Replacing a Dell XPS M170 laptop video card.ElementZero | July 3, 2011
Previously I had posted on how to repair your Dell XPS M170. While this will solve many poeple’s problems, for some, it may not be the permanent fix you would be hoping for. In my laptop, One of the resistors fell off when I put it in the oven. I had soldered it back on, and the video card had worked, but after a few months it broke again. I put it back in the oven and got it working again, only to have it break again a few months later. I actually repeated this process about 8 times (I’m REALLY good at taking that M170 laptop apart now haha), before the resistor just fell off again. I imagine that if I was better at soldering, then this wouldn’t have happened, but regardless it was broken for good now. I did attempt to solder it back on, but there was not much to solder to and the card just didn’t work anymore.
That being said, I started to look for alternative to fixing it. As I mentioned in my lat post, I had only spent $128 to buy the laptop before, so I could afford a bit more to get it working again. Here is the results of what I found by cruising around the internet:
Replacing the card with another Nvidia card (designed for the M170).
You can replace the card with either another Nvidia 6800 Ultra, or a 7800 GTX from a Inspiron 9300 or a M170.
- They cost a fortune on ebay right now ($250 AT LEAST) – I assume due to the fact that there is high demand from other people who had had these cards die on them
- These cards are HIGHLY prone to dying – and it has nothing to do with the which laptop they were in, the cards are just badly built. I can’t even tell you how many posts there are on the internet where people are complaining that their card has started dying or has died. So if you get another one of these cards it might just die on you again. This may be fine as you could due the oven trick and get it to work again (perhaps permanently) – but who wants to spend $250+ on something that might break, especially when you can get the whole laptop for around $100?
Replacing the card with a ATI X300 or X600
A Radeon ATI X300 from a Dell Inspiron 9300 or a Radeon ATI X600 from a Dell Latitude D810.
- These cards are MUCH cheaper than the Nvidia ones. You can get them on ebay from somewhere around $30 – $50 and there are lots of options to choose from.
- These cards apparently last much longer and are (according to one post on the internet) “several orders of magnitude better than the Nvidia cards” (sorry, don’t remember which forum I saw that on
- The cards, while being able to handle games, are nowhere near as powerful as the Nvidia cards. I wound up getting a X300 128MB and it shows as a 2.6 in Windows 7 performance tests for 3D graphics, while the Nvidia 6800 Ultra had previously received a 4.9 – quite a difference. I was able to play League of Legends on high settings with the old card, now I can barely play it on low settings.
- While you can find drivers to get it to work on Windows Vista and older, getting it to work on Windows 7 is a bit tricky and I was never able to get the Catalyst Control center installed for the more advanced options.
- The Dell Latitude D810 and the Dell Inspiron 9300 had different heat sinks for the cards. So if you get one of the Nvidia options that was not made for the M170, or you get any of the ATI options, you need to use the original heat sink for the top of the card, and then (if you have the ATI), you need to use the heat sink from the Inspiron 9300 or the Latitude D810 on the bottom of the card. The reason for this is that if you use the original heatsink from the M170 on the bottom of the card, it will cover part of the slot of the card, preventing you from inserting the card back into the motherboard correctly. You may not even realize this is a problem though unless you look at it – you may just assume the card does not work (sounds like I’m speaking from personal experience eh?)/ Now on the Nvidia cards, I would imagine it does not matter WHAT heat sink part you use on the bottom as they seem to be laid out differently, but I could not tell you for sure – just make sure you look and decide for yourself.
- There were X300′s and x600′s made for other Dell laptops (I think one was for an Inspiron 6300 or something). Note that these cards are NOT laid out exactly like the original cards, meaning the original heat sink will not fit on it (like I just said, you have to use this) AND the slot will not line up. I’m almost 100% sure if you get one from a Dell Latitude D810 or an Inspiron 9300 it will be OK, but make sure you double check the images before you purchase (the wrong cards looks entirely different, so you should be able to tell). Basically the lay out of the card needs to look exactly like you old card, but the heat sinks for the other laptops had much shorter piping (the orange pipes sticking out that go to the fans in the M170). If you buy the wrong card, you will have to ship it back – so just make sure to double check.
- Even on the right version of the X300 and X600 cards (layout will work in the M170), there are different RAM amounts on the cards – 32MB, 64MB and 128MB. Try to get a 128MB card if you want to do any gaming at all, otherwise it really doesn’t matter (more is always better though). It doesn’t seem to have any affect on the price of these cards on ebay either.
- You can get the drivers for the Nvidia cards from Nvidia’s website or from Dell Support.
- For the ATI cards, if you are using Windows XP or earlier, you can just download the drivers from the Dell support site for a Dell Latitude D810 (link here). If you have Windows Vista or Windows 7, you can still download the drivers from ATI’s website archive here (or Google “ATI X300 drivers” ). These will work awesome on Windows Vista, but getting them to work on Windows 7 is pretty difficult (you need to uninstall the video card, then load it by manually picking the driver after you extract it from the zip archive), and I was never able to get the Catalyst Center working right (not that I tried hard – it might be possible).
Now then, all that being said – there are a couple of HIGHLY important facts you should take note of before making either choice.
Anyways, once you get one of these cards, plop it on in and you should be good to go.
Anyways – the jist of all this is that if you just want a working laptop, and don’t care about games or play generally old (i.e. – 2003) games, and you don’t like pay more than twice the amount of of the laptop in the first place, then buy the ATI card. If you want games, money is not an issue or you REALLY need to have Windows 7 on there, you might want to go with the Nvidia card.