Looking to make an upgrade to the GTX 970M card in my old Alienware M17xR4

Jimbo

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Hello! I have for to long been using the dated 660M Nvidia GPU that came with my M17xR4 Alienware, and am looking to get a 970M 6GB model GPU to slap in it. By 'looking to get' I mean I already bought the card haphazardly before coming here, and am now looking for additional information on what may or may not be necessary to get it running on my Laptop with Windows 10 installed, before next month when the card actually gets here. I have read various old threads around the internet that have said several things from "Its a supported card naturally and it should be plug and play" to "You will need to modify the heatsink for it to work, then customize the ini files and boot commands prior to installation to get the card running". So in a way, I was hoping someone with enough experience on here can give me a more up-to-date guide on the matter if they might be willing and able to. Any info or guides are appreciated.

Thanks!
Jimbo.
 

MattyB

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I haven't tried the 970M myself but there was talk that NVidia did bring in support for the 900 series cards in the older machines. I don't know how true that is though. It was not supported naturally originally. You may not need to unlocked BIOS anymore but I can't confirm that. As far as I know you will need;

1: Unlocked BIOS (from TechInferno or possibly NotebookReview)
2: Modded Driver (.inf) (make your own or grab one from Eurocom)

You may as well plug the card in first and see if the machine will recognise the 970M with a legit NVidia driver without having to go through the whole process but if it doesn't work you'll have to do the following,

1. Flash unlocked BIOS (do at your own risk)
2. Download modded driver or make your own (do not install)
3. Uninstall old drivers using DDU in Safe Mode
4. Go into new BIOS and change your Video setting from SG to PEG and disable internal graphics. Save and Exit
5. Shut down PC and install the 970M. Make sure you have all the thermal pads you'll need and new thermal compound. There will be more memory modules on the new card that need to be protected with pads. Possibly some on the back of the card that may not be on the 660M.
6. Once you're in Windows, hold down SHIFT and press restart (assuming you have Windows 10). This will get you into the Startup settings
7. Go into the Advanced Options and Start Up Settings. Select Disable Driver enforcement and it will restart.
8. Go to your modded driver and install.

If the Nvidia installer recognises your card it will start to install and then a warning will come up. This is because of the disabled signature enforcement. Just allow it and everything should be perfect.
 

MattyB

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Also, be very careful when handling the new and old GPU (you may need the old card one day so keep it if you can). A static shock could kill it. It is best to use an anti-static wristband but at the very least make sure you are on a hard floor (no carpet). Perfectly dry hands, no moisture anywhere near you.
 
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Jimbo

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Also, be very careful when handling the new and old GPU (you may need the old card one day so keep it if you can). A static shock could kill it. It is best to use an anti-static wristband but at the very least make sure you are on a hard floor (no carpet). Perfectly dry hands, no moisture anywhere new you.
Will do! I am aware of the bane that is static when working on circuit boards of any kind, and luckily for me, I tie a copper lead wire to my ankle that leads to a water pipe near my bench while working. A little over kill, but can't be to safe. I'd hate to fry a factory new condition card. As for the actual software side of things, I was originally going to just try and get the new card in and see if the system can detect it properly, but as is the case with what you found: I can't seem to find concrete information on whether an update was made to make the card out-of-the-box compatible either. I have found threads with Alienware Reps from around 2013 that said it was, and several others that said it needed a modded ini file. The Dell support team told me yesterday that it simply wasn't possible past the 600M series cards to plug and play due to 'hardware incompatibility' which sounds like bogus to me, as there have been several instances of people with the exact same make, model, and windows version as me upgrading to higher graphics cards than the 600 series with SOFTWARE modification. It's still a GDDR5 port. But we'll see.

I'll be sure to come back here after I have experimented with the card, and give an update on what was/wasn't required for future reverence.
 

MattyB

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It will work, no problem there. I used to have 780M's in my M18x and all I needed was the modded driver. Now I am waiting on a 1070 which will again need a modded driver but also an unlocked BIOS. Unfortunately it looks like MXM cards are a dying breed so there may not be too many upgrades in the future.
The M17x R4 can also take a 1070 if you ever want a major performance upgrade. My 1070 cost me $400USD.

