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Issue #379: Oct 26-Nov 1, 2014

Q: I have an 8 year old HP Pavilion dv6700 laptop. For the past few months I have had a problem where the screen will go black while I’m clicking on an icon or typing information. Power is still on since all the lights are lit. The only way to restore use is to power down then power up again and go through the normal start up procedure. I reseated the battery and that seemed to help for a while. I only use the system while it is plugged into a house outlet (110VAC). I’ve also made certain that power connections are secured. Should I replace the battery or is it time to get a new laptop or is there another cheaper option? Thanks for your help.

– Charles D.
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

A:  Well, Charles, the first thing I’ll say is that the battery has nothing to do with your problem.  When the laptop is on AC power, the battery is completely out of the power-supply circuit.  Its only connection is to the charging circuitry, and even that is mostly powered down when the battery is fully charged.  So I’m afraid your perception that reseating the battery helped the problem was only wishful thinking.  You can replace the battery if you want to, but I think you’ll find that the only thing that does is restore your laptop’s former battery life.

Checking into this problem revealed that you might be only at the early stages of a much bigger problem where the laptop’s screen is black all the time, or worse, the system won’t boot at all. One post I read, which I took with a grain of salt, broadly declared that this problem is endemic to all HP laptops in this model line.  In other words, it either has happened, is currently happening, or will happen to every one of these HP laptops.  That’s an interesting theory, but quite impossible to prove.

One thing that’s clear to me, the problem has to do with the laptop’s graphics chip. There are numerous posts online that talk about faulty solder joints, and/or faulty thermal compound that cause this chip to overheat.  For each of these posts there is usually a corresponding fix – either temporary, or permanent. Be sure and have plenty of grains of salt on hand when considering these.  And consider them you should.  It sounds like you’re on the verge of being ready to purchase a new laptop anyway, so I would encourage you to back up any files you want to keep, then try some of these fixes.  If they don’t work, take advantage of the upcoming sales that are sure to pop-up as the Christmas season gets closer.

One of my favorites is the so-called “towel method” which was rather popular with owners of Xbox 360 units that had a similar thermal problem, resulting in the dreaded “Red Ring of Death” on their gaming systems. (Gee, is it just me, or does it seem like Microsoft is the only company that has products whose users have “Problems of Death” associated with them?) The solution is to plug up the cooling vents and/or wrap the unit in towels (hence the name).  Run it for an hour, expecting it to get pretty hot.  This heat supposedly re-binds the solder, or the thermal compound, or whatever is causing the problem.  I do not advocate this procedure, by the way.  I am merely restating what I read online.  Remember – grain of salt and all that.

You can read these solutions just by doing a couple of simple Google searches. Search for “Pavilion DV6700 screen goes black” for one, and be sure and search for “Pavilion DV6700 towel”. Good luck, and happy computing!

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