBay!
Thank you again to everyone on this forum. It was a big help to get a little feedback, considering Dell tech support was completely useless and no one ever responded to my post on their forums. Thanks!
 

Fraggable

Platinum Member
Jul 20, 2005
2,799
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I worked on a 5150 w/5200 in it just last week. I did a reformat and reinstall of Win XP SP2 and never saw any issues with video. Your problem really looks to me like overheating or damage to the video card, not DX9 issues. I would have suggested reseating it with some AS5 thermal paste but now that you've got the new card it doesn't matter.