Got a Defective Computer?
Natalia J. Garland
I am not alone. Many people have had overheating and blank screen
problems with their laptop computers, most especially with the
Hewlett Packard and Dell models which were manufactured with
defective NVIDIA graphics chips. There are articles and forums
on the internet that witness to a massive yet almost uncommunicated
problem with these computers. That is to say, uncommunicated to
the general public and to potential customers. Unless you are an
expert or enthusiast who keeps up with the latest details on
technological issues, you might not have heard or read about the
NVIDIA problem. Even if you experienced the problem yourself, if
your computer was out of warranty, you might not realize what had
happened to it.
Below I have quoted
material from others who have experienced or who seem knowledgeable
about the NVIDIA problem. This material may or may not be
accurate: each reader is responsible for making his or her own
assessment for validity and reliability. The material is taken
from forums at the websites of Cnet and World Law Direct,
respectively. I selected these excerpts because I was able to
relate the remarks and information to my own experience. (I made a
few grammatical changes which did not affect the content.) The
final excerpt is from a Cnet article written by Michael
Why do notebooks crash? The cooling vents are incorrectly placed
under the notebook instead of at the side or on the top (such
as above the keyboard). Even when placed on a hard surface, like a
table desk, the air flow is reduced too much.
HP (like other notebook vendors) is trying to make stupid
economies in the CPU and GPU mounting processes: they use
sub-quality heat pipes, the vents are much too small and, in
general, all the cooling is extremely bad. They even forget to
interconnect all the heat pipes to the vents: you can see glued
aluminum surfaces going to nowhere except to the plastic surface
behind the PC, notably for the North Bridge. And, there's
absolutely no heat pipes for memory chips.
Only the Intel CPU is correctly piped to the vents. But, the fans
are running too slowly, and are too small and do not dissipate
Many PCs (most notebooks, in fact) are affected: you can't use them
to run any 3D application for more than 1 minute. Almost all common
games are causing the PC to crash.
And there's not even a way to reduce the GPU frequency in the BIOS
settings so that it will not overheat too fast and so that software
thermal regulation will effectively work as expected. The overheat,
starting at time t from the internal cores of the GPU or from the
CPU or from the North Bridge, takes about 1 minute to reach the
surface of the chip. Even the best cooling systems will not be
able to dissipate this heat. Clearly, the thermal sensors within
the NVIDIA GPU chips are badly placed if they can't rapidly detect
the overheat condition and immediately (and automatically, by
hardware automation, rather than depending on external softwares)
regulate the working frequency.
NVIDIA asserts that it makes fast GPUs, but even the GPUs for
notebooks (M series) are affected, because they use incorrect
thermal material for their casing. But PC manufacturers are also
not respecting the thermal requirements.
This is scandalous. PC makers are just lying: their notebooks
cannot work reliably with the supplied 3D chip. What is even worse
is that they don't even allow users to reduce the frequency of the
GPU directly in the BIOS for safe operation.
Because the overheating can seriously damage your PC, it can die
suddenly after running a basic demo or some rich-media ad banners
when browsing the web. The GPU is also overheating when viewing
some videos with the standard codecs supplied with some media
players (including windows Media Player, Real Networks, QuickTime,
or Adobe Flash).
Isn't there some independent test labs that will clearly indicate
to consumers: don't buy this PC; and that will inform all online PC
shops so that they stop delivering them?
Why put a GPU on a notebook if it's unusable for something else
than just basic office applications, and if it can even fail to
boot Windows, if the initial temperature is above 40 degrees
Celsius or the room environment is just above 20 degrees Celsius
and still below 40 degrees Celsius with normal hygrometry? If these
notebooks are made for office apps, then remove the accelerated
GPUs, or use less accelerated chips.
[End of quote.]
