While a FAQ exists in the General Discussion thread (click here; it is locked and old) and iGames has added one, they do not cover all the questions, and as such people will ask the same questions repeatedly and be answered repeatedly. This is a bit ridiculous as these answers can be found by Googling them or going to old threads and reading them, but as we can all agree, people find it more convenient (not time friendly, mind you) to ask a question. This thread here is to answer the most common questions about the hardware and software of Alienware computers and some computer questions in general. If you ask a question that has been asked in here, you will be advised to report here instead and potentially risk your own thread to be locked/deleted (no need for clutter that can be answered like spam). I suggest you do Crtl+F to find what you are looking for (be vague about it as searching for the question may not work; it is also a good idea to search "question #", where # is a number you were advised to go to). This is huge. Anything pre-Dell or about custom drivers/BIOS, head over to notebookreview’s forums and techinferno.comAll constructive and complementary feedback is welcome in this separate thread to keep the length of this FAQ at bay (as it is long enough as is). As well, Dell/Alienware have a Top Solutions Article (being updated as of now) you can look at. It includes information that is also in this FAQ (there might be some conflicting information, though).
 

Question 1. Can I upgrade the GPU? And if yes, how high? If no, why not?

Answer 1. This depends on your computer (look at table below). Line means those laptops within that family or name (usually go by the screen size). Soldered means the component is apart of the motherboard.

Not upgrade-able/Soldered Upgrade-able/Not Soldered
m11x Line m17x line and 17 R1
m14x Line and 14 m18x line and 18
13 Line m15x
15  Graphics Amplifier
17 R2 X51, Aurora, Area 51
Alpha Console Pre-Dell Computers

The desktops- X51, Aurora, and Area 51- all use desktop GPUs and are limited by their PSU.  For the laptops, the m15x, m17x, m18x, 17, and 18 all have replaceable GPUs. Look for GPUs with a MXM 3.0b form factor. The way to tell if a GPU is for a laptop is if you see an "m". A GTX 660m is a mobile GPU; a GTX 660 is a desktop GPU. You may need a custom BIOS and drivers for older laptops to accept the newer mobile GPUs. Keep in mind a budget when upgrading GPUs and CPUs. In this document, you'll find all of the GPUs functional in each laptop and desktop with PSU wattage; you'll also find GPUs compatible with the Graphics Amplifier. Pages 1 through 3 are for desktops; pages 4 through 7 are for laptops; for the time being, you can look at this (beta) spreadsheet to find out if the GPU is validated or not and the SLI/crossfire set-ups you can do with each computer.  
Below is a table of recently sold desktops and the GA and recently released GPUs, and below the desktop table is one for laptops. You can use these tables as a quick guide to see if you can upgrade your computer's GPU to one of the listed. Y means Yes, N means No, and ? means unknown (includes names of GPUs not released). A number besides a "Y" means the most you can install for SLI/Crossfire if possible (SLI/X-fire not possible X51, GA, Alienware 15" or 17" laptops sans the m17xR2). They do not mention anything about warranty support.

Quick Desktop GPU Upgrade Table
GPU X51 with 330w PSU Graphics Amplifier Aurora R3/R4 with 875w PSU Area 51 R2 with 1500w PSU
GTX 670 / GTX 760 ti Y Y Y (x2) Y (x3)
GTX 770 N Y Y (x2) Y (x3)
GTX 780 / GTX TITAN N Y Y (x2) Y (x3)
GTX 780 ti / GTX TITAN Black N Y Y (x2) Y (x3)
GTX TITAN Z N Y Y Y (x2)
GTX 960 Y Y Y (x2) Y (x2)
GTX 970 Y Y Y (x2) Y (x3)
GTX 980 Y (fan mod needed) Y Y (x2) Y (x3)
GTX 980 ti / GTX TITAN X N Y Y Y
R7 265 / R9 370 (OEM) Y Y Y (x2) Y (x2)
R9 270(x) / R9 370 Y Y Y (x2) Y (x2)
R9 285 / R9 380 Not recommended Y Y (x2) Y (x2)
R9 290 / R9 390 N Y Y (x2) Y (x3)
R9 290x / R9 390x N Y Y (x2) Y (x3)
R9 295x2 N Y Y (may need some effort) Y
R9 "Fury" / Fiji Pro (?) N ? ? ?
R9 "Fury X" / Fiji XT (?) N ? ? ?