You may need the 120Hz LCD for the R4 1070 upgrade though
 

Jimbo

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It will work, no problem there. I used to have 780M's in my M18x and all I needed was the modded driver. Now I am waiting on a 1070 which will again need a modded driver but also an unlocked BIOS. Unfortunately it looks like MXM cards are a dying breed so there may not be too many upgrades in the future.
The M17x R4 can also take a 1070 if you ever want a major performance upgrade. My 1070 cost me $400USD.

You may need the 120Hz LCD for the R4 1070 upgrade though
What exactly would I search to find the correct drivers for a 970M in a M17xR4? Sorry to continually ask you this stuff. I do appreciate the help. There is even someone over at the Linus Tech Tips forum who couldn't find the information you have provided here who essentially gave up on trying to run his 970, so all the info/links we can get, the better.
 

MattyB

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Hi, sorry for the late reply. Holidays.
Try going to Eurocom.com for a pre-made driver. It will be out of date but it will allow you to see if your card is working
http://downloads.eurocom.com/support/drivers/upgradeyourlaptop/Alienware/M17xR4/

You can then work on modding your own if you feel like taking a few hours to learn. Use this guide
https://null-src.com/posts/nvidia-notebook-driver-inf-mod/post.php

I found had to do things a little different than the guide so if you do give it a try then I'll try and help you though it, if I can remember how...
 

Jimbo

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Okay, the day has come, and I am reporting back my results thus far. Heres how the entire swap has went so far:

I got the card in the mail this afternoon, and quickly set out to install it. I deleted all my other Nvidia Drivers, and took the old card out after it was all shutdown. Although the card clicked right into it's port, It wasn't ALL hunky-dory. I had to scrape the old X-Bracket off the 660M which luckily happened to fit the 970M, however, the Heat-sink required a little 'modification' to actually fit the card, as the 970M is about an 1/8th of an inch fatter than the 680M I'd say. What I did was 1) Remove the plastic screw retention disks that used to hold the Heat-sink screws from falling free with a set of pliers, then I carefully bent the mounting prongs on the heat-sink down (But not to much as to avoid scraping the surface of the board!) and after about 3 times readjusting the angle of the prongs, I finally got them to fit the X-Bracket underneath the board uniformly, and carefully tightened them down snug with thermal paste applied. Not to tight though, as this isn't exactly up to spec to begin with.

I booted up my computer, and it crashed on the windows boot, and restarted before I got to Bios. I was then able to restart, and it got to BIOS fine, and under the Display Adapter section it seemed to detect a "Nvidia GFX" card. I went ahead and loaded into windows to see what would happened (I sorta knew it would get to windows, as the M17xR4 has integrated Graphics to begin with. But it did in fact boot to my home-screen, and I set out trying to see if the card was properly detected or not in Windows. I went to the Device Manager in the Start menu, and went under 'Display Adapters' and noticed my Integrated Graphics were there, but the second device was simply called 'Windows Display Adapter' and not 'Nvidia GTX 970M', so I clicked on the properties tab and clicked on the 'Download Drivers' tab and sure enough, Windows was able to automatically find drivers for the thing. I noticed after restarting the computer that the Display Adapter section now had the Nvidia GeForce 970M listed, which was very promising.

This is about where the story ends, as I can't seem to get Nvidia Control Pannel to detect the damn thing, it's saying 'Control Panel is not compatible with this windows version' despite the fact I have the Windows 10 x64 version which matches my computers specs to the T, and it used to work fine with my 660M. Not to mention, the highest Driver Version for the 970M Windows seems to be able to find is a driver from 8/7/2015, which is hardly new. I tried installing the modded Drivers from Eurocom but they give me errors about them not being compatible with windows, or the device despite being for the M17xR4 970M.

Any ideas how I can get games at least using this thing with the dated Drivers?
 

Jimbo

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UPDATE:

I have got Nvidia Control Panel to somehow work. I first deleted all traces of it from my computer, then reinstalled it from Windows Store, and launched using the Right-Click Desktop option. It took like 30 seconds but it suddenly popped up, and detected the 970M and everything. Going to test it's involvement in using my GPU for games now to see if in fact, it will makes games use the 970M as it's intended instead of Integrated Graphics.
 