If you think you are
fairly computer literate because you understand some things about
hard drives and RAM--think again, because that is no longer
sufficient. You must also develop an understanding of processors,
graphics chips, and general computer construction. I can relate to
the above excerpt because it made me question the purpose and
capacities of a laptop computer, and whether changes in design
reflect usefulness or cost of production (i.e., cheaper parts and
Having owned three
laptops over ten years, I can do my own compare and contrast
of these machines. My first laptop, an IBM ThinkPad i Series 1480,
purchased in 2000, has a cooling vent at the side which wraps
around to the bottom of the machine. The ThinkPad tended to run
warm, but never to the point of malfunction due to overheating. My
second laptop, a Toshiba Satellite 1905, purchased in 2003, has a
cooling vent at the side. The fan comes on frequently and it is
noisy, but there has never been any overheating. My third laptop,
an HP Compaq Presario CQ60-210US, has a cooling vent underneath the
machine: the vents are comparatively small. However, the machine
never overheated. It actually ran quiet and only slightly warm.
Then, suddenly, within a week, one year and eight months after
purchase, it overheated severely and the screen went blank and
Although I think the
placement of the cooling vents is significant (and certainly the
BIOS settings as well), that alone cannot rescue a part that is
defective from the beginning. Proper placement of vents and an
adequate fan may help to prevent or reduce overheating in a machine
in which all the other parts are good, but it cannot compensate for
a bad part. The defective NVIDIA chip, for example, was destined
to deteriorate, stop working, and possibly do irreversible damage.
My IBM and Toshiba
laptops are heavy, well-constructed machines. Compared to the
bulky desktop computers of those days, however, they were quite
portable. The lids even shut tight with a latch. And, if you
bought a sturdy aluminum case, accidental dropping probably would
not have broken anything. Laptops nowadays are lightweight--partly
due to thinner plastic and a more streamlined design. And, laptop
cases are made from padded nylon. The emphasis in on lightness,
thinness, speed and power. Yet, as noted in the above excerpt,
proper construction adaptations to these preferences are possibly
Recently, when I
went shopping for a new computer, I asked the salesman about the
store's extended warranty policy. He said: Be sure to get
accident coverage. There are two parts to the policy and you
can purchase one or both: repairs and/or breakage from dropping.
The salesman assumed that I would be carrying my laptop around with
me--perhaps to school or to the job. He must have known that, due
to thin plastic and possible inferior construction, the laptop
would easily break if dropped.
HP Is Well
HP is well aware that my HP Pavilion dv9230us Notebook PC with
Intel Core 2 Duo processor T5500 and NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 has
stopped working due to a known manufacturing defect of the NVIDIA
GeForce Go 7600 graphics card. NVIDIA publicly released information
in 2008 describing this defect as a weak die/packaging material
used in their graphics processors and that replacement chips now
utilize Hitachi underfill packaging materials that improves product
quality and enhances operating life by improved thermal cycling
reliability. HP knew about this back in 2007 and later provided
firmware updates to increase fan use.
My notebook became very, very hot to the touch, and would not
reboot. During startup, the display initially shows vertical
green-checkered lines on a black background. Then the display locks
up in a blank black screen before completing the start-up process.
The only way to get the computer on is to reboot in safe mode and
disable the NVIDIA driver and use the laptop in VGA mode which
provides a screen that is heavily pixilated (unreadable). These are
the same symptoms described by many, many other customers who have
had their computers repaired and confirmed that the problem was the
defective overheating NVIDIA graphics processor.
My Rejected Request: I have asked HP to repair my notebook (at no
cost to me) by replacing the defective NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 chip
with a non-defective equivalent performance graphics processor and
repair any other damage the defective video chip overheating caused
to my computer.
I have talked to HP Total [Care] case manager, executive case
manager, Corporate Office, and Executive Customer Relations Office.
I sent e-mails to the Board of Directors and corporate compliance
office. It is ridiculous to claim that customers got what they paid
for as long as the computer made it past the 12 month warranty
period (24 months for a few lucky models). Wow, is that the
position HP wants to take with their competitors (HP Notebooks have
a 12 month shelf life)?