Quick Laptop GPU Upgrade Table
GPU m15x (150w PSU) m17x R3 / m18x R1 m17xR4 / 17 R1 (240w PSU) m17x R2 / m18x R2 / 18 R1 (330w PSU)
GTX 765m Y Y (x2 for m18x) Y Y (x2)
GTX 770m Y Y (x2 for m18x) Y Y (x2)
GTX 780m / GTX 880m Need bigger PSU Y (x2 for m18x) Y Y (x2)
GTX 860m Y ? Y Y (x2)
GTX 870m Need bigger PSU ? Y Y (x2)
GTX 965m Y X Y Y
GTX 970m Y X Y Y
GTX 980m Need bigger PSU X Y Y
R9 m280x / R9 m385x ? ? ? ?
R9 m290x / HD 8970m Need bigger PSU Y (x2 for m18xR1) Y

Y (x2)

R9 m295x ? ? ? ?

 

Question 1a. How can I use my Graphics Amplifier without problems? (Pertains to AW13/15/17R2)

Answer 1a. Special note: The Graphics Amplifier only works with the 13 and the 2015 revision of Alienware laptops. Don't have the PCI-Express Proprietary Port? Tough, only the newer laptops (will) have them.
Make sure the Graphics Amplifier and Alienware Command Center Software are the latest and most updated for your laptop. For Nvidia desktop GPUs, install the Dell Nvidia drivers or WHQL Nvidia driver 347.88/347.90 (if you have the AW13 with Broadwell + 860m, I suggest following these steps prior to installing the driver). For AMD desktop GPUs, install the latest Omega driver from AMD. There are steps in the Graphics Amplifier FAQ you can follow. Make sure you are using a supported GPU or else you have to add the hardware ID into the .inf file (not an easy task if you aren't familiar with these terms).

 

Question 2. Can I upgrade the CPU? If yes, how high? If no, why not?

Answer 2. Look at table below. All desktops have upgrade-able processors. 

Not upgrade-able/Soldered Upgrade-able/Not Soldered
m11x Line m15x
15 m18x line and 18
13 Line m17x line and 17 R1
17 R2 m14x and 14

Non-soldered computers are limited by their Socket type (say LGA 2011 or LGA 1156). Only Intel CPUs. In desktops, check the socket type of the processor; you may find that you can upgrade your processor to a newer generation (examples below). For the laptops, they are limited by when they were released. If the laptop was released in 2013, then a Haswell/4000 series CPU will work; if in 2012, a Ivy-Bridge/3000 series; if 2011, a Sandy Bridge/2000 series; if in 2010, a Clarkdale/sub-1000 series. Laptop CPUs are denoted by the same "m" like the GPUs and other notations as well like U, H, and Y. You can find more about that in Intel's Guide to CPU Naming.

Here is a document that lists every CPU compatible with every computer. Pages 1 through 3 are for desktops, and the pages 3 (end of it) through 7 document are for laptops.

 

Question 3. My FPS is low. What do I do?

Answer 3. There are several ways to counter this. This mainly happens in laptops (rarely in desktops, but it applies to them as well). The first two solutions and the sixth one are to make sure the discrete NVidia/AMD GPU is doing the work and not the iGPU (Integrated GPU; usually the Intel HD Graphics).

            -For one, make sure everything is in High Performance. Your battery plan, your choice of GPU (in the NVidia control Panel, go under the Manage 3D settings and select High performing NVidia Processor; it should be something similar for the AMD users and their catalyst Control Center). Perform a soft reset to be safe, and start up a game. If on a SLI/Crossfire capable laptop (m17xR1/2, m18x, and 18), enable SLI/Crossfire in the same area. It usually gets disabled after a driver update.

            -Another way is to press FN+F7 (for the older laptops) or FN+F5 (for the 2013 laptops). This method only applies to the laptops with GTX and AMD GPUs and those with Optimus disabled. Those with a GT GPU and Optimus enabled do not have this option.

            -Reinstall the latest WHQL, BetaCertified (whatever AMD calls it) Graphic drivers. If that does not work, resort back to the factory drivers for now (the forceware as people call it). Forceware can be downloaded from Dell's support site or your resource disk. DO NOT JUST INSTALL THE DRIVERS AGAIN! Instead, uninstall them with DDU (Display Driver Uninstaller).

