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[Guide] M15x with AMD 6970m / 6990m - everything you need to know

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In case you have some additional info that should be included, or if I missed something important, let me know and I will include it.

IMPORTANT: The 6970m is not officially supported by Dell. Upgrading to this card may void your warranty. The 6970m is a powerful card, it will draw more power and produce more heat. This card can significantly improve the performance of your system, however, the long-term effects of running this card in a M15x are currently unknown.

But it works great so far :D

Cards that are known to work:

  • The card Dell uses in the M17x R3:

    This has only been tested for a short while so far, but it seems to work perfectly fine. Credits go to Rogue-OP and
    iloveb00bs
    . The first guys who tried to put a 6970m in a M15x.

    -DP/HDMI works, confirmed by
    Strigae
    , thanks!!.

    -Fan control works

    It seems you need to install the M17x R3 drivers first before you can get the official AMD drivers. I guess installing for example the modded 11.4 will work as well.

    Dell Part nr. is: V9XKH.

    Good luck when ordering one from Dell, depending on where you live and what kind of rep you get on the phone they might not want to sell you the card as it isn't officially available for your system. Call again in this case, or if you know someone with a M17x R3 let him order the card for you.

  • 6970m from MXM-upgrade.com
    :

    Works great, but no fan control. The fans are constantly at a high speed, but not completely at full full speed. For now you'll need to manually control the fans with
    HWinfo32
    .

    -DP/HDMI works.
    Sound through HDMI works
    when you install the Dell 6970m vbios and the M17x R3 HDMI audio driver.
    -m15x-amd-6970m-everything-you-need-know.html#post3717"]Here are the instructions for this.

    Card can now be ordered
    for the M15x
    from mxm-upgrade.

  • Clevo (and resellers) 6970m:
    The card from Clevo and resellers (Eurocom etc.) works as well, but make sure you get a version of the card which has holes for the back plate! Some of these cards have the screw holes for mounting the heatsink soldered on which makes it impossible to use the Dell backplate, and since Clevo uses slightly smaller screws than Dell you can’t simply put your heatsink on such a card.

    Contact your dealer in advance to make sure you get a card which doesn’t have the screw holes soldered to the PCB, otherwise you’ll have to remove it (which is difficult) or use some smaller screws on the heatsink.


For all these cards the heatsink of the M15x fits perfectly. No modification needed.

Cards from other vendors / manufacturers may work as well. If you got a different 6970m running in your M15x let me know and I'll upgrade the list.

Things to do before exchanging the card:

  • Download the drivers. This modded 11.5 should work, click on "MobilityMod Windows 7/Vista" in the linked thread.
  • Also get GPU-Z for monitoring your video card and verifying it, Trixx, for under- and overclocking and in case you haven't got a Dell card also HWinfo32 (I recommend getting it anyway since it is a great system monitoring tool)
  • Make sure you have thermal paste, maybe some new thermal pads as well as something to
    clean the heatsink (e.g. isoproply alcohol) and some cloths around. I also highly recommend using a grounded ESD-mat and a wristband.
  • Know what you're doing. You need to partially disassemble your machine to get to the GPU. Prepare yourself thoroughly, check out the M15x service manual, as well as the
    if you don't know how to get to the GPU. It can be helpful to write down all the steps in advance when you're doing this for the first time.

If something is still unclear about the disassembly procedure after looking at the video and checking out the service manual let me know, I can provide you some pictures if necessary.

The upgrading procedure:

  1. Uninstall your GPU drivers.

  2. Make a power drain (Turn off your M15x, remove the power cord
    and
    the battery. Then press and hold down the power button (Alienhead) for about 10-20 sec.

  3. Remove your GPU -
    Here's a little guide with pics
    in case you need some help.

  4. Clean your heatsink, if necessary replace the thermal pads with new ones.

  5. Make sure the 6970m has a retention bracket on the back of the GPU. If not take the one from your old GPU and put it there. Also make sure you read the section about the "retention bracket problem".

