How to Diagnose and Repair Dell Laptop. All Procedures in one Place

Using Dell Support Assist

This is software you can download from the Dell support website. Just google “Dell support assist download”.  It installs on the laptop and performs a few hardware diagnostic procedures. As I can see, it is good and generates a report about what has been checked. 

From what I have seen, it tests even the hard drive, which is a good sign. 

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Here is the report it generates.


This is software that automatically tells you if the hard drive faulty. If you have used Dell Support Assist, it has done almost the same as GSmartControl, which is a generated report.

This is what the good report looks like.

This is what a bad report looks like. Faulty hard drives will have a red line in their reports. 

Using Memtest on Dell Laptops

Memtest is a specialized software to diagnose memory (RAM). It is good at finding faulty cells, but it takes about two hours to run it through all the memory. And it shows a red line if it finds a faulty cell. If a memory module has only one red line, it is faulty. 

When to suspect a faulty memory. Usually, with faulty memory, a laptop freezes sometimes. This can happen rarely, but it would freeze completely and you then must press the power button to reset it.

Using OCCT

OCCT is a software that will put a stress test on the laptop. It has two separate tests: for the processor and for the graphics test. It also has a brutal test that will probably not pass on any laptop.

Recovery partitions

Those recovery partitions used to be in laptops a few years ago. Today, they are less used, as Windows has the ability to refresh the system using system recovery disks or using an operating system installation disk. 

A System Recovery Disk

This is a great way to refresh the Windows installation and get rid of viruses and other unwanted stuff. The advantage of those disks is that they have all the necessary drivers for the laptop. These system recovery disks can be sourced on eBay. Usually, you must get the same operating system version as was on your laptop. If not, the new operating system will ask you for an activation key. If you do not have one, this is can be sourced on eBay from scrapped computers. 

I do not recommend installing Windows Vista on your laptop, even if it came with it from the shop. The laptop will run much better when you install Windows 7 on it. 

A Windows Installation Disk

This is another option to revamp the laptop. The problem with those universal Windows installation disks is they do not have proper drivers. The generic drivers that Microsoft provides do not always work properly. For example, you will not have keyboard controls working on your Dell laptop with those generic drivers. 

Where to get these drivers. The best place is from Dell support website You can download them one by one for all the devices, or you can download a few for devices that do not work. 

Drivers. Where to get them

Drivers make your laptop hardware work. If drivers are missing, you get a warning in the device manager like this.

You can access the device manager on Windows 7 by going to Start, right click on Computer, Properties then go to Device Manager. It is possible to update drivers from the Internet. Right click on that device that has a warning and choose Update Automatically. But I suggest downloading the driver from Dell support site. 

There is another method to get drivers. There is software called DRPSU. This software will find all necessary drivers and install them automatically. It used to be distributed as one big iso file, which you then burn on a DVD disk. Now it is working online only, and you must install it with a setup file. You can find it by searching for DRPSU in Internet search engine. 

Power Adapter (Charger)

Dell laptops use their specific power adapters that differ from other laptops. The difference is that the power cable that goes to the laptop has three wires. Why are three wires used? Well, Dell decided their laptops must know the power adapter is connected and that it can charge the battery.

This is why you get a message: “Plugged in, not charging”. This happens when that third (central) wire breaks or the DC jack is broken, and there is no connection for that central wire to the logic board. 

Well, this is not only one fault that will give the message about the laptop not charging. Some Dell laptops have  a power board where the DC jack is located. 

Compatible Memory

Dell laptops use a standard memory, like all other laptops. This one Dell laptop I have as an example uses DDR2 type memory. 

The writing PC2 indicates this is DDR2 type laptop memory. On newer laptops, you would find DDR3 type memory.

The arrow points to a text PC3, which means this is DDR3 type laptop memory. Instead of PC3, there can be PC4, which also will mean this is a PC4 type laptop memory. 