            -Uninstall both Intel and NVidia/AMD (your dGPU) GPU drivers, and reinstall them. Do it in this order: Nvidia/AMD -> Intel -> Intel - > NVidia/AMD. Soft reset to play safe after all is done, and go forth. Use DDU for this.

            -With the X51, plug the HDMI cord near the DVI and display port. There should be an HDMI port there. In the X51, the HDMI port above the USB ports goes to the iGPU, which you don’t want.

           -With the X51 (both R1 and R2), go into the BIOS (F2 upon booting) and disable Gen3. It should be in the second settings in the BIOS.

            -Disable turbo boost or hyper-threading (mainly for laptops) in the BIOS or lower the maximum processor state through Command Center, Alien Fusion (also can be downed in advanced power plan options in the control panel).

            -Lower the graphics settings. It could be that your CPU+GPU combo is too weak for the settings you have. It also could be that one of them is a bottleneck (applies for the old m15x/m17xR1/2).

            -Check your PSU's/charger's wattage and use a wattage calculator (or add the watts up yourself). It could be the fact that you are under-powering your computer.

            *Special Note about the 17 R1 and m17xR3/4: If you have a 17 R1 or m17xR3/R4 with a 3D display, you should have the 240w charger. 
 

Question 3a. Is my computer running too hot? My FPS is low / my computer is slow.

Answer 3a. It is possible that your temps are high. Check by using a temperature monitoring program (HWMontiorHWInfoSpeedfanMSI Afterburner are a few popular examples). Download the app, open it up, and look at your value column. Focus on the CPU (all cores) and GPU temps. For laptops, if they are above 85 C, then you need to clean your fans by spraying compressed air on them or using a vacuum (don’t ask why). If it has been at least a year since you have owned a laptop, I would reapply thermal paste to be safe. Also enable V-Sync if you have a 60 Hz monitor or laptop screen (if you have the 3D screen or a 120+Hz monitor, ignore this). It’ll lower the temps a bit. You can also up your fan curve using HWInfo (might need to update the BIOS) on the laptops, and Speedfan on the desktops. Checking your temps can be a way to figure more than just low FPS problems. It is best to always know your computer's temperatures, so monitor them! *Special Note about HWINFO64: without doing anything, you can control the CPU fan. To access the GPU fan, go under the Dell EC Section. Unclick the EC sensor to control the fans individually.
 

Question 3b. My gamehas black bars around it/is too small to view and only chossing borderless windows or upscaling to native resolution fixes my problem, but this affects my FPS. How do I fix this?

Answer 3b. While not directly related to FPS, this question does apply to the Alienware 13 with QHD and QHD+ panel and Alienware 15 with UHD, and it does affect your gaming experience. You want to go into Intel Graphics Control Panel and do the following:
Display -> select non-native resolution -> scale full image -> save profile (to make this easier down the road) -> apply.

 

Question 4. I purchased the laptop with a 32/64/80 GB SSD cache, yet I don’t see it.

Answer 4. It’s there. You should see it when booting. The SSD (most likely a mSATA, a small SSD) is hidden for storage use and is used to accelerate the HDD’s read speeds. You can disable it through the Intel Rapid Storage Technology, or IRST for short. Those laptops configed with a 80 GB cache actually have a 64 GB cache with the rest of the storage being for recovery.

 

Question 5. What does cache do?

Answer 5. It speeds things up over time and use. You’ll notice faster booting for Windows and programs over time.

 

Question 6. My wifi is dead/not showing/weak. How do I fix this?

Answer 6. Download the latest wifi drivers from Qualcomm (if you have a Killer wifi card), Broadcom (if you have a Broadcom card), Intel (if you have an Intel wifi card), or Dell (if you have a Dell wifi card). There is a work around for the Killer card that has you disable some checking thing (will update later). Also, check on the antenna connection(s). See that they are not loose or unplugged.

 

Question 7. What’s the max RAM the *insert computer* can hold?

Answer 7. Look at table below. Laptops and the Alpha have laptop-sized RAM (204 pin), and the other desktops have desktop-sized RAM (240pin). These are all for plug-and-play; no overclocking the RAM is taken into account. 

