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Dell Diagnostics Audio Tests

Dell laptops have various diagnostics tools available. The ones listed here are those most suitable for helping to separate out hardware from software audio issues. Some other Dell diagnostic tools are not included here because in order to test audio they have to employ Windows and the related audio driver, and so they cannot separate out hardware issues from issues with the software.

l. Pre-boot Assessment Tests

ll. Dell 32-bit Diagnostics

lll. System Recovery

lV. Compare the Manufacturer's & the Native Driver

V. Alienware Diagnostic Tools

 

l. The Pre-boot Assessment Tests (PSA or ePSA)

This is a set of ROM-based diagnostics that resides in a BIOS chip on the motherboard. The tests main audio function is to tell you if your speakers are working or not. In a case where there is no audio through the speakers but there is audio through the headphone jack, you can use the test to determine whether or not the speakers are dead.

> Re-start the computer and tap the F12 key as soon as it starts to boot up. If the computer boots to Windows re-start the computer and try again.

> Select 'Diagnostics' from the boot menu, then press the Enter key. Either the ePSA or the PSA tests will open -- it depends on the model of your laptop.

> Look for a "Perform Quick Audio Check" button on the bottom right side of the ePSA main menu screen (see screen shot below). Press the button and listen for the beep tones from the speakers.

> If you do not have the "Perform Quick Audio Check" button then do this. Start the PSA tests and when it performs the color test it will ask you if you see the color bars on the screen. Deliberately fail the test by answering no (press the "n" key) instead of yes. When you do that the PSA test will emit a series of beeps. Listen for the beeps.

> If you don't hear the beep tones that means that the speakers have become disconnected or have failed.

> If you do hear the tones that means that the speakers are working and are connected. In that case probably the reason that audio is not coming through them is that the sensing circuitry in the headphone jack has failed. When that happens it prevents audio from being switched from the jack to the speakers. The Headphone Jack FAQ has more details about this issue.

Here is a screen shot of the ePSA Quick Audio test:

If you have the older PSA test you will not have the "Perform Quick Audio Check."

ll. Dell 32-bit Diagnostics

This is a set of diagnostics that Dell used to include with all new laptops. It resided in a 32 bit partition of the hard drive, hence the name. Dell no longer includes it with the laptops. Its usefulness for audio was that it could separate out a hardware problem from a software problem. In a case where there is no audio from both the speakers and the headphone jack, if the audio tests in Dell 32-bit Diagnostic fail then the audio hardware has failed, not an audio driver or configuration issue.

Most of the laptops that originally had this diagnostic have had their hard drives wiped or replaced, so the diagnostic is no longer available. A new diagnostic cannot be simply downloaded onto the hard drive because it requires a separate 32-bit partition. However, the diagnostic can be run from a flash drive or dvd. This link is to instructions for how to load the diagnostic onto the media. To find out whether or not a particular model originally had the diagnostic, go to the model's Dell support page, click on "drivers & downloads", then expand the Diagnostics category. If you see "Dell 32 Bit Diagnostics" there, then you can use it. I suggest that you use the version from your support page rather than version A1394Ao (the version linked to in the instructions).

After you find the Dell 32-bit Diagnostic on your hard drive, or load it onto a flash drive, use the following set of instructions to use the diagnostic to test the audio:

1. Re-start the computer and tap the f12 key as soon as it starts to boot up.

2. Select 'Diagnostics' from the boot menu, then press the Enter key. The computer will run the PSA tests (see Section l, above) before Dell 32-bit Diagnostics starts.

3. Dell Diagnostics should open after the PSA tests, or you should see an option to open it. If you do not have the Dell 32-bit Diagnostics then you will not see an option to run it.

4. Select 'Custom', then the audio tests. (At this point - after you have opened Dell Diagnostic custom - if you can't find the option to select the audio tests that is a symptom of a failed audio chip.)

5. The tests will run. There are roughly 6 of them for audio. If you only have one or two, that is a symptom of a failed audio chip. Some of the tests will play a piece of instrumental music -- not just simple beeps & tones -- and ask you whether you heard it.

6. If you don't hear the music during the test it definitely means there is a hardware failure somewhere in the system.

7.If you do hear the audio during the test but not when you boot back into Windows, that almost always*** means the hardware is okay but there is a problem with the audio driver or with Windows.

8. Error codes: If you answer 'no' to any question that the test asks you, the test generates an error code that can tell a technician that you answered 'no' to that question. The test does not usually pinpoit the exact component that has gone bad. Before answering 'no' to a question, make note of the circumstances at that point so you will know in general what the error code means.