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Jimbo

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UPDATE UPDATE: Games might be using the 970M, but the performance is seriously 3x worse than the 660M. Im pushing 40 FPS in CSGO. Tomorrow I will follow your more thorough setup and see if that fixes all these issues.
 
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Jimbo

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UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:

I FOUND THE FIX! What I did was set all the games INDIVIDUALLY in the Nvidia Control Panel to use the Maximum Performance GPU (970M), but in addition to that, and don't ask me how this works: I went into the Graphics settings for Windows, and added each game individually (IE: Go to 'Browse' tab, path your way to a game of your choice and open the .exe in the file explorer), then set the launch performance options for windows on a per-game basis to use the maximum performance settings, and bam. Games are using the 970M when I add them in both the Control Panel for Nvidia, and the Graphics settings in Windows individually. Tedious? Sure. But after screwing with this for about 7 hours now, i'll take it any day of the week. Again: Don't know how I made this work with old 2015 drivers, but I'm not going to double take. Now I am easily getting a 65% jump in graphics processioning power over the old 660M.
 

MattyB

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Sounds like you went through a lot but got it working. Nice work. I've never used the Device Manager to find the driver for me.
Have you tried downloading and installing the latest drivers directly from Nvidia now that it seems to be working? It looks like you've confirmed that you no longer need modded drivers for the 900 series cards in these machines which is good but odd that it's with old drivers (which shouldn't work...)
 

Jimbo

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Sounds like you went through a lot but got it working. Nice work. I've never used the Device Manager to find the driver for me.
Have you tried downloading and installing the latest drivers directly from Nvidia now that it seems to be working? It looks like you've confirmed that you no longer need modded drivers for the 900 series cards in these machines which is good but odd that it's with old drivers (which shouldn't work...)

Thanks! Probably spent a good 14 hours figuring this thing out, but it is worth it for sure. The official Nvidia drivers off their website where the first thing I tried. I must have tried 7 different drivers, from Official WOL, to Beta, and Studio Builds, but nothing worked for me. Then I tried a few different Eurocom drivers, and again: nothing. The installer would always crash and give me a 'Hardware not detected' or 'Drivers not compatible with this version of Windows', even when modifying the Driver files to use my GPU's Hardware IDS number specifically.

Is there maybe one out there that DOES work and is newer? Who knows. But when I used Windows Device Manager to do it for me, it found the 2015 driver with the Control panel and everything from. . . somewhere. Normally Windows auto-ANYTHING tools suck, but Device Manager actually saved me here. And don't get me wrong: It's still janky. I have to add each game I want to play to the Windows Graphics Application tab as stated, and specify the Executable to use 'High Performance' graphics processors instead of 'Default'. Some games have as many as 9 different .EXE's that have to be commanded to utilize the High Performance Processor, which is a pain. But I will take that over NO GPU or my OLD GPU even still.

For the sake of thoroughness, in the event someone else comes across this thread in the future, I have noticed issues with my computer though since I got the card running with the 2015 drivers. Namely: The card will run itself into a hard crash if you push it to hard. For instance: I can play games at about Medium-High settings, 1080P, from 50-150 FPS now. However, The card CAN do slightly more. The card can get into Ultra with the 6GB of VRAM at around 20-30 FPS, but whenever I do this, namely with games like Escape from Tarkov, or Post Scriptum, I will run into a 'Video TDR' error, and my computer will completely crash. So User beware: Don't expect TO much from the card, because it can do allot, but isn't so great with stability at Ultra with newer more demanding games.
 

Jimbo

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To recap from anyone else stumbling across this thread in the future, here is how I got this whole ordeal figured out:

1 ) I shut down my PC

2 ) Ripped it apart after grounding myself out, and modded the card in. I say 'modded', because I had to do some tinkering with the heat-sink from the 660M to get it to fit the 970M, so hopefully (Fingers crossed) the thermals hold up. So far - I am holding about 50-70C at medium operation which isnt TO bad.

3 ) From there, I put everything back together, and booted the computer up.