Max Frequency ->
Max Ram Amount (below)

DDR3 1333 MHz DDR3 1600 MHz DDR3 1866 MHz DDR3 2133 MHz DDR3L 1600 MHz DDR4 2133 MHz

<- Max Frequency 
Max Ram Amount (below)

8 GB (All of these have 2 slots)       m14x R1 and R2     8 GB (All of these have 2 slots)
16 GB (Most have 2 slots) m15x, m17xR1 and R2, m11x R1 and R2 m11xR3, X51 R1 and R2 m14x R1 and R2, Aurora R3 (Aurora has 4) m17x R3 and R4, m18x, and Aurora R4 (All here have 4 slots) Alpha, 13, 15, and 17 R2   16 GB (Most have 2 slots)
24 GB (All have 3 slots) Aurora R2 Area 51 R1 and Aurora R1         24 GB (All have 3 slots)
32 GB (All have four* slots) 13* (DDR3L) Aurora R3 m17x R3 and R4, m18x, and Aurora R4   17 R1 and 18 Area 51 R2 32 GB (All have four* slots)

* Only with the Broadwell 13 (i5-5200u or i7-5500u) and using 16 GB RAM Modules from Intelligent Memory.
To add, all of the computers aside from the Area 51s and the Aurora R1 support dual channel mode; so it is better to have each stick (or each pair of sticks) have the same speed and size (in the computers with 4 module slots, sometimes with slots 1 & 3 are pairs and 2 & 4 are pairs [will need verification on this]) for better performance. The Area 51 and Aurora R1 support triple channel mode, and they both have 3 memory slots. Same principle applied from dual channel mode. The newer Area 51 supports quad-channel.

 

Question 8. I want the X51 to have a better GPU. How can I do this?

Answer 8. There are a few ways, but only one that doesn’t void warranty. I’ll talk about each.

            -To not void warranty, you can install an i3 processor or a T processor. Make sure you have a 330w PSU. With the T processor (and to an extent, the i3), you can put in a GTX 680. A GTX 770 is out-of-reach, though. Also, an R9 280 and HD 7950 are options as well (not R9 280x, as it consumes too much power) if they can fit into the case. Max dimensions for the X51 GPU should be 10 inches (Length) x 4.376 inches (height); possible a + 0.2 inches on both.

            -Get a new case and PSU. When doing a mobo transfer, you don’t need the daughter board or the lights. You lose warranty, but you get a more upgradeable system.

            -Mod the case and get a bigger PSU. I’m sure there a videos on Youtube on how to do this.

            -Something different, but the GTX 980 is possible for the X51 if you swap the front fan (fan in front of the HDD) for a smaller 10 mm fan. This method can also allow GPUs of 10.5" in length to be inserted into the X51, but your warranty may be partially voided. If you have the R1, you will need the R2 power board.
 

Question 8a. Can I upgrade the PSU or cooling of the X51/Aurora/Area 51/Alpha/Laptop?

Answer 8a. Without modding, yes. You can install a verified Dell PSU/charger; however, you may not get support for the PSU. For cooling, you can reappply thermal paste fine and make sure the fans fit (desktop-only).  However, the Alpha's CPU will not take advantage of the extra wattage.

With modding, of course (you lose warranty, partially or fully).
 

Question 8b. Do I need to get a 240w PSU for my AW15 or AW 17R2?

Answer 8b. Maybe. If you have at least an i7-4710HQ and a GTX 980m or R9 m295x, you have two options. Update the BIOS that supports hybrid power technology if you haven't or you can grab a 240w PSU. If you are in the US or Canada, just fill out this form.
If you don't fulfill the conjunction above (say you have an i7 and a GTX 970m), then you are fine. 

 

Question 9. What is reference design?

Answer 9. Reference design is the normal look of a GPU. It has a single, blower-type fan. A dead giveaway is if the fan is placed at the far end of the GPU, away from the PCI-E end and display ports. It also isn’t overclocked, so if you see a higher clocked than reported by AMD or NVidia or see something like “Superclocked”, “FTW”, or something along those lines, don’t get it; they aren’t reference. 

This answer is mainly for the X51; for the Auroras and Area 51s, go nuts with whatever design.

