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How to Diagnose and Resolve Common Memory Issues on a Dell Desktop

Summary: This article provides information about what memory issues can be seen and how to troubleshoot them on a Dell Desktop computer.

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Cause information is not available.


Desktop Memory Troubleshooting

This guide deals with memory issues in desktop computers and how to troubleshoot and resolve memory issues. Memory troubleshooting typically breaks down into three sections:

  • Diagnostics
  • Hardware
  • Software

The common types of memory issues you see are:

  • No POST with Memory error codes.

Diagnostic LEDs Cypher

(Figure.1 Quad LEDs)


(Figure.2 Colored Power State LEDs)

  • Computer is slow, is not available, or is unresponsive, such as Blue Screen errors.

NMI Parity Error

(Figure.3 Blue Screen Errors NMI parity error)

  • Onscreen error messaging about memory stops, overruns, size, or read issues.

Svchost application error

(Figure.4 Application error)

Out of memory

(Figure.5 Internal error)

VMemory error

(Figure.6 Applet error)

  • Issues installing software or Operating Systems (OS).

Most of this troubleshooting is done as part of a specific troubleshooting guide for a particular fault. This article is a General Overview that can go into a bit more detail than you would normally see.

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These articles take you through the diagnostics LEDs and codes for the various models.

  1. The first thing to do is to check if the Pre-Boot System Assessment (PSA) Diagnostics can run.

    With the computer powered off, hold down the Fn key and the power button simultaneously. Alternatively, tap rapidly at the F12 key as the computer boots and select Diagnostics from the memory that appears. A Diagnostic Boot Selected message should appear in the top right-hand side corner of the screen.

    • When you can get online, you can run a memory-specific diagnostic, browse to the Online Memory Diagnostics page.
      • The test starts automatically.
      • You may be prompted to install or update the SupportAssist program, if so, follow the prompts.
      • The test may take 10-15 minutes depending on the hardware in your computer.
    • You can also run diagnostics from our support site.
      • "Quick test" - This test of your hardware may take 10-15 minutes depending on the hardware in your computer.
      • "Full Test" - This is an in-depth test. This may take 40 minutes or more depending on the hardware in your computer.
      • Custom Component Test - Select one or more specific hardware tests that you want to run.

        To run a specific test, perform the following steps.

        1. Browse to the "Dell Support" website.
        2. You are given three options to identify your computer.


          • Touch or click the listing for your computer under THIS PC.
            Note: When there is no listing for your computer under THIS PC, touch or click Download and Install SupportAssist, which automatically identifies your computer for you. Follow the prompts to download and install SupportAssist.
          • Enter the Service Tag, Dell EMC Product ID, or Model, and then touch or click the Search button, and select your computer from the list.
          • Touch or click Browse all products: You must select the type of device you have, the brand name, and then the product model.
            Note: For more information see Dell Knowledge Base article: How to Find the Product Model of your Dell Computer.
        3. Touch or click the DIAGNOSTICS tab.
        4. Under Custom Component Test, touch or click Select individual components.
        5. Touch or click to check the box next to one or more components you want to test.
        6. Touch or click the Run Your Test and follow the prompts.
  2. The computer runs through about 15-20 minutes' worth of hardware self-checks. When these complete it asks if you want to run the further memory tests which can take another 30 minutes+. If the PSAs pass, then run the further memory tests:

    1. If all tests pass, then you want to browse the software troubleshooting.

    2. If they fail, then take a note of the error code and go to the next step.

  3. When you have an error code, check the guide to see if you can run the newer advanced diagnostics on your computer. The newer diagnostics identify the fault to a memory DIMM or slot on your computer:

    1. If the diagnostics are possible and available on your computer, then contact support with the results of the diagnostics to take this further.

    2. If the diagnostics are not possible for your computer or you are unable to update to them, then you want to go to the hard troubleshooting.

    Note: You can submit the Service Tag, ePSA error and validation code at the SupportAssist Pre-Boot System Performance Check page, to learn how to proceed.

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Hardware Troubleshooting

The concept behind hardware troubleshooting memory is simple. It comes down to part substitution and access to known good working parts.

All Desktops have access to the memory from an access panel or Lid. You find the specific method for your computer in your user guide.