The number of people reporting NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 defect
failure in notebook models that are not in the extended warranty
list is growing larger every day (any internet search digs up huge
amounts of information). Requiring that customers pay to repair a
defect in light of this clear and growing body of evidence is
quickly showing that HP has not shown good faith to correct a known
manufacture defect and intends to double-charge customers for the
same product. This clearly tells everyone that we should not trust
HP! If they are not going to acknowledge and resolve a well-known
manufacture defect right now, then how can people trust that there
is no defect in the new models on the market right now?
I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the FTC
Bureau of Consumer Protection for non-compliance with a known
defect. It appears some executive has decided that the cost of a
potential lawsuit is less damaging than repairing all these
defective notebooks. What about the cost of sending us to buy a
competitor's product? What will legitimate proven customer
complaints sent to various consumer protection and product review
agencies do to the reputation of the HP product quality and
customer service? How much money is all that going to cost HP in
the long run?
The main reason I replied to this post was that I wanted to let the
author [of the previous post] know that the HP Pavilion laptops not
only make good paper weights, but if you open them up and tie a
rope to them they make great boat anchors. The opened laptop hangs
on all the rocks on the bottom of the lake and stops your boat in
it's tracks. If HP would just lower their price of their laptops by
around $1600 they might have better luck in the boat anchor
[End of quote.]
Who is responsible
for the defective NVIDIA graphics chip? Is NVIDIA responsible for
having manufactured the part? Is Hewlett Packard responsible for
having manufactured and distributed computers with the defective
part? Are the stores responsible for having sold these computers?
Particularly, who is responsible if the defective part does not
manifest malfunction until after the warranty expiration, or if the
computer manufacturer offers fixes which are not
conclusively effective but which seem to serve to move the computer
beyond the warranty expiration? Is the consumer then solely
responsible for repair or replacement?
Since I regard a
computer as a major investment, I can relate to the above excerpt.
If you bought one of the defective laptops--and your model is not
listed in the NVIDIA lawsuit settlement or you are unaware of the
settlement--and if HP refused to repair or replace your
laptop--perhaps because it was out of warranty when the malfunction
occurred--then you must spend more money to solve the problem. You
have to do something because you need your computer. This means,
in essence, that you are paying double for your original purchase.
Whether you try to have your laptop repaired or you decide to
purchase a new one--none of this would be necessary had it not been
for the defective NVIDIA chip. You are making the same purchase
twice--at twice the profit to the computer manufacturers and the
office supply stores and electronics stores, and to your financial
My computer was out
of warranty when the NVIDIA overheating problem occurred. I
purchased my computer in 2009, and the NVIDIA settlement only
covers, in the case of HP Compaq computers, certain models
purchased between 2006 and 2008. (There are some HP Pavilion
models and Dell models purchased in 2009 which are included.) Even
if I, as a consumer, am responsible because the computer is out of
warranty, should I ever trust HP or NVIDIA again? Should I ever
trust the office supply store again? Or any computer salesman?
When I did my recent
shopping for a new laptop, I went back to the office supply store
where I had purchased my defective HP. I was curious. I soon
discovered that all the display computers were blocked for certain
features. For example, you could not access the Control Panel or
the registry. The salesman explained to me this was because too
many people were fooling around with these features and messing up
the computers. Next, I went to an electronics store. All the
display computers were fully accessible. I could not help
wondering. Did other people also purchase defective computers from
the office supply store. Did some customers return and destroy the
display computers out of revenge?
By the way, the
office supply store was offering one-hundred dollars for any
computer brought in as a trade-in for a new computer. The only
requirement was that the trade-in start up. I decided to take in
my old IBM ThinkPad. I even telephoned the store the night before
to make sure they would accept such an old computer. However, when
I got to store, I was told that the trade-in offer was only good
toward Hewlett Packard computers. I just did not feel comfortable
purchasing another HP, even though they seem no longer to be using
the NVIDIA chips. In fact, if you have been computer shopping
lately, you might have noticed that most of the new laptops come
with ATI or Intel graphics chips.