 

Question 10. My GPU has an 8 pin port. How do I install it in the X51?

Answer 10. Get a 6-pin to 8-pin adapter.

 

Question 11. What’s a good place to buy PC parts?

Answer 11. If you are building a computer, start from pcpartpicker. If you are upgrading, sites like amazonnewegg, and tigerdirect are good places. If you are buying a mobile GPU or CPU, go to ebay. 9 times out of 10, you’ll find it. Just don’t expect it being cheap. For you Canadians, check out NCIX.com.

If you are buying a replacement part, head over to parts-people.com. Same deal, 9/10 you’ll find what you need (the m14x R1 and R2 share some parts. I assume the same for the m11x’s, m17xR3/4, and m18xR1/2.) The x51 R1 and R2 have the same case, so look at ebay. If you are looking at replacing or upgrading your laptop's screen, laptopscreen has both glossy and matte, 60Hz and 120Hz 3D (for the 17" models) screens for all the Alienware (and other branded) laptops to choose from. No touchscreens, though. As well, you can contact Dell's Spare Parts and Accessories department through 1-800-357-3355.

 

Question 12. What will void my warranty?

Answer 12. Intentionally or accidentally (if you do not have accident warranty) damaging your computer, internally or externally. Modding your computer for whatever reason will void either parts of the computer (for example, installing a new cooling unit in the Area 51 or Aurora for your GPU will void the cooling unit and GPU's warranty, but not everything else) or the void the warranty of the computer (modding the case and installing a new PSU for the X51 for example). Everything else is fair, including replacing and upgrading components. However, whatever is new won’t be covered by Dell (say you got a Samsung SSD. Then Samsung will cover that SSD, but Dell won’t). Cosmetic damages won't be covered by warranty, but will not void it.

As well, if Alienware does not recommend/support a CPU, GPU, RAM size, RAM speed, RAM frequency, CPU overclocked speed, liquid cooling, etc., then it won't be covered by support/warranty. 

 

Question 13. I am getting BSODs. I want to fix, but how?

Answer 13. Find the BSOD code. Use BlueScreenView to find the code. Then copy and paste the code onto the Google/Bing/whatever search engine, and you should find your answer. If the problem persists, make a thread, and we can help.

 

Question 14. Having difficulty installing Win8 onto my m14x R1. Is there a way to keep Win8?

Answer 14. Sadly, no, and if there is, it may not be a pretty solution. Any machine built before 2012 has a low chance of being buddies with Win8. You’ll get some crashes you may not expect, so you’ll have to degrade to Win7/Vista (why the heck Vista?)

 

Question 15. Should I upgrade to Win8? 

Answer 15. Yes, and install Win8.1 and Start8 (or something similar). Trust me, it’ll be better. But, if you have some programs don’t run in Win8, then think about it. Don't ask about upgrading to WIndows 10 just yet since it'll release in late July.

 

Question 16. My audio is messed up. What do I do?

Answer 16. Download the audio driver again (after uninstalling it of course). If that doesn’t help, make a thread.

 

Question 17. How do I fix command center or AlienFX? It isn't responding.

Answer 17. Uninstall and reinstall it. Make sure you get the one for your computer. If AlienFX isn't responding, right-click on the alienhead, select dim the lighting zones and then deselect it.

 

Question 18. Where do I get the drivers?

Answer 18. Go to Dell’s Support Site and input your service tag or express service code. From there, you’ll be directed to a page that has a tab where you can get the drivers for your laptop, including the latest BIOS. Below is the order to install the drivers if you are installing drivers from a fresh slate of Windows.

1. Alienware On-Screen Display driver*
2. Chipset
3. Intel Management Engine Interface
4. Intel Rapid Storage technology
5. LAN driver
6. Wireless Driver 
7. INTEL/AMD/NVIDIA Display Driver (Intel first, Nvidia/AMD second)
8. Audio driver
9. Bluetooth driver and Airplane Mode (Airplane optional)
10. Media Card Reader
11. Touchpad driver
12. Alienware Command Center (needs Net Framework)
13. BIOS (if outdated)
14. Alien Respawn, Steam, Microsoft Office, Steam.... the optional stuff.
*The OSD can be installed after the graphics drivers, but for laptops with a graphics hardware switcher (done with FN+F5/F7), it should be installed before them

 

Question 19. How do update/flash the BIOS?

