Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Amber Light of Death (ALOD) Troubleshooting on Dell Computers

Dealing with customer computer troubleshooting for significant period of time, somehow, I was lucky not to get the “Amber Light of Death” before. But, obviously, this problem is quite frequently discussed in the online computer-related forums and message boards, thus is quite common.

Problem Description

The computer power is pushed, and the power light is continuously blinking, you see power monitoring leds are ON, and fans are working. But computer does not proceed to the OS boot, and even does not go to the BIOS. The computer monitor is essentially blank.

Problem Source

Based on the Dell users manual description the following problem points out on the power distribution failure inside the computer, while the computer does receive the electrical power from the power outlet.


Unfortunately, the problem has multiple explanations, and there are many things that can go wrong in its relation. Therefore, I will propose the following troubleshooting plan, starting from easy-to-do items and continuing to more complicated. Following every step, verify the computer performance. This way, you will know exactly, what the problem source is.

1. Check the power selection switch at your computer and ensure that the voltage selection is set properly to match the AC power at your location. Switch it back and force to ensure that it is indeed at the right position.

2. If you use UPS, reset it.

3. Try different power outlet to ensure that the problem is coming not from your external power supply.

4. Perform the computer “cold reboot” - shut it down, wait 5 minutes, and turn it again.

5. Shut down your PC, open the case, and verify all the cables are connected properly. Ensure that the processor power cable is securely connected to the system board.

6. Examine all your USB ports (front & back) for pins that are bent or pushed in and fix any that are bent. This appears to be the most frequent reason of the problem appearance.

7. Reset 3V battery on the Motherboard.

8. Replace 3V batter on the Motherboard.

9. Remove one-by-one all the nonessential hardware elements in the computer by disconnecting them from the motherboard, like non-essential boards, Floppy, DVD, network cards, etc.

10. Blow carefully with air blower inside the computer case. That will ensure that no pieces of metal or debris could cause the short circuit.

11. Swap the power supply in from another PC. Dell claims the power supply replacement is the #1 solution to this problem.

12. If there is no improvement, there is a good chance that the Motherboard should be replaced. Several users reported that the Motherboard was a core source for the problem appearance. But, in most cases, it means that it might be easier and cheaper to shop for a new computer.


cheap computers said...

It means that it might be easier and cheaper to shop for a new computer.

Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

There is a Russian Joke on the topic. Comes a young Russian businessman trading oil to the Mercedes dealership and buys a new car. Next week, he comes again to by the same new car model again. Owner asks him if something wrong with the car, which has been purchased last week. No, replies the businessmen, everything fine, but the ashtray is full already.

My point is, that sometimes you can catch and easy problem causing severe consequences, if you know where to look.

Yzzzub said...

3 Steps:

1) Hold power button in until shut down, try again.
2) Memory/RAM reseat.
3) BIOS Pin reseat.

A lot more simple. If this doesn't work refer to the post above.

computer troubleshooting said...

I was having similar problem with my old computer. The Power light is on but there is nothing coming on the LCD screen. I thinks that the motherboard of my old computer is defective and there aren't any repair shop that will repair my motherboard at chip level. All they suggest doing is replace the motherboard.

Angel said...

Since I got a few dells, I haven't had simple problems. The main problem with a dell is that they build them to last just up to the warranty, like a ford, and then they refuse to even try to help you unless you purchase a warranty or pay 60USD for a call, which I was flat out told without any guarantees.
My suggestion would be if none of the above work, make your own.
The one I made 10 years ago is still HUMMING fine. Just once I had to change the video card. ATI is another story.


Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

Almost all computers I have at home are Dells, and I have dealt with multiples customer computers, with are mostly Dells as well. I would say that my personal experience with this brand is positive. Definitely, that also depends on the components. For exmaple, I am aware on the serial problems with WD 250G HDDs. However, overall, most computers live much longer through the warranty and on. My main desktop Dell is three years old, and besides regular maintenance, I have never got any serial issues with it.

Anonymous said...

i am having the same problem. even the fan doesn't start when i try ot turn on the computer.

but i have found some tricks.

when orange light blinking, push the power button of computer until blinking stops. and remove the power and wait for about 15sec. ant then power it and try ot turn it on.

also some time i remove the power for about 15sec until blinking stops and then try ot on it.

these r not permanent solution.
but sometime they work, good for emergency use.

Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

Thank you for another tip!

Anonymous said...

vacuum the dust; turn the power off totally wait whatever time and try it again; remove the battery... tried all the tricks, works one of twenty times.

now new trick i found is holding the power button till amber light stop blinking, then push it again very quick and hard, remember quick and hard.

this is a not a joke

Anonymous said...

Please do not use a vacuum on your computer unless you need a new anchor for your boat. Holding the button in for 5 seconds will tell the motherboard to shut down. The two most likely issues in this case are a failed power supply or a failed motherboard. Before you bother with batteries and other little tricks, look for scorching or overheating at solder points on the motherboard and check the power supply. Most recent case of this I have run across had a bad motherboard from a lightening strike, despite being on a surge protector.

Logic IT Solutions said...

i have repaired a lot of these and have found that it's either because of the power supply (psu) or a motherboard fault

Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

Last week, I was able to restore the customer computer performance by resetting the battery. But, in most cases from my practice the power supply replacement is the true fix.

Anonymous said...

As you put your computer through its paces installing and uninstalling software your System folder gathers a ton of DELL files. Over time, you'll accumulate DELL files you no longer need hogging disk space and causing your system to run sluggishly. Clean System Directory scans your system looking for all references to DELL files in your System directory. When it finds DELL files that have no programs calling them,


Anonymous said...

Haha wow seemed hopeless then pushed quick and hard as anonymous recommended and it totally worked.

talk2megoose said...

My amber light was on steady but the PC would not power up when I pushed the power button. Diagnostics said to check the 3v battery on the motherboard. I replaced it and the computer powered up and works fine. A simple $5.00 fix.

Anonymous said...

Talk2megoose - thanks for the tip. Mine had a bad battery. Swapped it out from a spare parts computer and it came right on. Saved me a ton!

Astro Bear said...

Yes my dell computer tower blinking orange light. I try holding the power button unpluged it and pluged it back still same result orange light blinks again i don't know what to do

Michael Pekker said...

Have you checked other troubleshooting suggestions from the post, or recommended by readers?

Astro Bear said...

I fixed it i had to replace a power supply and push power button unplug everything i plugged it back together it ended up working

Michael Pekker said...

My congratulations, Astro Bear! You did it!

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