4 ) I was stupid and missed the BIOS button and it tried going to windows (10 x64), and crashed. Windows said something akin to: "Something went wrong, we will now compile a error report and restart the computer."

5 ) I hit 'Ok' and it restarted.

6 ) I hit F12 in time this go, and took a look to see if BIOS was picking anything up under Display Adapters, and in fact, a 'Nvidia GFX' card was detected under graphics adapter 1 which was a breath of relief.

7 ) I entered windows and got to the Home screen, which wasn't a MASSIVE surprise as I have Auxiliary Integrated Intel Graphics hardwired into the Motherboard in the event my Secondary GPU fails.

8 ) I went to the 'Device Manager' application in the Windows Start Menu search bar to see if Windows was noticing the card properly. It wasn't.

9 ) Under 'Display Adapters' I could see that my Intel Graphics (Integrated) were there, but under that was a "Windows Basic Display Adapter" device, which I assumed was the miss-labeled 970M.

10 ) I went to the 'Properties' tab for the Windows Basic Display Adapter, and hit the 'Drivers' tab, followed by the 'Update Drivers' Tab, followed by the 'Automatically find the best drivers' tab.

11 ) Somehow windows found an older 2015 driver for my card, and installed it. I returned to the Display Adapters tab in the Device manager to now see that my Nvidia Geforce 970M card was listed loud and proud under the Intel Graphics.

12 ) Now, for the ghetto 'Not so sure how this works, but it's working sorta' part. From here: Nothing happened. No games would even use the card. What I ended up having to do was go inside the Nvidia Control Panel through a right click on the Desktop (It came automatically with the Drivers Windows downloaded, and any other version online would not even open), and entered the '3D settings' tab, and set the the Global Preference to 'High Performance Graphics Processor', before hitting 'Apply' and exiting out.

12.5 ) Still, nothing happened. The odd fix, was to go into the 'Graphics settings' under the Windows Start menu, hit the 'Classic App' option, then the 'Browse' tab and locate each game I wanted to play's executable (.exe, Application, ect), and hit 'Open', which would add it to the windows App list. From there, I would hit the 'Options' tab, and switch it to 'High Performance' under the 'Graphics Proccesor' section provided, then hit the 'Save' button.

13 ) Done. I did this for every game in my Library, and somehow, they are both detecting, and now using the 970M card for their graphics processing.

I can't say whether or not this will work for an OG 970 PC card, but for me, with a Laptop - this works. I am sort of limited to only this driver, as no matter how many different Nvidia drivers I got off their site - none of them worked. Only the one Windows somehow found for me functioned. Will it be a little tedious manually adding each new game I want to play to the Windows Graphics setting's App section? Maybe a little, but the pay off is a new graphics card that proforms about 75% better than the 660M which is well worth it in my case.

I wish you luck! Maybe this will help you in the future.
 

MattyB

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What happened when you tried to install the Eurocom version? Was it the Hardware not Detected or the Drivers not Compatible error? Usually when you try to download directly from Nvidia you'll get the Hardware error because your Hardware ID isn't listed in the inf but if you get the Driver's not Compatible error after it passes the hardware check it usually means that you didn't disable Driver Signature Enforcement before attempting to install the driver.
If you missed this step then I'd suggest to give it a try if the Eurocom driver is newer. You may not want to poke the bear at this stage though which is understandable.
If you didn't disable driver signature then seems like Microsoft somehow a modded driver that was digitally signed.
If you like, I can try to mod a newer driver for you. It's pretty easy now that I've done it a few times. I'll just have to work out how to get it to you (maybe dropbox??)
I'll just need the Hardware ID for your card.
Go into Device Manager and find the 970M. Right Click - Properties - Details - Select Hardware ID from the Dropdown. There will be 4 codes listed. I'll need the second one down.
 

Jimbo

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So I modded a couple new Nvidia Drivers myself, and I got it them to install all the way! However, Windows tells me that essentially it can't communicate with the device driver and has shut the card down on every occasion. Error codes 43, and 31 sometimes I believe. I have done this with 3 of the newest drivers with the same result. In-between tests I would use DDU and completely wipe the system of driver files, as well as disable driver signature enforcement prior to installation, yet still, the same result. I went ahead and provided my Device Hardware ID(s) below if you want to take a crack at getting a driver to work, because I am out of ideas. Until then, I am just stuck with this crappy driver from 2015 that crashes constantly:

Here are all the versions of the Hardware ID numbers as they appear in the Device Manger.

PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_13D8&SUBSYS_05511028&REV_A1
PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_13D8&SUBSYS_05511028
PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_13D8&CC_030000
PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_13D8&CC_0300

I JUST WANT THIS CARD TO WORK PROPERLY! lol.

P.S. I am trying the Eurocom drivers again, as I just noticed they have a driver specifically for the model number '05511028' that was released 2020, which is the same as my Hardware ID specs. . . regardless. If you don't hear back from me within the next day or two, assume they failed as well.
 

MattyB

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Where did you get the 970M from and what machine was it in before yours? It could be a vBIOS issue. My 1070 was getting an Error 43 and I was just about to give up until I finally flashed a new vBIOS and it solved everything. The vBIOS that was on the card was for a different machine and wasn't compatible with my M18x R2.
If you run GPU-Z you can find the current vBIOS on the card. It may only show up without a driver installed though. Once I tried to install a driver, all this info would disappear from GPU-Z. You can then search different vBIOS' for your particular card online.
In your hardware ID (what you listed above), the 13D8 is your GPU ID, 0551 refers to the model (M17x R4) and 1028 is the Dell code. You need all three of these codes in the modded driver for it to work in you machine. If the driver installs but you still have problems then I don't think it will be a driver problem.
 

MattyB

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When I get home tonight, I'll try to make the code for your machine using the info you gave above. You'll then have to copy and paste the code into the .inf file of your driver and try to install the driver again.
 

Jimbo

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When I get home tonight, I'll try to make the code for your machine using the info you gave above. You'll then have to copy and paste the code into the .inf file of your driver and try to install the driver again.
I would appreciate that! Hopefully, maybe, something could work. I am hoping I am just modding the drivers wrong, but as you sorta said: It probably wouldn't install at all at that point. As to where I got the card, and what machine it was previously used on: I got it off Ebay, and it was Retail-New, as in: never handled by anyone other than the manufacturers themselves before it was shipped out for retail sale. Here is the actual Item Link if you wanna check it out: https://www.ebay.com/itm/392580125040 , furthermore: The seller had a pretty high rating on Ebay from customer feedback, so I think it probably just boils down to driver incompatibilities as the card is brand new and never used other than in my system.
 

MattyB

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OK here are your codes.

- First you will have to download the most recent Nvidia driver for the 970M (but do not install).
- Use DDU to remove the previous driver and then delete any Nvidia Folders or Files in This PC, Program Files or Program Files (x86).
- Install the downloaded driver and let it fail but do not close the installer
- Find the Nvidia folder in your Local Disk and copy it (rename it Nvidia - Copy or whatever you like)
- Close the installer
- Go into the copied Nvidia folder and find your way to International and then Display.Driver. Find the Dell .inf NVDMI
- Insert the code %NVIDIA_DEV.13D8.0551.1028% = Section046, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_13D8&SUBSYS_05511028
- I would usually inset this under the last code that has 13D8. Make a space and copy it in. See first pic

Modded inf 970.png
- Scroll down and find each code section and repeat this. Your 970M is compatible with multiple Windows versions so you could have up to 3 spots to enter the code. My 1070 is only compatible with Windows 10 so I only had one section to enter the code. It is easy to miss sections as the .inf is so big.
- Scroll right to the bottom and then slowly scroll up to find the strings. Make a space and copy and paste this string code:
NVIDIA_DEV.13D8.0551.1028 = "NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M"

Modded inf 970 string.png

- Save the file and exit
- Restart the machine with Disabling Driver Signature Enforcement
- Go to your Nvidia - Copy file and find the International file and run the setup
- Wait for the installation to start and accept the unverified driver warning and the driver should install

If you still have problems after that then you have have a faulty card.

Note: I have been drinking red wine tonight but I think I've got the steps sorted. Let me know if you have any issues.
 
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