Answer 19. Download the latest and follow the instructions on the download page. It should be a s easy as double-clicking/opening the download file. Note that there are little risks in updating the BIOS, but there are more risks of downgrading the BIOS (going from A06 to A05 for example).

 

Question 20. How do I improve my FPS?

Answer 20. Yes, this is a different question than “My FPS suck”. Here are two common was of improving them.

            1. Upgrade your hardware (if possible). As simple as that. First upgrade the GPU, then the CPU. Upgrade the RAM if you are under 8 GB. Either that, or start with what is the bottleneck (what limits the performance) and proceed with the list until results are satisfactory.

            2. Overclocking the GPU and possibly CPU. This is a bit tricky, and I suggest you head over to an overclocking website to know the recommended clocks. Do remember that you shorten the life (not by much unless you go to an extreme) of the GPU and increase the risk of failure with overclocking. If you have the X51 or any other the laptops, it may be wise to get a more powerful PSU/charger (highest being 330w without modding). For computers with Maxwell-based mobile GPUs (Alpha, AW13, AW15, AW 17 R2), make sure you don't have drivers 347.25 or 347.52 as they prevent overclocking (pre-347.xx and 347.88 allow overclocking). The GTX 860m/960m and GTX 970m will have limited overclocking (only the memory) with drivers pre-347.xx and post-350.05.

 

Question 21. How many HDD/SSDs/SSHDs can my computer hold?

Answer 21. Before that, I will define what each acronym is.

HDD = Hard Drive Disk. The most common form of storage, the mechanical storage drive with discs that spin at wild speeds. You have 5400 and 7200 RPM as the most common options, and the 7200 RPM outperforms the 5400 RPM in most cases (not all). Recommended brands: Western Digital (WD), Hitachi

SSD = Solid State Drive. Fast flash memory, really. No discs or fans. Comes in various sizes including M.2, mSATA, 2.5" SATA (the norm/regular), and PCI-E. Recommended brands: Samsung, PNY, Crucial.

SSHD = Solid State Hybrid Drive. This is a HDD + SSD cache combo in one drive, except the SSD is at best 8 GB whereas the cache combo you get when buying from Dell is a 5400 RPM or 7200 RPM HDD + a 80 GB mSATA, 64 GB of which is used for cache and the rest used for recovery (as stated earlier). You can cache with more than 64 GB, but you need special software (or are on an Apple). An SSHD is nice to have, but only two brands make them (as of 2014): Seagate and Toshiba (I recommend Toshiba). There's also the WD Black^2 Dual Drive that combines a 120 GB SSD and 1 TB 5400 RPM HDD in one drive, but it is not considered an SSHD. 

ODD = Optical Disc Drive. Your Blu-Ray and DVD reader/writer. 

Below is a list of the drive combinations each computer can have (drives = 2.5" HDD/SSD/ODD drive; Drives = 3.5" HDD/SSD/ODD drive):

Alpha/m11x : 1 drive

m14xR1/m15x: 2 drives

Alienware 13: 1 2.5" drive or 2 M.2 SSDS (at max: 2)

m17xR1/2/3 and X51 R1: 3 drives

m14xR2 and 14: 2 drives + 1 mSATA (total: 3)

Alienware 15: 1 drive and 2 M.2 SSDs (total: 3)

m17xR4, 17, 18, and X51 R2: 3 drives + 1 mSATA (total: 4)

m18xR1: 4 drives + 1 mSATA (total: 5)

Alienware 17 R2: 1 drive + 4 M.2 SSDs (total: 5)

Area 51 R2: 3 Drives + 3 drives (total: 6)

Aurora: 6 Drives + 5.25" HDD/Media Card Reader (total: 7)

Area 51: 9 Drives +  5.25" HDD/Media Card Reader (total: 10)

Also, keep this in mind when shopping. When using a caddy bay either for replacing an ODD, use a 2.5” drive or whatever it can accept. The X51, Area 51s, and Aurora R4 accept both laptop (you will need a caddy) and desktop sizes. The m11x line, 13, 15, and 17 R2 do not have a DVD drive (ODD bay). The M.2s listed are SATA III based, not PCI. PCI M.2s will not work in the 13, 15, or 17 R2.

