Problems With Video Card On Dell Dimension

By williajp ยท 14 replies
Feb 28, 2010
  1. Dell Support told me my Dimension DV051 (same as E310, I think) would not support a new graphics card, though I've seen many posts on these forums by individuals who've successfully done so. I had bought an Nvidia GeForce 9400 GT, 1 GB DDR2, thinking it would work in the single PCI slot I have available. I called Dell because I've been unable to get the new card to work, though the integrated graphics card has always worked fine, though slow. Here are some specs on the new card.

    300 W power
    18 Amps on +12 V rail
    PCI 2.1 compliant
    Windows XP

    I configure the BIOS to Auto, which I believe is supposed to switch from the integrated card to the new one if it's installed. I then power off, put the card in, connect it to the monitor, and power back up. The Windows logo appears, and the progress bar does its thing for a few seconds, and then freezes indefinitely. Grrr.

    Here are some specs on my PC, from MyComputer.

    Dell Dimension DV051 (same as E310, I think)
    Intel(R) 82915G/GV/910GL Express Chipset Family
    Pentium 4, 3.20 GHz CPU
    3.19 GHz, 2 GB RAM
    1 TB disk

    My power supply looks small, and that was my original question to Dell, if upgrading it would fix my problem.

    230 W
    14 Amps on +12 V rail

    I'm new to this whole video card business, and thought an $80 card would be an easy way to get more life from my desktop PC before finally replacing it. Thanks for any help you can provide.

  2. Flannelwarrior

    Flannelwarrior TS Rookie Posts: 131

    Minimum power supply for a 9400GT is 350W. It looks like the chokepoints on your system are older mobo, proc, and small PSU. But like you said, you could certainly squeeze more life out of it with a video card upgrade, but along with it NEEDS to come a psu upgrade.
  3. williajp

    williajp TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the info. So my PSU being too small could cause what I'm seeing, the progress bar freeze forever during system start?

  4. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    I doubt it's a power supply problem. This sounds far more like a software problem. Hold off that new power supply for a bit...

    I don't quite know what to do, but you can start by setting the BIOS to disable integrated graphics.
    Get the proper drivers installed, and if possible, test the card on someone else's computer.
  5. williajp

    williajp TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I'm pretty sure I've configured the BIOS correctly, as I described in my original post. The two choices are Auto and Onboard. The description for Auto says it'll use the "add-in" card instead of the onboard when both are present. That's the option I'm using, though I've tried the other too, in desperation. I think the fact that it locks up also indicates I've got this setting "right".

    I've tried to install the driver, both from the CD that came with the video card, and by downloading it from the EVGA website. In both cases, the installer fails, saying it cannot find any hardware that matches the available drivers. That made it sound to me like the card needs to be installed before the driver. Hmm. Maybe I should configure the BIOS for Onboard, put the card in, boot up, and see if I can install the driver that way. If successful, then put the BIOS back on Auto, and see if it'll boot up. I'll try that tonight, and let you know what I find.

    From the two responses I've gotten though, it sounds like you believe Dell Support is incorrect in saying my system cannot be upgraded with a new video card. That'll be a relief if it turns out to be true.

    Thanks for whatever additional help you can provide.

  6. williajp

    williajp TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I tried what I described in my previous post, configuring the BIOS to ignore the new card, to see if I can "sneak" the driver on. I got the same result when I rebooted: the Windows logo showed up, and the progress bar froze after a few jiggles. So no matter how I configure the BIOS, the machine freezes anytime the new card is in the slot. This makes no sense, given the number of threads I've read here of people successfully upgrade their Dell Dimension E310.

    So I'm stumped again. I can't think of anything else to try, other than a new PSU, though I also doubt it could cause what I'm seeing.

    Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks.

  7. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    I don't really know...bump.
    Again it's probably not a powersupply problem.
  8. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,188   +470

    There is an outside chance the new graphics card is defective. Have you tried testing it in another PC as hellokitty[hk] suggested earlier?
  9. williajp

    williajp TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I haven't tried that, but am looking for someone willing. That should be my next attempt, particularly since the package looked like it had been opened when I got it. I'll let you know when I have those results.


  10. williajp

    williajp TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Instead of asking someone to install a possibly-faulty video card, I exchanged it for another. The new one did the same thing.

    So at this point, I'm out of options. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

  11. williajp

    williajp TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I called Dell Support again. The guy said my Dimension 3100/E310 could not be upgraded with any video card having more than 256 MB. I've been trying a 1 GB card.

    So I have two questions. Does this make sense, that my PC is limited in that way? Is there anyone out there who's been able to upgrade their E310 with a video card larger than 256 MB? With PCI, my options are already limited, and I'd like the best card I can find.

    Thanks again to all who've offered help.

  12. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    I've never heard of it, and I do believe many others have upgraded to 512mb cards...usually customer support is less than knowledgeable.
    Sorry that I can't really help, but personally, I think it is likely a software problem. If you could borrow a card that is 256 you could try that if you want.
  13. williajp

    williajp TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I ended up exchanging the 1 GB card for a 512 MB card. The two cards are otherwise identical, e.g., clock speeds, power requirements, etc. The 512 MB card got past the Windows logo/progress bar step, but gave me a blank screen-o-death before it ever reached the login window.

    At that point, I restarted with the 512 MB card still inserted, but set the BIOS to use the integrated card ("Onboard" option), and the system came up. Recall that the 1 GB card would lock up even in this case. Having logged in, I was able to install the driver for the 512 MB card, restart, set the BIOS to use the new card, and finally log in with the new card enabled. Woo hoo.

    Now, I'd rather bask in my victory than admit the embarassing performance I got from my brand-spanking-new card, after all the work and advice, but will elaborate if asked; I owe this forum at least that much. I doubt the additional RAM on the 1 GB card would perform much better; the PCI just can't shove the triangles and textures down the pipe fast enough. I hope this thread helps others know the "apparent" limitations with these PCs, the results they can expect, and some candidate solutions along the way.

    Thanks again to all who offered their help.

  14. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    Good to hear that you got things sorted out.
  15. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,188   +470

    And thanks for telling us how you solved it.
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