  6. Properly insert your GPU, make sure that it sits properly. Apply the thermal paste, and attach the heatsink.

Then (after reassembling your system), boot, install the drivers and reboot. Make sure the fans are running. Open GPU-Z and verify your card and the clocks. It should look more or less like this.

Default 3D clocks are 680/900MHz (core/memory) and 150/100MHz when idling.

Make sure PowerPlay is enabled in the Catalyst Control Center. Also make sure Stealth Mode is deactivated.

Check your temperatures. Idle temps should be 40-50°C, depending on your ambient temp of course. While gaming or doing something similar GPU-intense the system will run significantly hotter, 70-80°C, maybe a bit higher.

Note: By lifting the back of your system a bit (for example with a book) you can improve the airflow in the system. This can really help lowering the temps.

The back plate problem:

The retention bracket of the 6970m has a different size than the regular M15x cards (260m, 5850m etc.)

When your card doesn't come with this x-plate you need to take the one you have on your old GPU, but this one won't fit properly. Nevertheless it works, even if it covers some resistors on the back of the card. Make sure you're not shorting anything. Usually the back plate has an insulating black plastic pad on it, this will work. However, if your x-plate doesn't have this pad on it, you must cover it with some thin, insulating tape.

Here you can see the problem:

In this picture I marked where the back plate should be:

post-80-14494994179897_thumb.jpg

And in this one I highlighted the area which gets covered by the too small bracket of my 260m:

post-80-14494994180168_thumb.jpg

The space beneath the card becomes pretty tight, but it works. My advice is contacting your dealer before buying the card and asking whether he can provide the correct x-plate. (In case he tells you that you should use the one from your old card tell him it has a different size.)

The backplate problem part 2:

In case you got your hands on a card with a proper backplate - cool! There's only one problem... the holes with the threads for fixing the screws are standing out just a bit too much. Compare it to the original backplate which came with your M15x, the difference is about 3 millimeters. Due to this, the heatsink applies almost no pressure on the die when you mount it on the card, resulting in high temps.

A simple mod will solve this, just grind down the "screw holes" of the backplate a couple of millimeters, easy to do and very effective. This will highly increase the pressure which is applied on the die and bring down the temps.

Just take it easy with fixing the screws, if you grind down the metal a bit to much and then fix the screws until you can't turn them anymore you might crack the die if you're unlucky.

I recommend comparing the plate with your original M15x plate and just grind your 69xxm plate down until it has the same height.

Here some pics which illustrate the problem. I cut of quite some material, you might want to leave a bit more to make sure you don't accidentally kill your card with the pressure.

post-80-14494992014967_thumb.jpg

Heatpipe problem:

It's possible that one of the coils on the cards is standing out just a little bit too much and thus touching the heatsink. This can lead to a small gap between the die and the heatsink which will lead to increased temps as well.

To prevent this you can do a slightly crazy mod, as done by @widezu69... take a hammer and carefully flatten your heatpipe a tiny little bit at the problematic spot.

If you work with enough care, it really works without killing the heatipe. Again, care is the keyword here.

Here's a pic of the modded heatpipe as well as the problematic coil (marked with green):

post-80-14494992042251_thumb.jpg

Power consumption:

The power draw of the card is probably about 75-100W. I run this card together with an i7 920xm in my M15x and it works fine. Nevertheless you need to be careful, as the PSU of the M15x is only rated 150W. When doing some 3dM11 runs with both GPU and CPU overclocked I measured about 160-170W current draw from my system during the combined test. You really need to be careful when running this card, especially when you have an extreme processor (920/940xm). Pushing both GPU and CPU can (and will) bring the PSU to its limits (and above).

Some numbers about the power draw when playing games, everything on stocks:

Black Ops Zombies (everything on max): ~ 130-140W

Portal 2 (everything on max): ~110-125W

Medal of Honor (everything on max) ~140-150W

Crysis 2 (set to "Hardcore) ~ 140-150W

The device I use for measuring the power draw has an accuracy of about ± 10W.

I'll update some more numbers later.

Fan control:

In case you have a card which makes your fans running at a high speed all the time you will need to use HWinfo32 to manually adjust the fan speed.