As a special advice, it is recommended that gamers have a SSD boot drive (not too big, like at most 256 GB) and a HDD/SSHD (at least 1 TB). 


Question 21a. Which 2.5" SSDs work in my Alienware 13?

Answer 21a. There isn't a lot of information about this problem where select brand SSDs do not work, but so far, here is a table of what works, what doesn't work, and what hasn't been tested. 

Works Fails Not Tested
Samsung Crucial Transcend, Seagate
Sandisk Intel Mushkin, ADATA
OCZ   Plextor, Edge, Toshiba
Corsair   AMD, PNY
    Kingston, HyperX
    VisionTek, Silicon Power
    Patriot, Micron
    OEM SSDs, any other brand not mentioned
    Western Digital (Black^2 Dual Drive)
    Any mSATA through an adapter

 

Question 22. Wait, how can I have 3/4 drives on my X51 R1/R2?

Answer 22. You’ll need a y-molex cable. Follow this guide. As well, Alienware provides a hard drive caddy that can hold two 9.5mm, 2.5" laptop hard drives.

 

Question 23. There’s a problem that happen a couple days ago and I don’t know how to solve it. What can I do?

Answer 23. Perform a system restore to a time before then.

 

Question 24. How will I know if a game can run on my system?

Answer 24. Compare the minimum and recommended specs of a game (usually found on their websites or websites like system requirements) and the specs of your laptop. Alternatively, if you have a laptop, you can go to notebookcheck.net and check out the GPU you have, scroll down to their benchmarks and guesstimate from there.

 

Question 25. Something is not working (like my touchpad or usb ports). How can I fix them?

Answer 25. Reinstall their respective drivers. If that doesn’t work, make a thread.

 

Question 26. Something is wrong with my system. How do I check?

Answer 26. Run the diagnostics in Alien Autopsy and the ePSA diagnostics (found in the boot manager, so press F12 when booting) and see if you have any anomalies. For example, if you get a SMART fail on your HDD, it means your HDD is failing, and you need to replace it. As well, perform some stress testers or benchmarkers like Heaven or Futuremark (there are plenty to choose from).

 

Question 27. Nothing above is working. What do I do?

Answer 27. If none of the solutions above or below worked, then reinstall Windows.

 

Question 28. How do I reinstall Windows?

Answer 28. Grab your recovery disc/usb, put it in/on the computer, and boot directly to the disc/usb through boot manager. From there, follow the instructions. Make sure you format/wipe your storage drive in the process (this can be done when selecting a drive to install Windows on). Make sure you have made a recovery partition before.

 

Question 29. How do I make a recovery disc/usb?

Answer 29. Uhh... visit here! Make sure you have made a recovery partition before making a reovery drive. 

As well, if you are in US or Canada and still have warranty on your machine, you can submit a Recovery Media Request Form to have obtain a recovery disc/usb from Dell.

 

Question 30. That [Answer 27] didn’t work. What now?

Answer 30. Hmm... sounds like a hardware issue. There are signs for telling if it is a hardware issue.

-Listen to any beep posts you get upon booting, then search for what the beeps mean (type in the number as well). If it is a RAM failure, test each RAM stick. If it is a video error, your GPU is messed up. There's a link at the bottom of the page that redirects to a table of beep post codes. Look at this table. It has a list of beep post codes on there.

-Contact tech support and have them send in a technician to replace any damaged parts. You can either contact through e-chat or 1-800-ALIENWARE.

-If it is the battery, check by getting another battery or charger. If you see the same results, then the computer is messed up.

 

Question 31. My battery stopped charging. How do I keep it charging?

Answer 31. In the newer computers, you should disable Desktop charging mode (no, not the Win8 desktop. I know; it’s confusing). You can also check by reinserting the charger into the port. It might take a while. You might have to twist your charger cable.

 

Question 32. How do I clone a drive?

Answer 32. I don’t know, but clonezilla (a cloning software) might know. Just do not clone from an HDD to SSD as there are some potential problems with the procedure.

 

Question 33. Can I overclock my CPU?

