Solved! M6800 Upgrade from Quadro K3100M to GTX 970m

Apr 19, 2018
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Alright, so.
I was looking at M6800 laptops on eBay and I saw a video where someone upgraded the graphics in their model, and I wanted to do the same because I saw a listing for a GTX 970m for an Alienware 17/18 and I was wondering if it would be compatible? The M6800 I was looking at came with a Quadro K3100M and I thought the coolers would be the same because they are both NVidia Cards.

The Laptop
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Dell-Precision-M6800-16GB-RAM-QUADRO-K3100M-intel-core-i7-Win10/332994714694

The GPU:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Dell-Alienware-17-18-Nvidia-GTX-970M-6GB-Video-Graphics-Card-P1MM5-WV6W6/123438242912

Edit: The linked ebay auctions might not be the exact models im going to get, just something like them
 
There is a decent chance it will work, but I think only Dell or a user that's attempted the upgrade can say for certain if it's doable.

The K3100M and the 970M are the same MXM 3.0b standard, but the motherbaord on that particular Precision, at least, may not be compatible with a GeForce card (firmware and power delivery).
 
There is a decent chance it will work, but I think only Dell or a user that's attempted the upgrade can say for certain if it's doable.

The K3100M and the 970M are the same MXM 3.0b standard, but the motherbaord on that particular Precision, at least, may not be compatible with a GeForce card (firmware and power delivery).
 
Apr 22, 2019
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Happily reviving this thread.

Firstly, my apologies for any mistakes here - English IS my first language however I'm currently quite under the weather. This is also the first time I'm trying to put together a post like this.

You may have a different specific card and your mileage may vary as a result. My apologies if I lead you in the wrong direction.

There is also a lot that you can likely skip here since I'm attempting to not spare any details on this process. This is due to the fact that I intend to share this post with a few other M4800 & M6800 owners I know that are not so savvy and I don't want them to feel like they only know a part of what they need.

I'll post some jargon/card specifics first and then get into the how-to.

Pre-amble
SO, currently I am typing on a partially re-assembled Dell Precision M6800 that I just successfully installed an Nvidia GTX 970M in and (after a lot of fighting) got Nvidia's drivers to play nicely. I've been fighting with this thing since last week and finally got it to operate as it should.

I had purchased this card on eBay (Hopefully not stale link) a couple weeks ago with no plan other than to make an go of it and pray.

So far I haven't found anything definitive or solid pertaining to adding GTX cards of any kind into an M6800. Plenty of people have said they've done it but details on how have been sparse. Hopefully this will help!

Card specifics
I purchased a GTX 970M N16E-GT-A1
(all signs point to this being a board intended vBIOS-wise for MSI laptops above all else - could be wrong)
Board part # MS-1W0J1
NVIDIA DEV ID 1618.15CD.1028
MXM 3.0b

Software Needed
There are a few pieces of software you need:
NVFlash (version I used: 5.556.0)
Nvidia Notebook GTX drivers - version 390.65 is what I used after seeing a user named Zipperi recommending that a user try it on their MSI computer. Forum post at the bottom of page 356 (!) on this thread. Despite this version being made for Win 7/8, I had no problem installing this on Windows 10 Professional.
Custom INF file to load into Nvidia driver. This points the Nvidia driver in the right direction.
3GB and 6GB version vBIOS file for MSI GTX 970M (I chose to try both since I was suspicious of all the unpopulated memory areas on the card I received).

Hardware How-To
Make sure you have some new thermal paste. I used Arctic MX-4 thermal compound.

Opening a Dell M6800 is impressively easy. I used a $17 Vastar tech driver kit from Amazon - the 2.0 size phillips bit fits perfectly in ALL screws that need to be taken out.

There are approximately 26 2.5x5mm screws that need to be removed, 6 2x3mm, and depending on your configuration there are also 3 screws of unknown size (only because it isn't called out on the computer's casing) that hold the 2.5" SATA drive underneath the mouse pad.

