Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Running Dell Diagnostics on a Vostro 3300 and Other Notes from a Crash

About a week ago, one of my laptops started acting up. I'd try to right-click and save an image in Firefox and it would just hang. At first I thought it was a Firefox plugin issue, but running Firefox in Safe Mode made no difference. Then I thought it was a Firefox issue, but Chrome showed the same problem. A full virus scan found some potential threats, but with those cleaned up, the problem still exhibited itself. I even ran Microsoft's Memory Checker and chkdsk. Nothing.

I recall being taught by Dell how to run their diagnostics, but for some reason, there's no mention of it on the diagnostics section of the Dell site.

Finally, I pulled up my old blog post and sure enough, the tip worked as well today as it did almost 4 years ago:

(1) Turn off the laptop.
(2) Hold down the function key and hit the power button.

It's that easy, yet totally not documented in place I could find.

Within a few minutes the utility had discovered a disk error, which I took a photo of with my cell phone.

Today, I called Dell, read them off my laptop's tag number and the error code, and they're sending me the replacement drive, which should fix my issue.

Besides remembering how to run Dell diagnostics, here's a few other lessons learned:

  • My switching between two laptops every week may be one of the smartest business decisions I've ever made. If I was depending on this Dell alone to function, I'd be in serious trouble right now. With a second laptop in rotation, I haven't missed a beat.
  • Carbonite is a good thing and will hopefully make recovery truly painless (though, this has yet to be seen).
  • I popped out the bad drive, plugged in a bootable USB thumb drive with Mint Linux on it, and my dieing laptop is back to life. It's been serving it's purpose well, as jukebox, web browser and ssh launching off point. Mint Linux blows me away every time I use it. I've really got to put it on a laptop that gets regular use around the house. It's too cool not to.
  • Go Blogging! Had I not taken the time to blog this information, it may have been lost to me forever.

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