Answer 33. Only in the BIOS, and that’s if the options aren’t locked (the X51 cannot do overclocking; same for the Alpha most likely. Every other computer can, but you may need an unlocked BIOS for the laptops). However, you can with Intel XTU or Throttlestop (A guide on Throttlestop) on the 17 and 18 with the other processors (I assume the same with the rest of the laptops). If you have an m11x R1 or R2, you could instead supercharge the CPU (as they have unlocked ULV CPUs). Do remember that overclocking can damage your CPU and make sure the computer is cool without the OC'ing.

As a side note, overclocking does not equal undervolting or overvolting, but you may have to overvolt the CPU to overclock. The ULV CPUs in the m11xR3 and 13 can have their voltages changed, but they cannot be overclocked; however, with the GA attached, the AW13's CPU does get overclock, but the clocks still cannot be modified. With the 15 and 17 R2, you must have the GA plugged in to enable CPU overclocking in the BIOS, but you can overclock using Intel XTU without the GA. 

 

Question 34. How do I make a RAID?

Answer 34. You should have asked what a RAID is, but I’ll answer it anyways (in short).

RAID stands for redundant array of independent disks, and what it is at least 2 disks “combine” into 1 disc with a different purpose. RAID 0 takes the storages size of both and adds them together (say if both drives were 500 GB, then in RAID 0, Windows would recognize a 1 TB drive). The read and write speed double compared to the slowest of both. RAID 1 is more secure as both drives contain the same data, but Windows recognizes 1 drive with the capacity of 1 drive (if both were 500 GB, RAID 1 would have Windows recognize a 500 GB drive). These are the most common. Another is cache, which I talked earlier. For those computers with at least 4 drives, you can do a RAID 1 + 0 or RAID 0 + 1. These are nested RAID levels that take the two results of RAID 0 or 1 and RAIDS them 1 or 0, respectively.

In order to make a RAID, you do so by having RAID be the boot option in the BIOS (compared to AHCI, ATA, and whatever else).Then, you install IRST. You should be able to Crtl + I when booting, and you can create a RAID from there. *Insert Youtube video link for better instructions* Same applies for making a cache.

In order to disable RAID, you do the same thing as making one, but instead you delete the RAID. Note that the drives will be formatted when creating and deleting a RAID. To disable a cache, you decelerate the cache in the IRST, and do the same steps for deleting a RAID.

Keep in mind the SATA speeds when making a RAID as raiding in two different SATA speeds have a negative consequence. All the laptops aside from the AW13 since m14xR2/m17xR4/m18xR2 have at least 2 (including the mSATA and/or M.2 slots) that are in SATA III. The ODD bay is in SATA 1, 2, or 3 depending on when it was released (desktops have SATA II ports for some of the SATA ports), and any laptop before the m14xR2 has a SATA II (the 17 and 18 are the only Alienware laptops with a SATA III ODD bay). The Alienware 17 R2 has 1 SATA II M.2 slot (slot #4); the rest are in SATA III. The X51 R1 has SATA II, and the R2 has SATA III. The Area 51 R1 and all the Auroras have a max number of SATA III ports (2 to 4, depending on the revision number) before all of the SATA ports run at SATA II. The Area 51 R2 and Alpha run at SATA III. 

Note that the Alienware 13, 15, and 17 R2 do not have a RAID option in the BIOS, but for the AW15 and AW17 R2, you can do a software RAID as opposed to a firmware/hardware RAID, which the majority of this answer discusses. Instructions can be found here, here, and here. The consequence of doing a software RAID is that you cannot have Windows OS on it; it'll only be used for storage. The AW13 has it hard with RAID as it only has 1 HDD bay or two M.2 slots, which makes software RAID a bit less useful. 

 

Question 35. When I try to reinstall Windows, I get this message that the disc is missing a media driver. Is it really?

Answer 35. To me, no. The disc seems to have been read wrong, and a way to fix it is to insert is multiple times and boot in different ways like regularly, through boot manager, and setting it as a priority boot option (#1) in the BIOS.

 

Question 36. My problem/question isn't answered here. How can I find the solution?

Answer 36. Make a thread about the problem. We'll be able to help out. As well, you can contact Alienware's tech team over at their Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook and their email AWSocialMedia@dell.com (there's also the phone, but you're on a computer, so why not make life easier and use the internet communication). You can also contact one of the Alienware Media Reps on here through Personal Messaging (PM). Just be sure you PM an active Rep.