Upgrades for my Alienware M17 R1 2015

DarksArrow

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Hello,

I am trying to do some upgrades on my computer but not sure what I can upgrade or what I can upgrade it with. I will attach my specs to this and I'm kind of new to this so if I'm missing anything please let me know also. Thanks in advance!
 

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MattyB

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Hi. The M17 R2 is the most recent Alienware 17 inch machine which was released a month or two ago. If your machine has the 860M GPU as listed on your spec sheet then you have the Alienware 17 R1. If this is the case then you can upgrade everything. CPU, GPU, memory and storage and you can also upgrade the LCD to a 3D 130hz one if you have the 60hz. Best to open the bottom panel up and check that you have an MXM GPU in there. The AW 17 R2 had the 900 series cards so I'm pretty sure yours is the R1 like mine.
The CPU is limited to ones of the same socket but you can still get a 4910mq or 4930xm. You can put up to a 1070 MXM card in there but they aren't cheap. You have 16gb memory which is still plenty for most applications but you can go up to 32gb.
I'm not sure what storage you're using but if you just have a standard HDD then an SDD will be a great upgrade.
 

DarksArrow

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Well thank you for the reply and thank you for clearing up the model as well. I did upgrade the memory to 16gb from the stock 8gb but that's it, are the other upgrades hard to do such as the GPU and change my 1tb HDD to a 1tb SDD? I don't know anything about CPU's and I'm sure that's a whole other level of upgrade is it not?
 

MattyB

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If you enter your service tag in the Dell support page on their website you can pinpoint which machine you have.
If you do have the R1 then the CPU is actually one of the easiest things to upgrade. You just have to remove the bottom cover and then the CPU heatsink. Then you just remove the current CPU, drop the new one in, put some new thermal paste on and put it all back together.
The SSD is also pretty simple but a little more time consuming if you are planning on using it for your OS. If you don't have Windows installation media then you'll have to create a bootable USB and go to Microsoft to download Windows 10. It isn't hard but it just takes time.

https://www.windowscentral.com/how-create-windows-10-usb-bootable-media-uefi-support

Upgrading the GPU has different levels of difficulty depending on what GPU you go for. If you want a quick and easy performance increase then go for a 780M. It is a fair bit better than the 860M and it's even better than an 880M. It's plug and play for your machine. A 980M or higher is a little more difficult but not impossible.
 

DarksArrow

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ok so I did the service tag search on both the dell support page and Alienware support page and got 2 different ones I have attached. how will I actually know, is it ok or in the computer somewhere? I hope it doesn't seem like dumb questions I just don't want to buy the wrong things you know. Thanks
 

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MattyB

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Yeah that's pretty weird. Yours has the 860M so I'm pretty sure it's the R1 but the best way to know for sure is to take the bottom panel off. you will know instantly as the R2 had a soldered CPU and GPU. You will see the GPU card in it's socket if it's the R1
 

DarksArrow

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Ok so from what you said and the manual I got off of dell support it’s an R1 and I can upgrade everything. Thanks for the help now just to find the parts haha. Also you said it could have 32gb of ram now I know that’s over kill but say the day comes it may need it. With 4 ram slots does that mean it’s quad channel for 4x 8gb or is it best to just run 2x16gb sticks?
 

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MattyB

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Yep you have an MXM GPU which is perfect.
I don't think it will take 16gb sticks. Not many laptops support it and it is just dual channel with slots 1 & 3 being channel A and slots 2 & 4 channel B. You are best to put two 8gb sticks in slots 1 & 2 to utilize both channels and save 3 & 4 free to upgrade later (or straight away if you can get 4x8gb sticks). Slots 1 and 2 are on the other side of the motherboard which is bit of a pain.

EDIT: You also have to note that your 860M has the 2-pipe heatsink so if you want to put in a 780M, 980M, 1060 or 1070 you will need at least a 3-pipe heatsink (780M/980M) or even the special 4 or 5 pipe that an ebay seller has made.

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/5-Heats-for-DELL-ALIENWARE-17-RANGER-M17X-R5-R6-P18E-GPU-HEATSINK-0N3P1N-0YP26V/264321972080
 

DarksArrow

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Man thanks again! Ok so I have been busy tracking down a good I7 4930mx and a GTX 980m with the mounting items. How would I find a 3 pipe heat sink and would those fit in the case?
 

