Dilbert75 Registered User

Have a Dell Inspiron E521 for the kids for gaming, etc. It shipped nearly 5 years ago with 2GB RAM and a 256MB (X1300?) GPU in the PCI-E slot, running Vista 32. About 2 or 3 years ago, I stuck a new 512MB GPU (Sapphire Radeon HD4550) into it and it was grand.

About 3 weeks ago, I got an extra 2GB of RAM and put it in. Started up ok initially but had a problem a day or two later: it wouldn't start up. Figured the RAM mightn't be seated properly so I took out the extra RAM, powered it up, shut it down and reinstalled the RAM. Has been grand since. Until Friday morning last.

Young lad shut it down on Thursday evenings, no problems. Started it up Friday morning and could hear it starting but the monitor was seeing nothing. Tried changing back to the old GPU but still nothing on the monitor. Connected to the onboard GPU and the desktop came up on the monitor. But the young lad's games don't run on the onboard chip with any reasonable level of fluidity.

After a bit of googling, I went into the BIOS and set the video preference back to Auto (was set to onboard). But when I went to look at the PCI slots, Slot 1 was showing as unoccupied (on either card).

To cut a long story short, per some googled "solutions" to similar problems, I've

  • installed updated chipset drivers (from Dell site)
  • removed the BIOS battery
  • removed & replaced cards
  • unsuccessfully attempted 2x system restores

and the BIOS still doesn't see the graphics card.

Anyone got any advice to resolve this (preferably that won't involve big bucks...)??

Gone Drinking Registered User

If you're sure that its not an issue with the graphics cards, then the slot is probably dead.

You could try find a decent PCI graphics card, or replace the motherboard.

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did you plug the small power cable from the psu back into the motherboard after you reseated the graphics card?

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Dilbert75 Registered User

Nothingbetter2d said:
did you plug the small power cable from the psu back into the motherboard after you reseated the graphics card?

There either is no such cable or its been working fine without it since installation... 305w psu btw


there is 2 points at which the psu must connect to the motherboard

point 1 (24 pin mains) is the big connector

Point 2 (+12v) is a smalle 4pin connector (its this one that is used to power the graphics card slot). if its not connected the gcard doesnt get the power it needs

poggy Registered User

Sounds like the bios battery is nearly dead and the bios chip reset, if there is a on board GPU then there is an option in the bios to change between on board and PCI-E. And it will default back to the on board if the bios loses power at any time. Change the option to discrete/PCI-E GPU in the bios with the GFX card installed.

good luck

unkel Category Moderator

Many modern GPUs require a power connection from the PSU. Did you forget to plug the power cable into the GPU? Also as poggy said, select the GPU as default in BIOS, not auto. I'll alse second his opinion that the CMOS battery is dead / dying because the BIOS set itself back to onboard graphics (unless OP changed BIOS to factory defaults himself)

@Nothingbetter2d - if either of the two power connections on the motherboard is not connected, nothing will come up when you start the PC. In the OP it is stated that the PC starts fine when the onboard graphics are selected in BIOS, so both power connections are working!

Dilbert75 Registered User

Thanks for all the ideas folks - I too had considered that the lcd might be dead but when I hooked it up to the laptop, it worked fine. It was only then I got to the onboard GPU.

I wasn't aware that there were two power supplies to the board but, now that I look, yes they are there and both are connected (both up near the top of the motherboard), so well away from the GPU. Pity - that might have been an easy fix.

With regard to the BIOS battery, that was changed just a few weeks ago (replaced with a shiny new Duracell) and the pc was working perfectly after that for a few weeks. And once I leave the battery in there, the BIOS is holding the preference for Auto selection of GPU - it just can't see the contents of the PCI-E slot.

Which leaves me with Gone Drinking's second suggestion - replace Mobo or get a PCI graphics card. Genuine replacement motherboards are available on ebay.com for between $70 & $90 + shipping + duty + VAT - but several of them won't ship outside USA. I've one spare PCI slot, so I ordered this - it was the only one I could find on Elara, Komplett, DABS or PC World for anything approaching a reasonable price.

unkel Category Moderator

Did you check power connection into the graphics card as per my previous post?

Dilbert75 Registered User

Checked it visually and mechanically but don't have a dvm to check it electrically. The power led on the board is lit though. Also the bios only offers onboard or auto options, I guess because it doesn't see the pcie card.

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