The next excerpt is
taken from an article which Michael Horowitz wrote for Cnet,
"Summarizing Nvidia Problems." It was not dated, but I
think it is from 2008.
Last month NVIDIA disclosed that due to a manufacturing flaw, some
of their laptop computer graphics processors and chipsets are
overheating and failing. This is a brief summary of the story for
those that missed it.
All of the flawed processors and chipsets are not failing but the
frequency of failure is unclear. NVIDIA put it this way:
"Certain notebook configurations with GPUs and MCPs
manufactured with a certain die/packaging material set are failing
in the field at higher than normal rates. To date, abnormal failure
rates with systems other than certain notebook systems have not
The day after the announcement, Humphrey Cheung at tgdaily noted
that "significant quantities" of Nvidia chips are
overheating and failing.
Two ways that failures manifest themselves are not being able to
start the computer and, of course, a blank screen. Dell said that
failure symptoms include multiple images, random characters on the
screen, and lines on the screen. HP lists not detecting wireless
networks as a sign of failure along with the wireless adapter not
appearing in the Windows Device Manager. They also note that if the
"battery charge indicator light does not turn on when the
battery is installed and the AC adapter is connected," it may
be due to this NVIDIA problem.
The problem has existed for a while. CNET blogger Brooke Crothers
says that HP knew about this since November 2007. At The INQUIRER
Charlie Demerjian wrote about this problem back in April of 2007.
Last month, Mr. Demerjian offered a fascinating explanation of
what's going on in his article, "NVIDIA Plays the Meltdown
Blame Game." In it he says, "...this problem hasn't
cropped up in desktop parts yet, but it most assuredly will."
Today, the Wall Street Journal had a story about dissatisfaction
with the way NVIDIA has dealt with this issue, "Chip Problems
Haunt NVIDIA, PC Makers." The article notes that "NVIDIA
hasn't recalled the affected chips or identified which models have
problems." NVIDIA's failure to publicly identify the
problematic hardware, strikes me as inexcusable. According to The
INQUIRER, All NVIDIA G84 and G86s are bad.
Are You Affected?
The only laptop vendors to step up to the plate so far have been
Dell and HP.
Owners of 24 HP laptop computer models need to be concerned. See HP
Pavilion dv2000/dv6000/dv9000 and Compaq Presario v3000/v6000
Series Notebook PCs--HP Limited Warranty Service Enhancement and HP
Limited Warranty Service Enhancement. I can't tell which of these
two items is the most recent since HP doesn't date stamp them.
Owners of 15 Dell laptop computers are affected, including models
in the Inspiron, Latitude, Precision, Vostro, and XPS lines. Dell
owners should read "NVIDIA GPU Update: Dell to Offer Limited
Warranty Enhancement to All Affected Customers Worldwide."
What To Do If You Are Affected:
The solutions offered by both HP and Dell boil down to running the
fan all the time to prevent the NVIDIA hardware from getting too
Both companies offer a BIOS update. HP seems to have an updated
BIOS for all affected machines, Dell has one for 10 of their 15
HP describes the BIOS update thusly:
"HP has identified a hardware issue with certain HP Pavilion
dv2000/dv6000/dv9000 and Compaq Presario V3000/V6000 series
notebook PCs, and has also released a new BIOS for these notebook
PCs... The new BIOS release for your notebook PC is preventive in
nature to reduce the likelihood of future system issues. The BIOS
updates the fan control algorithm of the system, and turns the fan
on at low volume while your notebook PC is operational."
