Dell Inspiron 20 3048 Black Screen

System failures are not always what you think they might be and had I known what the failure was, I would have saved a lot of time of fiddling around. This is a memo to future me and perhaps a cautionary tale for your future technology adventures. In short, I could have saved a lot of time had I known that my black screen failure was caused by a faulty power supply.

The Rest of the Story

Computer problems are rather rare for me these days. Sure, things go out like Hard Drives but I use monitoring tools catch that before it happens. I am not a fan of reactive fixes. Waking up one morning observing clocks reset and a computer not turning on, I thought this was going to be a tedious process where I ultimately will end up replacing the whole computer because that is how it generally goes.

Doing some research online informed me that possible causes were bad RAM, Corrupted BIOS where the fix would be removal of CMOS battery and a failed hard drive. That meant, it was time to take the computer off of the VESA mount, which is always a chore because it should be a two person job and there isn’t another person in my house to help me with such things. Using my trusty DeWalt drill driver and supporting the bottom of the computer with my shoulder, I removed the four screws, managing to not drop any down the drain.

I placed the computer, screen down, on a towel and carefully pried the back panel off, which is held on with several clips. Once the back cover was removed removed the metal door that hid away the memory and one of the modules. Historically, computer failures have been as a result of bad RAM so this is typically an easy, albeit a bit on the expensive side, fix.

I removed the first SODIMM module and since I was too lazy to climb up and retrieve the power supply, I used one of my 120 Watt power supplies that isn’t often used, generally on some kind of reserve duty. Upon plugging it in, to my surprise, the computer came to life. Screen and everything. I was given a warning about the change in RAM so I shut it down, and thought I would try replacing the module. Sure enough, it came right back to life.

As it turned out, it looks like the power supply was the culprit of the black screen. I find it somewhat puzzling as the indicator and fans spun up with the bad power supply, just no monitor. It was a serendipitous accident that I discovered the power supply to be at fault. There is probably a lesson in there someplace.

I put everything back together and performed the necessary acrobatics to get the computer back on the VESA mount. I am grateful, in my moment of triumph, that I didn’t drop the computer in the sink fastening the mount to the back of the computer. It is unfortunate that VESA capable All-in-one computers are not very common. I see a lot of utility in such things but perhaps that application is less common and therefore the current designs reflect that fact.

After about an or so of dorking around with this machine. I was able to enjoy my openSUSE creature comfort in my kitchen once again. Linux belongs in the kitchen and openSUSE makes Linux a great experience.

Final Thoughts

Something that I often don’t think about and I don’t know the reason why, is that power supplies fail. The results of their failures can manifest in different ways. I have had laptop power supplies start whining but still work for a period of time, some power supplies stop reporting to the computer how much power can be drawn and the computer will stop using it (annoying). This time, the computer turned partially on, omitting the activation of the screen. I now wonder if this failure is the typical failure these types of power supplies have as this All-In-One uses the same power supply as many Dell Laptops to include my E6440. I now want to investigate this failure mode…

It is quite possible that there was just enough of a power surge in the power outage that killed an already compromised power supply. There is no way to know for sure. Ultimately, it would be nice to have a UPS or perhaps a battery back up on that circuit. Neither options are inexpensive. One step further, I do see utility, more and more, in whole home power backup solutions.

References

Dell Community Forum concerning black screen
Linux in the Kitchen | Life Enhancement Blathering
Outside the Cubicle | DeWALT 20v Max Cordless Tool Platform

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