I'm hoping to get some help saving an Acer 8943g laptop that is only a few years old. The background and symptoms of this laptop's issues are long and varied, I'll do my best to describe any relevant information.
The OS is Windows 7 x64.
Almost a year into owning and using the laptop, it started to crash randomly with BSODs. At that time I completely reinstalled windows only to find it continued to crash, so I sent it back to Acer barely under warranty. They returned it noting that the problems were due to the thermal paste drying up, they apparently fixed it and the computer worked again for some time.
Within another year or so, the laptop started crashing with BSODs in addition to freezing and just turning off abruptly. It started slowly/occasionally, and I began to try to troubleshoot it with different drivers, etc. Eventually it became so frequent that the laptop wouldn’t even turn on at all. It would either BSOD right away within a minute of loading windows, or it would just shut off before it even finished loading windows, or rarely it would freeze and there would be a block of color (blue or another) on a portion of the screen where it should be loading windows. I tried to reinstall windows from a bootable USB and the install would freeze or fail every time.
I took the laptop to a computer repair store, asking for a full diagnostic and asking them also to check/replace the thermal paste since that had been an issue prior. They ran tests and came back saying that the hard drive had some bad sectors, I purchased a new one. Then I got a call that the motherboard or main board was not working and would randomly fail the test and that I should just get a new laptop. They seemed to know very little about the thermal paste and I could tell they hadn’t checked or replaced it. Upon picking up the laptop and walking home in the cold of winter, I found that the laptop would boot and be stable in windows for 10 mins or so without crashing. Having been told that the motherboard is shot and my only option is to buy a new laptop (this one cost $1400), I felt that maybe the laptop being cold and booting up for the first time in a while may have been an indicator that overheating or the thermal paste may have been part of the issue. Without much knowledge about it or much money, I decided to place the laptop in the refrigerator for a few hours and then try to boot again. The laptop booted and ran for an hour before crashing. I had learned about and downloaded CoreTemp, and it showed the temperatures rising up until the crash.
With this limited information, I decided my best option was to learn how to dissemble the laptop to get to the thermal paste and replace it myself. Replacing the paste on this laptop is a pain, you have to disassemble the whole thing to get to the heatsink. After researching it, I successfully took apart the thermal paste, removed the old completely dry paste, and reapplied new paste (Arctic Silver 5). The laptop booted fine and worked all night (5 hours) before I turned it off. It seemed to me that the main issue had been overheating and the thermal paste needing reapplied.
I decided to give the laptop a new start anyway and installed the new hard drive and reinstalled windows from the bootable USB. I didn’t have the original discs so I used an ISO downloaded from Microsoft for the version of windows 7 I had (and 64bit). The laptop worked well for a week or two until I installed the Windows Updates for Windows 7 service pack 1 (the big 117 updates package). The laptop started crashing again, and I thought my best option at the time was to reinstall windows again and just not update windows. The plan worked ok, and the laptop worked without crashing for several more months. I was pretty happy at the time… having saved a $1400 laptop that everyone had told me was more or less junked.
Then the BSODs, freezes, and so on starting occurring again.
I purchased a copy from Acer of the original factory system discs and attempted to reinstall windows (a complete reinstall, wiping the hard disk and everything). The installation first went throughout without issue, but the laptop crashed upon the first boot up into the Windows set up. The installation wasn’t complete and it needed Windows to be reinstalled, so I tried again and the installation failed. After the laptop crashed during the third installation attempt, I decided to disassemble it again and remove/replace the thermal paste.
The installation went through fine after replacing the paste again, but windows continues to crash and freeze. I’ve updated Windows with all the available updates. I’ve updated the sound driver to realtek’s latest, and I’ve tried using an alternate video driver (the one that it was stable with for a few months in between having issues).
There are some symptoms that may indicate that it is either RAM or video card related. I’ve noticed recently that the laptop is only recognizing 4GB of ram when it has 8GB (4 x 2GB cards). The RAM was tested not too long ago and came back OK, so I am wondering if there is a slot or two that may be faulty. I’ve experimented with different RAM configurations… the laptop was only showing 2GB when there were two 2GB cards in slots 1 and 2. I’ve tried using 2 cards in other slots, with the current configuration being 2 2GB cards in slots 2 and 4. The laptop has not yet failed to recognize the RAM in this configuration, so it may be that slot 1 is faulty I don’t know.
The other issue is sometimes when the laptop crashes it displays animated, neon or multicolor static. I’m not sure if this is indicative of a video card issue or if it could be other hardware or software. The laptop has a dedicated video card in addition to an onboard video card. The dedicated one is an ATI mobility radeon HD 5850 2GB card (included stock with the laptop).
I also noticed when replacing the thermal paste recently that there is some light warping in the black plastic that is in a rectangular outline around the top copper heatsink plate that rests immediately on top of the chip. I’m not sure if I did this by applying too much thermal paste removal liquid or if it happened from heat or when the laptop was sent back in for repair, but I imagine the slight warping of this usually flat plastic could hamper the heatsink’s ability to cool the chip due to the extra space. When removing/replacing the thermal paste, I cover both the ATI graphics chip and the main chip. I use the credit card method to apply the paste flatly. The third small chip (the onboard video chip) has a rubber square between the heatsink and the chip so I do not apply thermal paste there. I have been considering buying the correct size copper shim and using this (with thermal paste on each side) in place of the rubber pad, but I’m not sure if that chip is even overheating. Coretemp shows the temperatures for the four processors to be okay (idling from 45-55, up to 65 or 70 with light load, 80 or so gaming). It doesn’t seem to show either video chip’s temperature.
I’m not sure what is wrong with this laptop, but my income depends on it working again (I work from home). I don’t need it to be perfect, but I need it to run stable again like it was only a few weeks ago in between all of these BSODs and crashes. Does anyone have any advice? I can definitely download any programs needed and upload WhoCrashed and other logs if needed.
Thanks so much!
Edited by VintageRetro32, 09 May 2013 - 06:35 PM.