A very different perspective on the BIOS update is offered by
Charlie Demerjian in The INQUIRER:
If you look at the HP page, the prophylactic fix they offer is to
more or less run the fan all the time. Once again, for the
non-engineers out there, fan-running eats a lot of power, so this
destroys the battery life of notebooks. Basically, people bought a
machine with a battery life of X, and now it is Y to prevent
meltdown from a bum part. It doesn't fix anything, it just makes
the failures take longer, hopefully past the warranty period, at a
huge battery life cost. Fire up your class actions people, you got
Both Dell and HP have extended the warranty on affected machines by
Other Steps To Take
If you own a laptop computer with NVIDIA chips and you haven't
registered it with the hardware vendor, I suggest doing so. This
way they can contact you if need be, and it can only help grease
the wheels should you need warranty repair.
Some motherboards have thermometers for measuring and reporting the
temperature. Try to contact the hardware vendor to see if they
offer software that you can use to watch the internal temperature.
I use the free HD Tune to watch the temperature in hard disks but
the hard disk might be nowhere near the NVIDIA chips. The System
Information for Windows program can also display some temperatures.
Still, the best monitoring is probably with software from the
motherboard or computer manufacturer, if they offer it.
Be aware of where the vents are and make sure they aren't blocked.
Also, check for dust on the fan and remove any that's there. Go to
the Power Options in the Control Panel and make sure that all the
available power management facilities are being used. They include
powering down the hard disk after a period of inactivity as well as
CPU power management. The Thinkpad T42 that I'm writing this on
also offers PCI Bus power management.
And, of course, the most important advice of all, backup your
important files to someplace outside your computer. Locally
resident backups on an external hard disk or a USB flash drive are
a great starting point.
Update August 20, 2008: A reader with a ThinkPad T61 laptop
computer wrote to tell me that the fan runs all the time. I haven't
seen anything about Lenovo in terms of this NVIDIA problem but the
computer in question has an NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M.
Update September 10, 2008: A lawsuit broke out. See Lawsuit alleges
NVIDIA hid chip defects.
[End of quote.]
Regarding the above
excerpt, I agree that the fixes offered by HP and Dell were
probably, at best, temporary. It is just a matter of logical
thinking. It is like telling a person with a broken left leg to
hop around on his right leg. That might work for a while, but it
does not heal the broken leg and eventually the whole body is going
to suffer. I can relate to the suggestions about computer
maintenance: I also manually manage the Power Options and check the
system's performance regularly, and I keep two backup copies of all
software downloads, documents, photographs, etc., on flash drives.
My next purchase will be to get an external hard drive for storing
I believe that the
reason my Toshiba has lasted so long (I am typing this essay on it
and did the bulk of my website work with it), is that it was a good
machine from the beginning and I maintained it well. I added extra
RAM to it, as well as to my IBM, regularly checked for disk errors
and performed defragmentation, downloaded essential Windows
updates and performed virus scans, kept the hard drive and registry
free of junk, and...I have my personal rule to keep the hard drive
80 percent free. What that really means is to put a limit on the
types of and number of games, and on screensavers and desktop
backgrounds. Even my old IBM, with only a 6.4 GB hard drive and 64
MG of RAM (192 MG after I added more) had enough room and power to
manage basic office or school work as well as my website. Again,
it goes back to the question of the purpose of laptops. Are they
simply glorified typewriters, or should they and can they
dependably (and dependably is the key word) do much more if
they are built right?
[NOTE 1: The
Hewlett Packard company was made aware this essay would be
published on this website by 12/31/10; Hewlett Packard was provided
with the URL of this website; Hewlett Packard was invited to
respond to this essay.]
[NOTE 2: This essay
is based on personal experience. The author is not a computer
expert. The author does not accuse any individual, company, or
store of malicious or illegal intentions or actions. This essay is
not intended to serve as advice regarding computer or related
purchases, but only to expose a specific problem and to share a
personal experience that seems to be based on that problem. The
author has relied on a computer repairman's assessment of the
computer in question, and on the sypmptoms of NVIDIA failure
which include: sudden overheating, no video, black screen. The
author does not intend any generalized statement on the overall
quality of any computer brand or model. This essay is subject to
error.] (Written 12/18/10: bibliography available.)
Until we meet