I do not recommend having two memory modules that are not identical. This will cause the system to be unstable. Here is an example of two laptop memory modules I would not use as a pair on my laptop.

These are not only from different manufacturers, but their speed also does not match. The perfect choice would be memory modules from the same manufacturer, the same speed, and the same memory amount. 

Compatible Hard Drives

This model uses SATA hard drives. This laptop can take all hard drives that are 2.5 form factor.

It also would take SSDs 2.5-inch form factor. Though, my Inspiron 1525 does not work with SanDisk Z400s SSD. So, this is probably something to do with firmware incompatibility.

Compatible Screens

With Dell laptops, screen choice is problematic. The problem is that the screen should match the model number printed on the screen, and there should be a note it will work on Dell laptops. Dell does not like other screen manufacturers that make compatible screens.

DVD Drive

The DVD drive on Dell laptops can be easy replaced. It is usually fitted only with one screw. 

After unscrewing the screw, the DVD drive will easily slide out.

Processor Heat Sink Maintenance

If you see that laptop fan is kicking in too frequently, then it is time to check the processor heat sink. To do this, you most likely will need to use a screwdriver. Modern laptops have very convenient placement of all components you may access in one area covered by a lid. 

When we open it, we will see the processor heat sink that has a copper tube. 

We must unscrew those screws and take out the assembly.

The arrows are pointing where we should apply heat sink thermal paste. You can check it if it is not dry. Please remove all old thermal paste. You probably may need to scrape it with a plastic card to get it out. On the lower part, you see it has not only paste but a thermal pad. This pad should remain there.

Thermal paste usually comes in a syringe and there are a few kinds: silver thermal paste, gold thermal paste, and white thermal paste. All are good, and expensive ones are better; they dry slower. 

Now, we going to check the plates and see if there is any dust.

If we can see through,  it means it is clean. But this is an exception that those plates are so clean. Usually, you will find a layer of dust that can be 5mm thick. This is how bad it gets, and the fan kicks for as long as you use the laptop. 

What’s going on when you tilt the screen and it flickers.

A screen cable goes through hinges from the LCD screen to the logic board. Sometimes, it gets damaged, and if you tilt the screen, it gets twisted. A small wire loses its conductivity, and the screen shows gibberish for a few seconds.

This usually happens when you articulate the screen and it stops flickering when not moving. Sometimes, the small wire breaks completely, and you will get permanent gibberish on the screen or it will show wrong colors etc. It is not that complicated to replace it. You must disassemble the laptop lid.

When the resolution is wrong

This can be an issue with drivers. Usually, this happens when there are generic drivers installed and you connect the laptop to an external monitor. Then the picture will be cut horizontally or vertically. 

When Wireless Card Fails

You can replace a wireless card on a Dell laptop. It is usually behind that big lid that covers memory, processor  etc. It is fitted with  one screw only. And like the charger, you must have the wireless card that is the exact match to the old one. 

Problems with DC Jack and Power Board

Some Dell laptops have the DC jack on a so-called power board. Like a separate assembly, you can replace without fiddling with a soldering iron on a logic board. 

And here is where it is in the laptop.

If a wireless connection is dropping

This is probably not your laptop’s fault. Often this is something to do with the router.  Today, there are  so many routers operating nearby that we get signal interference. If your router operates on a default channel, say channel 1, then you most likely will find another router in the neighborhood also operating on the same channel. Everything you need to do is to login to your router and change the channel and leave for a day or two. If this does not help then change the channel again. Depending on what country you are living in, there can be up to 14 channels available in your wireless router to choose from. 

BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death)

This happened on my Dell 1525 a couple of times because I put in a wrong audio driver. On Dell support website, there are drivers for two audio card models, and there is no way to find out which one you need. Even if I put my laptop service tag, it shows both drivers. So, I installed the first one and my laptop crashed with BSOD after restarting. After I have installed the second one and deleted the first one, everything worked normally. 

Final Words

Here you have all the common faults of the Dell laptop and fixes in one place. Feel free to use and share. 

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