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Upgrading to a modern MXM Card on a Alienware M18X R1 - Possible solutions?


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 DISCLAIMER: I do NOT know what I'm exactly doing, I am new when it comes to modding laptops. I am looking for help and guidance and to come up with the possibilities of upgrading before I give up.  

 

 I recently picked up an Alienware M18xR1, hoping to upgrade the components inside and make it work as close to a modern gaming laptop as possible by replacing the SLI 580Ms inside with something like GTX 1070m, or an RTX 3000m, etc. But choosing an R1 was a bit of an oversight on my part. Combing some threads, I have seen the most common conclusion that due to something with the vBIOS/MUX switching in the M18xR1 being different in some way to the M18xR2/M17xR4. I saw claims on a thread that someone was able to use a M5000M in a M18xR1/M17xR3 (according to ssj92) which gives the slightest hope it may be possible.

 

So far, here are my solutions.

 

  • Replace the Motherboard in my R1 with a Motherboard from an R2 

 

Since the motherboard in the M18xR2 appear to have the layout, components and mounts, replacing the motherboard seems to me like a possible option. Pros would be having a better preforming CPU (I7 2920QM to a I7 3820XM) I have experience replacing laptop motherboards, so this would possibly the easiest solution for me. Cons are I have heard that Alienware laptops will only run if that specific laptop's hardware is being used, or something like that. It would also be a bit more on the expensive side as well...

 

M18xR1.jpg.8704fb194ecc116e1b0a13a42921ad87.jpg

M18xR1 Motherboard

 

M18xR2.thumb.jpg.482895e52684cd0efac1cd67619dffa4.jpg
M18xR2 Motherboard 

 

  • Soldering a R2 Bios chip into an R1 Motherboard

 

This "solution" seems to be the cheapest and "easiest" so far. Replacing/soldering the bio chip wouldn't be difficult, although so far, it seems no one has ever done this before. Setting this up would be past my expertise as well, I'm not sure it work as the R1 uses Sandy bridge processers and the R2 uses ivy bridge processers, maybe this doesn't effect anything? I don't know. I also saw that the R1 cant be flashed with the R2 BIOS due to "size constraints" (according to Azther) Again, this is out of my expertise...

 

  • Messing around in BIOS 

 

When it comes to messing around in BIOS of computers, I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm someone who finds a YouTube tutorial that sounds similar to my problem and go from there. I would greatly need assistance with doing this...

 

  • Simply replacing the GPU 

 

I would imagine there would a lot less questions about upgrading the GPU in an r1 if this was possible. Could there be a chance that I could just replace the 580M with say a GTX 1070m, route signal to the IGPU and do whatever process makes this card works, not matter how much performance you get out of it. Again, I imagine this isn't exactly possible... 

 

These are all the possibilities I have came up with so far when it comes to upgrading to a modern MXM card in an R1. Hopefully someone figures out a solution before I do or give up. Are any of these solutions viable in any way? I'm leaning towards the option of replacing the Motherboard.

 

Any sort of help with this, in any way would be greatly appreciated and I will continue with researching on ways to upgrade.  

 

 

 

 

Edited by Tcoil
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As far as I know swapping a motherboard from r2 to r1 is possible, but you need a few things besides the board itself:
GRP9C - the motherboard itself,
YYFHR - Additional Reader Sub USB Board
M9T51 - SATA Hard Drive Connector
XVNKP - HDD Frame Bracket
I think that's it. as far as I remember the only limitation is that there is no space for mSATA in the r1 case.

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Approximate cost of upgrade

 

Been a while. Thanks for the info, Panda. After doing some research, the cost to upgrade the laptop to what is equivocally an R2 is ~$622 CAD (Approx. $450 USD) This includes an RTX 3000 card and I7 3820QM. along with buying the laptop, the cost would be around $700 CAD in total. I could sell the leftover parts, but given how they may not be in demand, nor are they 100% condition, it is not likely they would sell (in my opinion) At this point, so far. It may be cheaper for me to buy an R2. Perchance an Alienware 17 R1, although, it wouldn't be as much fun to upgrade...🤔

 

Would love to know what you guys think!