Error Code 4C00:0619 - Speaker could not be heard
Error Code 1B63:061B - User indicated a failure
Error Code 1B22:061B - Analog Sound Playback - User indicated a failure
Error Code 1B22:111B - Mono Output Sound Playback
Error Code:1B63:181B - User indicated they did not hear the expected result
Error Code : 1B22:071B - User's response indicated a failure (external mic test)
Error Code 1B63:0268 - Codec failed to generate interrupts
Error Code: 1B63:0667 - Codec failed to generate a play interrupt

 
***Exception

There is a situation where the test will pass even though there is a hardware problem. In a case where there is no audio through the speakers but there is audio through the headphone jack, the impedance sensing mechanism of the headphone jack may have failed. Dell 32-bit Diagnostics does not test for that specific failure and will pass the audio hardware. The Headphone Jack FAQ has more details about this issue.

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lll. System Recovery

The newer Dell laptops do not have the Dell 32-bit Diagnostics tool. An alternative is to restore the computer back to the original factory configuration. Anything that worked when the laptop was new will work again, unless there has been hardware failure, so doing a System Recovery is a diagnostic tool for separating out hardware from software failure.

1. Factory Image Restore

This is an image of the hard drive exactly as it was when the laptop left the factory. It restores the laptop to the original factory configuration. 

Factory Image Restore for Vista

Factory Image Restore for Win 7

Factory Image Restore for Win 8

Recovery Options in Win10

2. System Recovery Media

The first time you set up Windows, you are prompted to create System Recovery Media. You can use this media to restore the laptop, similar to using Factory Image Restore.

Restore from Recovery Media for Win 8

3. Dell DataSafe Local Backup

Some models use Dell DataSafe instead of Factory Image Restore.

System Recovery using Dell DataSafe 2.0

4. Dell PC Restore

Factory Image Restore was named "Dell PC Restore" on Dell laptops that originally had Windows XP pre-installed.

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lV. Compare Drivers

If you don't have Dell 32-bit Diagnostics, a non-definitive test is to compare the manufacturer's audio driver and the native Windows audio driver. If you have the same symptoms with both drivers, there is a strong suspicion that the problem is being caused by the hardware. 

Open the Device Manager (type devmgmt.msc in the start search box), then expand "Audio...Controllers". Locate the audio driver. It will be have one of these names:

  • Realtek High Definition Audio
  • IDT High Definition Audio Codec
  • Conexant High Definition Audio
  • Conexant SmartAudio HD
  • Sigmatel High Definition Audio Codec
  • High Definition Audio Device

If it is named "High Definition Audio Device" then you are using the native Windows driver. Download and install the manufacturer's driver from your laptop's downloads page on the Dell site.

If your audio driver is one of the manufacturers', you have to remove it in order to install the native Windows driver.

1. While still in Device Manager, right click on the driver to open the context menu.

2. Click "uninstall".

3. Check the box "Delete the driver software for this device". Don't skip this step.

4. Restart the laptop. Go back to the Device Manager and check the Sound...Controllers. If the manufacturer's driver is still there, repeat the procedure until it no longer appears. It will be replaced by the native Windows driver named "High Definition Audio Device".

Note: to reinstall a manufacturer's audio driver, download a fresh copy from the Dell site.

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V. Alienware Diagnostic Tools

Alienware laptops have various diagnostics tools available. The ones listed here are those most suitable for helping to separate out hardware from software audio issues.

1. ePSA/PSA pre-boot assessment tests

This is a limited set of diagnostics but it can be used to determine if the internal speakers have failed. Instructions here. Screen shots here.

2. "Alenware 32-bit Diagnostics"

Some of the Alienware laptops have a  tool on a support disk that is similar to the Dell 32-bit Diagnostics described above. The instructions vary by model, so look in your MobileManual's table of contents under Troubleshooting>Software Diagnostic Tools.

[The models with it are M11x, M11 R2,  M15x, M17x, and M17x R2.]

3. System Recovery

The newer laptops do not have the 32-bit Diagnostics tool. An alternative is to restore the computer back to the original factory configuration. Anything that worked when the laptop was new will work again, unless there has been hardware failure, so doing a System Recovery is a diagnostic tool for separating out hardware from software failure.

Alien Respawn is a restoration image that is similar to the Factory Image Restore described above. Some models use DataSafe Local Backup instead. Look in your MobileManual table of contents under System Recovery.

4. Models without a MobileManual

There is a fair bit of variation in the Alienware instructions depending on model, so it is best to consult the MobileManual, but the models listed below apparently only have a Quick Start Guide:

Alienware 14, 17, & 18, M14x R2, M17x R4, M18x, and M18x R2.

For help with diagnostics on those models, try posting a question on the Alienware Club section of this forum.

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Jim Coates -- 18 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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7 Gold

Please do not reply in this thread which is a FAQ.

If you have comments or questions please start a new thread.

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Jim Coates -- 18 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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Reply (1)
7 Gold

Please do not reply in this thread which is a FAQ.

If you have comments or questions please start a new thread.

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Jim Coates -- 18 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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