To get to the fan control open HWinfo32 (sensor only) and press on the little fan next to the "Logging start" button. This will open the fan control window.

hwinfo32.th.jpg

Ignore the GPU2 fan, you only need to adjust the CPU fan and GPU1 fan value.

The programm needs to override the fan setting of your system in short intervals all the time, the standard value is 100ms. (See the "respin period" box). But the fan needs some time to slow down again, even when the EC already reset the value of HWinfo32, that's called the respin time. If you set it to about 11000ms your fans should run all time at the value you set. If they start to slow down and then spin up again you need to decrease the respin period.

For adjusting the fans set the slider to the desired value and click "Set Manual" You will need to do this for both fans.

Update:

It's now possible to create a fan control look-up table and let HWinfo32 automatically control the fan speed by temperature.

fanctrl.th.jpg

1. Click on the fan symbol

2. Click on "Custom Auto"

3. Choose the temperature sensor diode which you want to use as reference.

4. Set the desired speeds/temperatures according to your needs.

Do this for both GPU and CPU, ignore GPU2 fan. I recommend using the hottest GPU diode (usually MemIO).

A big thanks to Mumak, the developer of this fantastic tool. Here you can find the official Alienware fan control thread in case you find a bug or need to know more.

ATTENTION: Adjusting the fan speed can be dangerous!! Always keep an eye on your temps and never forget to adjust the values before doing something CPU or GPU intense (in case you control them manually)!

I'm still looking for a different solution. In case I'm successful I'll post the update here.

Possible problems and solutions:

  • Unable to install drivers.
    Solution: Try a different driver. Also contact your vendor, maybe he knows a specific one that works.
  • Idle clocks are 250/900 instead of 100/150.
    Solution: Check your display settings and make sure only your internal notebook monitor is selected. 250/900 are the idle clocks when you're connected to an external monitor (or when your display settings are got messed up, probably driver related) Solved by iloveb00bs.
  • The GPU temps are crazy high!
    Solution: Repaste. You probably did a bad job with the thermal paste. Also make sure your system is dust-free and that the heatsink sits properly and is making contact (also check the pads where the memory modules touch the heatsink).
  • While idling the GPU clocks change from 2d to 3d clocks and back all couple of seconds.
    Solution: This behaviour can be caused by the M17x r3 6970m driver (A00). Get the latest AMD driver and you should be fine. If you have this problem with a different driver try another driver version.

Feel free to ask questions!

M15x GPU exchangement guide .pdf

post-80-14494992014639_thumb.jpg

post-80-144949920152_thumb.jpg

Edited by svl7
added some backplate and heatsink mods, adjusted title (6990m)
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Information for flashing the Dell vbios on a non-Dell card for making audio through DP/HDMI working:

ATTENTION:
This has only been tested for the card from MXM-upgrade. (Subvendor ID Sapphire/PCPartner (174B) )

It
may
work as well with a card from a different manufacturer (e.g. Clevo) but this hasn't been confirmed so far.

In case you want to try this with an untested card make sure you know enough about the flashing procedure to blind flash the card in case something doesn't work as intended. Also let me know about your success so that I can update the list.

WARNING:
Flashing the vbios of your GPU always involves some risk and can brick your card in case something goes wrong. Make sure you know the exact procedure before doing this. I do not take any responsibility for damaged cards, systems or whatever.

You'll need a DOS bootable USB drive with ATIflash on it. If you have already such an USB drive you can skip the next step and simply copy the Dell.bin file from the attached archive to your stick.

If you first need to create such an USB drive open an read the Spoiler:

Creating a bootable DOS USB drive (by Brian K)

Step 1: Download all the following files as they will be needed throughout this guide.

1. Download the HP USB Key Utility: HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool - v2.1.8 Download - EXTREME Overclocking

2. Download the Windows 98 system files: Windows 98 System Files Download - EXTREME Overclocking

Step 2: Creating a Bootable USB Drive to Flash to GPU

1. Install the HP USB Key Utility

2. Launch the HP USB Key Utility and do the following:

- Insert your USB thumb drive.