 

 

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PNY/Adlink Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 does not work with Haswell generation Alienwares (17 R1 Ranger and 18 Viking) and if you want to do Ranger modifications you will have to look towards HP cards + modify the mxm connector + cooling system.

A bit more info here:

 

 

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Recently I played with M18X R1 trying to make GTX980M work in it. If we install the card into primary MXM slot, the laptop would stuck with black screen or Alien head logo. But after installation of GTX980M into the secondary MXM slot and populating the primary slot with semi-dead GTX780M, it suddenly started to boot and recognize both GPUs! After installing a fresh Win11 with modded driver I was surprised that GTX980M started rendering...

So, if you have both GTX580M and GTX1070M, you can try to repeat such experiment. It will be cool if Pascal card would also work this way!

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Yes, I was surprised how easily it was to run it in the secondary slot. It works not perfectly  - we need to periodically re-install driver after reboot because Windows show 'Basic adapter' with error 'Can't load driver' (a strange glitch, probably something is wrong with the GPU itself). But it works - thanks to Win11 which allows us to explicitly select GPU for rendering in 3D applications.

I also tried to perform some HW mods to run the card with iGPU. I executed the following steps:

- Short drain and stock on Q39 to activate +5V and +3V power source of MXM slots

- Desolder UH7 and UH8 logic gates

- Solder a wire from pin 2 (VGA_ON) to pin 4 (MXM2_PWR_ON) of UH8 to make the card activate secondary onboard power sources

The last step we need is to deactivate reset signal. To do that, we should solder a wire to pin 4 (MXM2_RST#) of UH9. The most logical way is to solder the second end of the wire to  PCH_PLTRST# (for example, using pin 1 oh UH5), but we'll get beeping after soldering it. I guess, the laptop see the discrete GPU in the secondary slot and tries to use  it instead of activating of iGPU. But since there is no display connected to secondary GPU, it can't initialize properly.

But if we solder the second end of the wire to, for example, +LCDVDD (a display power source, it activates much later, after initialization of iGPU), we'll see quite interesting picture. In BIOS the system will show us initialized iGPU along with presence of MXM card in the secondary slot! A victory? Unfortunately... not completely. AMD GPUs (I checked on HD6990M and HD8970M) allow us to install driver without errors, the cards seem to work. But if we install any NVIDIA GPU (even officially supported by the notebook), after installing the driver we'll get permanent Code 12 error. I didn't find a way how to make it work.

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14 hours ago, TheSin said:

It works not perfectly  - we need to periodically re-install driver after reboot because Windows show 'Basic adapter' with error 'Can't load driver' (a strange glitch, probably something is wrong with the GPU itself).

did you just install the driver manually through the device manager or did you modify the driver?

maybe you should try NVCleanStall

Alienware M18x R2: i7-3920XM @4.7 GHz / 24GB DDR3-1866 /  Quadro P4000 Oc`d

upgraded from: Tesla M6 Oc`d

Alienware M18x R2: i7-3720QM / 16GB DDR3L-1600 /  Quadro M3000M

Alienware 17 R1: i7-4710MQ / 16GB DDR3L-1600 /  Quadro M3000M

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20 hours ago, Maks0098 said:

did you just install the driver manually through the device manager or did you modify the driver?

maybe you should try NVCleanStall

Without modification the driver won't install at all. I tried all known tricks including uninstalling drivers using DDU in safe mode and reinstalling Windows. No effect. However, I noticed another interesting thing - in the Device Manager the card sometimes changes its Device IDs from DEV_1617 to DEV_13D7. After changing Device ID Windows requires to reinstall the driver. Both these IDs belong to GTX 980M, however, what's the difference between them? I have no idea why it changes - except for problems with the GPU itself.

