Laptop suddenly hangs despite fresh install (Dell Vostro 3400)


Nov 7, 2013
Hi there,

I have a Vostro 3400 that crashes without warning. It's an i5 running a fully patched and updated fresh install of Windows 7. I'll be doing something simple like browsing the web (one tab open in Firefox) or reading comics, and the computer will suddenly go completely unresponsive. The screen stays on, and the HDD activity light stays solid. A few moments after the hang, the system fan kicks up to full speed. No matter how long I wait, the system never becomes responsive again, and only a hard reboot (pressing and holding the power button) will cycle the system.

Any ideas what this might be? How do I go about troubleshooting this? Because of the nature of the crash, there are no error logs or system notifications I know of.

I am on a tight budget and want to do any repairs myself if possible. If the cost of repairing is too much, I intend to sell the Vostro as-is for parts.

On another note, the bezel of the screen is cracked, and it's being held together with tape. I don't think that this is related to the crashing issue, but I suppose anything's possible. I only want to repair the bezel if I can resolve the more pressing issue of the crashes. Has anybody here done a bezel replacement before? Can you remember approximately what it cost and how long it took? Do you think it's a reasonable DIY repair for someone who builds their own desktop PCs?

Thank you for your help :)


UPDATE 1/2/14:

I'm still experiencing the crashes.

I've confirmed that the Intel chipset drivers are up to date, and I've run a comprehensive diagnostic on ALL the system hardware. The only abnormal results were for the battery, which is at the end of its life. The HDD, memory, and everything else passed every test just fine. This was a full battery of tests that ran overnight.

In the meantime, we found out that a common problem with the Vostro 3400 laptops is that they overheat really badly. I had been kind of wondering if I was experiencing emergency shutdowns because the system was too hot. I've tried using one of those cooling pads with a fan built in underneath the laptop, but that didn't seem to help. Out of curiosity, I downloaded PCMark 8 to put it through some stress tests, and sure enough, PCMark makes it crash every time before I can complete a full cycle. (And yes, even the system fan passed the internal diagnostics just fine. My hunch is that it simply can't shed enough heat.)

So my partner opened up the case and gave everything a thorough cleaning. There was some dust, but even after re-assembly the laptop continues to crash. (Although some copper components inside looked mighty weird. I'm attaching a picture. Think that could be heat damage? Or is that just regular oxidation/discoloration of the metal?)

Any ideas about how I can further investigate whether this is a heat-related problem? And if it turns out to be, are there any good hacks, after-market hardware, upgraded heatsinks, etc. that I can install in order to get this thing working the way it's supposed to?

Thanks for your time and your ideas.


Nov 7, 2013
Thanks for the response. After trying all kinds of recommendations and making frustratingly little headway, we've decided to just cut our losses and sell the computer. I appreciate the suggestion, though, and it will definitely come in handy with troubleshooting in the future :)
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