- Select File system as "FAT32"

- Select Format Option as "Create a DOS bootable Disk..."

- Checkmark the box that says, "Quick Format"

- Locate the directory you extracted the Win98 files.

- Format the USB key using the the Win98 files.

3. Copy the extracted files from the flash files.zip[/b ]archive onto your usb key.

Before you flash make a backup of your original vbios. You can use GPU-Z or ATIflash to do this.

Then:

-Plug in your prepared USB drive

-Make sure your system is plugged in (AC adapter and to be safe battery as well)

-Reboot

-When you see the Alienhead press [F12] to get to the boot menu, choose "Boot from USB"

A command prompt will appear.

I recommend making sure the file you want to flash didn't get corrupted while downloading, extracting and copying to the stick.

Validate the vbios by looking up the BIOS checksum with this command:

atiflash -cb 0

The attached vbios has the checksum 0xBE00.

As flashing the Dell vbios on a non-Dell card will change the hardware ID it will cause an error when trying to flash it regularly with ATIflash.

You'll need to force the flash with the following command:

atiflash -p -f 0 FILE 

Note: FILE stands for the filename. Valid extensions are .rom and .bin. The name must contain more than eight characters.

An example: The file in the attached archive is called "Dell.bin", thus the command you have to use is:

atiflash -p -f 0 Dell.bin

Then restart your system and unplug the USB stick. You can use GPU-Z to verify the flash of the vbios.

flash files.zip

Edited by svl7
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Thanks for the guide svl7, its going to come in useful for the [hopefully] growing M15x community here.

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I don't have an m15x (and likely never will) but +rep, that is an amazing effort.

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What an amazingly thorough guide SVL7. You really put a lot of work in on that one.

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Thanks a lot guys!! I really appreciate it.

I finally found some time to tinker a bit with the fans.... though I have no real result yet, it was more testing some ideas.

HWinfo32 is great and works perfectly for me, but automatic fan control is still a bit better since you don't have to remember to adjust the fans everytime you want to play a game or similar.

I have not a lot experience with disassembling the BIOS, so I'm looking for an easy hardware mod. My goal is to keep it as simple as possible. The less parts involved, the more fail safe it gets... and anyway, there's not much space left in there :D

There are four cables coming from the fan control board, red is +5V, black is ground (0V) and the others are PWM and tacho as far as I know. Strangely the fan connector has 5 cables, but only four are connected to the fan, one cable is disappearing under the shrink tube.. no idea whether it's a blind one or not, I didn't check (probably it is, let me know if you're better informed about this)

The 5V are always available, they won't change... the fan gets controlled by the PWM, so I don't need to worry about getting the power from somewhere else on the board.

Anyway, the most simple idea I had was using a NTC thermistor... this would be a neat solution as long as the resistance gets small enough when it heats up. I've done some testing and it seems to work more or less, but the resistance at load temperatures is still a tad too high, it seems that with the thermistors I have laying around the fan won't speed up completely.

Also a problem will be to attach the resistor inside the system in way that it really heats up. The NTCs I have atm aren't quite flat, which isn't ideal. They need to heat up quick enough, I guess taping/sticking them to the heatpipe would be the only way.

The second (also very simple) idea, is to use a small PCB thermostat which for example closes at 70°C and opens again at 50°C.

With a small resistor and a second thermostat it would be possible to make a two point fan control... but imo the NTC thermistor would be the better solution as it results in a stepless speed control.

I don't like cutting such tiny wires (the one leading to the fan) and then soldering them together again (with some parts in between) ... I'd rather desolder the wires from the board so that no cutting is involved, but I can't access the fan board. It's covered by the metal case of the fan. If it's possible I'm gonna carefully cut a piece of the metal case to be able to desolder the wires, but I don't have any tools for this... well, I'll see. Maybe I'm ending up cutting the wires, hahaha. (See the second pic to see where the cut is needed, also the pic on the very right shows that you can access the wires with the solder iron)

First pic (from the left) shows some improvised testing :D

If you have some input or (better) ideas, please let me know!! I'll check some datasheets to see whether I can find a better NTC thermistor.