MattyB

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As long as you get the AW 17 R1 GPU heatsink it will fit perfectly. The units that were built with the 780M and 880M came with the 3-pipe as these cards need the extra cooling.
This looks to be the right one but I'd just do some double checking on the part# (Y1VPK) first. I'd probably spring for the 5-pipe as it will offer the best cooling and will keep your options open for another upgrade later

https://www.ebay.com/itm/DELL-Alienware-17-8126SLV-GPU-Cooling-Heatsink-Y1VPK-0Y1VPK-AT0UJ00B0C0/113709143980?hash=item1a7997d7ac:g:vl4AAOSwym1cp1oV
 

DarksArrow

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Yep you have an MXM GPU which is perfect.
I don't think it will take 16gb sticks. Not many laptops support it and it is just dual channel with slots 1 & 3 being channel A and slots 2 & 4 channel B. You are best to put two 8gb sticks in slots 1 & 2 to utilize both channels and save 3 & 4 free to upgrade later (or straight away if you can get 4x8gb sticks). Slots 1 and 2 are on the other side of the motherboard which is bit of a pain.

EDIT: You also have to note that your 860M has the 2-pipe heatsink so if you want to put in a 780M, 980M, 1060 or 1070 you will need at least a 3-pipe heatsink (780M/980M) or even the special 4 or 5 pipe that an ebay seller has made.

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/5-Heats-for-DELL-ALIENWARE-17-RANGER-M17X-R5-R6-P18E-GPU-HEATSINK-0N3P1N-0YP26V/264321972080
So this is the one I would possibly order is this one huh?
 

MattyB

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I believe so. I would contact the seller first to make sure but I know other guys I've spoken to who have done the full 1070 upgrade went for that heatsink and they are getting really low GPU temps.
 

DarksArrow

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Ok thanks I will do the research and get back to you . Is 180w ac adaptor good enough for the upgrades? Also with your great knowledge my friend when it comes to the ssd I keep finding ones that are 7.5mm and not 9.5mm is that an issue?
 

MattyB

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The 180W won't be enough. You'll definitely need the 330W. They are about $60AUD on ebay down here. I've used aftermarket ones and never had an issue but purists will say to get a Dell adapter. Your call.
I put a cheap Kingston 240gb SSD in mine and I believe it's 7.0mm so you should be fine with 7.5. The previous owner lost both of the HDD caddies though so I've had to use velcro tape to secure my drives.
There is also an mSata SSD slot hidden on the board. You could use that spot for the OS and then use the other standard drive bays for larger storage.
 

MattyB

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I bought my 17 about a month ago. I've learnt as much about the machine as I can since then.
It was listed on ebay as for parts/not working. It didn't have any RAM or HDD/SSD. I took a gamble and won the auction at about $350AUD delivered (the guy ripped me off with delivery @ $70). It wouldn't power on at all. I stripped it apart and tested a few things. Some internal cables weren't attached so I plugged them back in and threw some spare RAM in. Still didn't power on. Mine has the 3D 120Hz LCD so it needs the dedicated GPU to work so I assumed this was the issue. I threw in a 780M from my M18x and the new SSD with Win10 installed and it worked perfectly.
It's currently back in a million pieces as I'm giving it a fresh paint job before I look at what I'm going to do with it.
 

MattyB

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Yes you will need new thermals pads and paste. They are pretty cheap so just buy a range of different thickness pads and cut them to size. You can pretty much copy what's on your old card as they will be pretty similar. There will probably be a few extra memory chips to cover.
That CPU should be perfect. I think your CPU heatsink will be fine but if you're looking to overclock it then there is a custom 4-pipe heatsink for the extreme CPU.
I was lucky to get the 120hz panel with my 17 but from what I've read, you can still use the 60hz panel for the 1060/1070 upgrade but it's just a little bit more painful. That 980M will work well but a 1060 is a much stronger card and the prices aren't much different. I'm starting to lean towards to 1060 rather than the 1070 as the 1070 is pretty expensive.
I believe you'll need the unlocked BIOS for the 980M but I'll see what i can find on that. You will need a modded driver but that's not too hard.
 

DarksArrow

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Thank man your help is greatly appreciated I have ordered most of the upgrades except the GPU at the moment. I want to get the SSD in and switched over and the CPU upgraded and stable then move to the GPU. I’ll check out the forum you suggested. Again thank you my brother
 
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