Dell Precision M6500 Stability Problems

During the time that I’ve had a Dell M6500 I’ve really enjoyed it.  In particular I like its dual-drive and RAID 0 support for better disk I/O, and its support for up to 32 GB of RAM.  The striped drives have definitely been an improvement over laptops’ consistent problem of painfully slow disk I/O.  When I bought it I never imagined I’d boost it all the way to 32 GB, but didn’t want to be stuck at 4 or 8 GB either.

Unfortunately, my M6500 is very unstable.  The stability problem almost always manifests itself as a hard reset – i.e., no blue screen, no warning, etc.  It’s just like the days before NT (Win 3.x, etc.) when you’d push the computer’s reset button.  Bam!  Straight to boot sequence & BIOS screen!

The resets are highly unpredictable as well.  Sometimes I’ll go a week without having one, and sometimes I’ll have 15 – 20 times a day!  I’ve searched and tried so many different things that I can’t remember them all any more.  At one point I was convinced the network drivers were the problem because resets seemed to occur during heavy network traffic.  But then something I found online made me suspect the low-level drivers of Microsoft Security Essentials (blogged here), but the resets continued.

Then, I thought I’d have a break-through!  An actual Blue Screen instead of a hard reset!  (BSOD’d Again! Windows 7, 64-bit), but that turned out to be a dead-end, too.

Oh wait! Now I remember that my first suspicion was VirtualBox which I use for virtualized development environments.  That was even before I suspected the network drivers.  I uninstalled VBox and switched to VMWare Workstation for a couple of weeks, but the resets occurred whether I was using a VM or not.

Sigh.  The only consistency I have found is the instability’s randomness.  And that’s certainly no help for diagnosis.  So, I’ve spent the past 24 hours ensuring I have all of the most recent Dell-recommended firmware and software updates for the M6500.  Fingers crossed that this will have magically fixed the reset problems.  If not, hopefully someone else has had similar problems and will be able to tell me how to resolve them.


8 thoughts on “Dell Precision M6500 Stability Problems”

  1. Several people have asked me for a follow-up on this issue. I can’t tell you how pleased I am with my M6500 now. I have not experienced a single reset since I received the replacement Dell sent me. (See my comment from March 15th for details) I’ve thrown everything at it that was or seemed to be involved in resetting the previous laptop – everything from running multiple VMs, sleep/wake cycles and various other apps. It has been running (or in sleep mode) for weeks now – no problems! Again, I am very, very pleased with it now.

    If you are interested in buying a M6500, make sure you are getting the video card specs from my March 15 comments.

  2. Was just wondering what the latest is on the M6500 battlefront? I’ve been putting off the purchase of several of these until I hear some good news. There hasn’t been much written on the subject lately, other than your post of March 15 describing the replacement laptop from Dell.

  3. Regarding Michael Clagett’s question on March 16, 2011: I have been using VirtualBox 4.0.4 (r70112). Actually, building FreeBSD (world or kernel) in VBox was one of the most reliable scenarios for causing my old M6500 to reset. So, although it wasn’t VMWare, it’s a very similar scenario.
    FWIW, I don’t use VMWare because VBox does all I need and it’s free. I have more stability problems before VBox 3.2, and almost shelled out for VMWare. But, since 3.2, I’ve noticed much better stability.

  4. Wondering if you are using VMWare at this point? If so, has it been stable? I’ve read about some spontaneous rebootings with VMWare and M6500.

  5. I have some good news to report for those of you having problems with a Dell Precision M6500 laptop. Dell sent me a replacement laptop last week and it has been working flawlessly! There were several demanding / stressful activities that would cause the previous model to reset. I’ve been running those activities overnight for several days now and this newer M6500 has not missed a beat!
    So what’s different? The major hardware difference is that the video board is now an ATI FirePro M7829, whereas the previous one had the ATI FirePro M7740. A side benefit is a slight step-up in processor speed: The new laptop has Intel i5 M560 (2.67 GHz) versus the i5 M540 (2.53 GHz) I had previously. Finally, the new M6500 came with a Flextronics GA240PE1-00 which is about half as think as the old Dell power brick, and quite a bit lighter.
    I hope this is helpful to some others who have had trouble with the M6500. If you find this helpful, please post a comment so I’ll know.

  6. Here’s an update for Ben and anyone else with these problems. Over the past 3 weeks:
    * First a Dell tech came and replaced the motherboard and RAM. The M6500 wouldn’t even boot anymore, so these components at least brought it back to life. But, the reset problem continued.
    * Then Dell had me ship the M6500 to a service site. I was told to keep my drives and (gigantic!) power brick. So I included a letter notifying the service site tech that I use two drives in RAID 0 and instructing them to be sure to test that capability. The turn-around was just a matter of days. When the M6500 arrived I was told that they had replaced the video board, but no info on the RAID hardware. The resets continued.
    * Then Dell sent the local tech back out to (get this) take out my dual 500 GB drives and install a SINGLE 160 GB drive. I can hear you already, “Are you kidding me?!” Nope. The local tech is sub’ed out to Dell, so he just does what he’s told. The Dell folks, however, said they wanted me to use this configuration to determine if the OS is the problem. Oh sure! Let’s start blaming Windows 7. If the resets are occurring due to software, it is highly probably that the fault lies in the drivers for the RAID subsystem. So, the problem continues to lie at Dell’s (or their RAID h/w sub’s) feet. Regardless, the reset problems continue.
    * Now Dell plans to send me a replacement laptop. Will it be another M6500? I don’t know. The Dell rep wrote, “The replacement system will be with like or better specs that we originally shipped to you.” “Like or better” seems rather subjective to me. Will I get a faster proc and more RAM, but no RAID subsystem? That’s not what I want, but Dell may consider it “better.” Additionally, Dell’s process for a replacement laptop “usually takes 10-15 business days.” Really? It could take 3 weeks?

    Although I’ve been frustrated by the whole ordeal, I will say that everyone I’ve worked with at Dell has been pleasant and responsive. One day my primary contact at Dell was out and one of his co-workers responded to my email, so at least I knew my situation had not been lost in the shuffle. The local tech has probably been the best of all to work with. In particular, I believe his pushing Dell (even though he’s from a sub company) helped me get better response and more aggressive fixes.

  7. I’m having identical issues with my M6500. What, if anything, did you finally have as a resolution? I’ve been on the phone multiple times with Dell to no avail.

  8. Good news! I just got off the phone with Don at Dell’s Small Business Support group. We walked through several diagnostics, etc. over the phone, but were not able to resolve the hang / reset problem. Actually, the M6500 hung and reset several times during the call, so now he’s sending a tech with some replacement hardware. The tech may not arrive until early next week, but hopefully it’ll take care of the problems. Stay tuned…

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