Edit: I just had a little idea... I could combine a thermostat and a thermistor (parallel), this way I could make sure it will run on full speed when the temp gets high enough and still have the fan running at lower temps... hmm. I just don't have such thermostats laying around atm, and they cost about $15 here, damn... lol thermistor is a way cheaper solution :D

post-80-14494987852493_thumb.jpg

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post-80-14494987852925_thumb.jpg

post-80-14494987853142_thumb.jpg

Edited by svl7
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Excellent, people who want to install 6970Ms in their R2 will greatly appreciate your mod as well...

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I think desoldering the wires is probably the best way to do it rather than cutting the metal casing of the fan. $15 for a thermostat is a bit pricey but still within reason. Definitely an interesting solution you thought of and the idea of taping the thermistor to teh heatipe (or near the GPU core) is probably best.

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Well, the problem is that I need to cut the metal cover to be able to desolder the wire... this can be seen here. either I cut the wires or I cut a piece of the metal cover to be able to desolder the wires... I will to the later in case I can borrow some tools to do it.

I updated the first post, the card is now officially available on mxm-upgrade.

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And I've got even a second update :D

Sound through DisplayPort/HDMI works now with the card from mxm-upgrade as well!

I flashed the Dell vbios, installed the M17x R3 Dell driver and it works.

Thanks goes to the master of mxm-upgrade which tested in advance with his card whether the card works at all with the Dell vbios (I didn't want to kill my card) and also a big thanks to iloveb00bs for providing the vbios!

Unfortunately still no native fan control... nevertheless, another succes and a problem less.

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So native fan control works with the Dell 6970M but not the Clevo with a flashed Dell vbios? Strange.

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Yes... strange, seems to be a hardware bound issue. And it's not a Clevo card. Subvendor is "Sapphire/PCPartner", seems to be directly from AMD...

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Added instructions to get DP/HDMI audio working on the Sapphire card (flashing the Dell vbios on the card) to the second post. (Was a bit lazy, quoted the guide for making a bootable DOS drive from Brians 5870 flashing guide:D)

Also attached a little GPU exchangement guide with pics to the first post.

We still need M15x owners here.... :D

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Thanks svl7! Hopefully as Google picks up on this thread you'll get more M15x owners in here. :)

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Yeah, I'm trying to spread the word... also in some other forums. Growing a community takes time, I guess it's easier to get fresh M18x/M17x r3 owners than convinving "old" M15x owners to come to a new place.

I really like this forum, great people, cool atmosphere and a lot of knowledge even though it's still a pretty small community, that's awesome.

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I enjoy the work you've done thus far i hope to see more about your 6970M in the m15X!

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Guest Frontpage News

IMPORTANT: The 6970m is not officially supported by Dell. Upgrading to this card may void your warranty. The 6970m is a powerful card, it will draw more power and produce more heat. This card can significantly improve the performance of your system, however, the long-term effects of running this card in a M15x are currently [...]

More...

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Guest maszti

anyone interested in buying 6970m MXM for alienware?

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Hello guys,

Congratulation for your work svl7, very impressive !

I have an M15x and I intend to buy one 6970m at mxm-upgrade.

However, I have a question: Has anyone tried the system compatibility with linux? Nvidia Driver?

I am a programmer and it is an important prerequisite for me.

Thx

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Thanks and welcome to T|I! Never tried it with Linux so far... there are official Linux drivers provided by AMD, so I don't think there will be any issues, though I really haven't tried it so far.

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Thanks!

I don't know why I said Nvidia driver... Too much used to it maybe xD

I just know that ATI suxx on linux with their gpu mobile

I have an other question. With my cpu (720qm), will I have power issue ? And if not, is this really interesting to upgrade it ?

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No, you won't have power issues with the 720QM and the 6970m. The 6970m is really powerful, one of the best mobile GPUs at the moment, about the same power as two 5870m when it comes to gaming.

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