Today I continued experiments with another interesting beast, which works perfectly in Clevo P150EM - NVIDIA P106M. It's a mining version of mobile GTX 1060, but its performance is closer to mobile variant of GTX 1050 Ti. It has no video outputs, locked NVENC and just 4 GB of memory. I tried to install it to the secondary slot of M18X R1 in pair with GTX780M in the primary slot. The results are quite exciting - it's possible to use this card in the Alien.

 

Spoiler

superposition.thumb.jpg.9954f95f575fa6f050fc17b7aea751f3.jpg

 

results.thumb.jpg.5817b8f3de44df68695b1c0915bb51bd.jpg

 

However, it works not perfectly

- Sometimes the system hangs on initialization before Alien head appears on the display. You need to force power-off the laptop and try again.

- Secondary VGA fan works strange, it looks like RPM changes from 100% to 0% in cycle. However, the temperature of GPU was far from dangerous values while this test

- GPU utilization is changing from 80% to 100%

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On 7/10/2024 at 8:57 AM, TheSin said:

Without modification the driver won't install at all. I tried all known tricks including uninstalling drivers using DDU in safe mode and reinstalling Windows. No effect. However, I noticed another interesting thing - in the Device Manager the card sometimes changes its Device IDs from DEV_1617 to DEV_13D7. After changing Device ID Windows requires to reinstall the driver. Both these IDs belong to GTX 980M, however, what's the difference between them? I have no idea why it changes - except for problems with the GPU itself.

Today I continued experiments with another interesting beast, which works perfectly in Clevo P150EM - NVIDIA P106M. It's a mining version of mobile GTX 1060, but its performance is closer to mobile variant of GTX 1050 Ti. It has no video outputs, locked NVENC and just 4 GB of memory. I tried to install it to the secondary slot of M18X R1 in pair with GTX780M in the primary slot. The results are quite exciting - it's possible to use this card in the Alien.

 

  Reveal hidden contents

superposition.thumb.jpg.9954f95f575fa6f050fc17b7aea751f3.jpg

 

results.thumb.jpg.5817b8f3de44df68695b1c0915bb51bd.jpg

 

However, it works not perfectly

- Sometimes the system hangs on initialization before Alien head appears on the display. You need to force power-off the laptop and try again.

- Secondary VGA fan works strange, it looks like RPM changes from 100% to 0% in cycle. However, the temperature of GPU was far from dangerous values while this test

- GPU utilization is changing from 80% to 100%

Now you have my interest because I tried everything besides hardware mod to get 980M working in M18xR1. 

 

The closest I got was the 4GB model vBIOS boots to bios but keeps restarting (boot loop). 

 

I have 980M in M15x and spare RTX 3000 MXM as well. Currently I have 880M SLI, I wonder if I should try RTX 3000 in 2nd slot and see what happens then. 

 

I do know 980M is BIOS/vBIOS issue since it works fine in M15x. No one ever solved the issue completely. Even today I would be happy to get it fixed. 

Alienware m18             : Intel Core i9 13900HX @ 5.0Ghz | nVidia GeForce RTX 4090    | K1675 | 2x1TB SSDs 

Alienware Area-51M : Intel Core i9-9900K @ 5.3Ghz    | nVidia GeForce RTX 2080    | AX210 | Samsung 970 Evo+ 
Alienware M18x R2 :    Intel Core i7 3920XM @ 4.7Ghz | nVidia Quadro RTX 3000     | AX210 | Samsung 980 PRO   
Alienware 18 :              Intel Core i7 4930MX @ 4.5Ghz  | nVidia Quadro RTX 5000  | AX210 | Samsung 980 NVMe  

More Laps: M14x (555m) | M14xR2 (650m) | M15x (980m) | M17xR3 (880m) | M18xR1 (880m SLI) 

DT: Aurora R4 (i9 10980XE/RTX 4070) | Area-51 R2 (22-Core Xeon/Titan V) | SR-2 [2x6-Core/3x980Ti] | 


CS Studios YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/CSStudiosYT 

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