  1. If you are experiencing a No POST situation, the first step is to remove the memory altogether from the computer. Does the fault change?

    1. If yes, then go to step 2.

    2. If it does not, then you want to follow the No POST Guide below.

  2. Do you have a known good similar computer or known good working memory that you could swap into this computer?

    1. Yes, then swap the known good memory with the memory from this unit and see where the fault goes. Contact your support and take this further with them.

    2. No, go to the next step.

  3. Most Desktop computers currently ship with one or two memory modules. Most typically it is two because most memory is designed to work better in matched pairs. Regardless of how many modules you have, the next step is the same. Take one DIMM and test it in every memory socket/slot. Most of our Desktops have four memory socket/slots split into pairs that are called banks. Note the results and do the same thing with the second DIMM if you have one. Repeat this step for every DIMM that is installed in the computer. Does the issue change depending on which DIMM or which socket is in use?

    1. Yes. If the fault follows a DIMM or stays with a particular slot on the motherboard, then you have identified the fault. The good news is you can run the machine with reduced memory until you have got in touch with your support to report the fault.

    2. No. The fault is the same regardless of which DIMM or which slot the memory is fitted to. The fault is either not with the memory, or both the memory and the slots are faulty. This is why we suggest carrying out step 2. I would recommend contacting your support at this point to take this further.

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Software Troubleshooting

Software troubleshooting for memory issues is brief and mostly deal with virtual memory instead of physical memory.

  1. You can run further memory diagnostics in windows. There are several well-known tests to pick from such as Memtest. However, we would most likely go on the results that are already run in the PSA diagnostics. Especially as the PSAs incorporate the Memtest diagnostics in its tests. If you get an error from third-party diagnostics, then we need to check they are compatible, and that the key to the error codes is available. You would be better to skip this and move to the next step.

  2. To rule out a virtual memory fault, I'd recommend checking a couple of quick things on your PC. The first is to confirm that windows are handling your virtual memory. Go to control panel and performance in the hardware window and check your settings. Reset it if needed. Confirm which partition that the virtual memory is being allocated from? The computer assigns space on your Hard Drive to swap memory from your physical memory. The information is at the same place that you confirm that the PC is handling the memory. Check that partition and ensure at least 6-10 GB is free on that partition. Most paging files are only 2-4 GB, but if the PC is handling this it can change the size as needed. Once you set this, test the computer to see if the fault returns. If it does go to the next step.

    Virtual memory combines your physical RAM with temporary space on your hard disk. When RAM runs low, virtual memory moves data from RAM to a space called a paging file. Moving data to and from the paging file frees up RAM to complete its work.

    The more RAM your computer has, typically the faster your programs run. If a lack of RAM is slowing your computer, you might be tempted to increase virtual memory to compensate. However, your computer can read data from RAM much more quickly than from a hard disk, so adding RAM is a better solution.

    Virtual Memory

    If your computer lacks the random-access memory (RAM) needed to run a program or operation, Windows uses virtual memory to compensate.

  3. You can monitor the memory usage through Task Manager and event log exceptions. This would let you track if there was a particular program, process, or device that coincided with the errors. Alternatively, is your memory usage high? If you can get into the windows environment to monitor these, then it cuts down on the number of issues you need to check. I have included a link below to a jump page with how-to guides on these methods for each of the different OSs.

    1. Task Manager shows high memory usage. You may simply need more memory than is installed to do all the work that you want to do on your computer. This would mean replacing the original memory with larger sized DIMMs that you have purchased.

    2. Task manager shows that the issue is with the OS, a program or with a process. You may want to run a free third-party malware checker such as Malwarebytes. If the problem continues, then restore or reinstall your version of the OS to resolve the issue.

You can contact our Online support on Chat, Twitter, and email or you can call your local support number. Ensure that the site is set to your location if you go to our support site. You can click the "Contact US" link for the latest information about getting in touch.

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Additional Information

Article Properties

Affected Product

Chromebox, Alienware, Inspiron, Legacy Desktop Models, OptiPlex, Vostro, XPS, G Series, Fixed Workstations

Last Published Date

02 Nov 2023



Article Type