1: Remove the battery.
2: Remove the two screws that are revealed when you remove the battery.
3: Slide the entire bottom plate towards the back of the unit.
4: If you have it, remove the hard drive that is located underneath the mouse pad.
5: Remove the CD drive - there is a single screw holding it in.
6: Remove all screws that have a "P" next to them. The "P" icons are indented in the plastic casing of the unit.
7: Once all screws with a "P" next to them are removed, gently unscrew, disconnect and remove both fans, then flip the unit over and open the lid
8: Use a preferably non-metallic tool to remove the black plastic around the keyboard. Use caution when working around the trackpad - the plastic gets very thin in this area.
9: Remove the three screws that are holding the keyboard down, then use a non-metallic tool to gently pull the keyboard out of the retaining clips that are holding on to the left and right side.
10: Gently lift the keyboard up. Do not twist the keyboard or pull it too far away as a ribbon cable is still connected to it. Use your hands, tweezers, etc. to gently disengage (lift) the beige clip holding on to the ribbon cable, then remove the keyboard.
11: Remove all screws with a "P" next to them that were hidden/around the keyboard.
12: Follow the same process of removing the keyboard ribbon cable for removing all other ribbon cables connecting the mousepad, power button, volume controls, and any other items your topcase includes (mine includes a smartcard wireless reader and fingerprint scanner)
13: Use a non-metallic tool to gently work around the top case to separate it from the bottom case.
14: With the top case removed, gently disconnect the cable that connects to your screen that is running over the heatsink pipes. This cable is held on to the heatsink pipes with adhesive - gently remove the cable and attempt to preserve the adhesive.
15: Unscrew the four screws attaching the heatsink to the existing GPU, then gently lift the heatsink out of the unit.
16: Gently clean all thermal compound off of the underside of the heatsink to prepare it for new thermal compound.
17: Remove the two screws holding the existing GPU, then remove the GPU. Card must be angled up approx. 30 degrees before you can slide it out.
18: Reverse the process when adding the new card.
19: Add small dots of thermal paste to the GPU's main die (my recommendation is to put thermal paste in a "5" pattern as you would see on a 6 sided dice), then position/fasten the heatsink to the GPU (Please read the "lack of brains needed" section below before doing this)
20: Work through all these steps backwards to re-assemble


Lack Of Brains Needed
I was a little silly - I realized there was one component on the lower center of the card (assuming card is oriented facing up and with connector facing upwards) that was in the way of the heatsink properly seating. The solution? Diagonal cutters. Yep, I cut the heatsink just a little (about 1/8" depth, 1/2" wide cut) to allow this one component to seat properly. The material in that area is thin enough that I did it by hand using diagonal cutters and then used the file on my pocket knife to make the whole thing smooth and burr free. I then made sure to wipe it down excessively to ensure no metallic particles remained. You can do this too, or you can find a way to work around this either by finding an aftermarket heatsink or some other means I can't currently think of. Modification was the best option I could think of at the time.

Software how-to
Please keep in mind that I'm assuming you're using Windows 10 Professional 64 bit

Feeling lucky: Install driver without flashing card vBIOS

1: Start your computer up once it's re-assembled.
2: Download all previously mentioned files
3: Search for "advanced startup options" in Start Menu and select "restart now" in the window that appears. You're looking for the option that allows you to disable digital signature enforcement (if you don't do this, the Nvidia driver install will fail)
4: Once you've rebooted and have DSE disabled, right click the nvidia driver you downloaded and either extract using 7Z, open with WinRAR, whatever suits your fancy.
5: Once the .exe is decompressed into a folder, copy the .inf file you downloaded in step 2 and paste it in the "Display.Driver" folder within the Nvidia driver folder. It will ask you if you want to replace the file that already exists - click yes.
6: Now run the setup.exe file within the Nvidia folder. Run through the steps of installing the driver. If the Nvidia driver has kicked you out at this point, you probably have a different card than what I'm working with. You may need to find a tutorial on how to edit a .INF file for your specific card.
7: If the setup worked correctly and everything works after rebooting, huzzah! All you needed was some slightly modified drivers.
8: If this was unsuccessful (computer froze mid-install, computer freezes when rebooting/after signing in, fans spin up to max and stay there, etc.) then it's time to boot into safe mode to uninstall the card in device manager and then reboot to flash the vBIOS.


Not so lucky: Flashing vBIOS
1: Make sure you have NVflash and have decompressed it to a folder with your .rom files saved within said NVFlash folder (just to keep things easy), and that the graphics card is Disabled in device manager.
2: Browse to the decompressed NVFlash folder, right click the address bar at the top of the window and select "copy address as text"
3: Type the following into the administrative command prompt you opened (and then don't press enter): cd "
4: Right click the command prompt window. This will past the address of NVFlash's location. Then add a " at the end. Your whole command should probably look like cd "C:\Users\<yourusername>\Downloads\nvflash_5.556.0\"
5: Press enter. If all goes well, you should not have gotten an error message. Now type nvflash64 <name_of_rom>.rom where the name_of_rom depends on if you trust that you got a 6GB card or if you think you got a 3GB card. Run whichever ROM you want to test with first. Worst case you just re-run through the process of removing the Nvidia driver after testing and flashing a different vBIOS onto the card. So far I haven't run into any permanent bricking scenarios when flashing a ton of different .rom files to my card But bricking may be possible. I won't claim to be an expert on vBIOS flashing as I only started playing with it 36 hours ago.
6: After pressing enter and giving it a moment, you should be prompted to press "y" to confirm that you wish to write the ROM file to your video card.
7: Several things can happen at this point. The program may state that this is an invalid file, it may state that there is a card or subsystem mismatch, or it may state that it was all good and you can reboot. After this point you can reboot, go into DSE mode again, attempt to install drivers again, and see if you get anywhere. I certainly did!

That's all the odd knowledge I have to part for today. I'm going to finish putting together my computer now and will post updates if anything changes functionality-wise.
 
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