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Interpreting Beeps from Dell Motherboards

written by: Steve McFarlane•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 5/23/2010

Motherboard beep codes are handy tools to troubleshoot hardware problems on laptops, desktops, and servers. This article lists those beep codes and their meaning.

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    Dell computers use error codes to communicate the state of the computer’s hardware components and whether they passed the routine POST (Power On Self Test), among other things. The audio alerts that can be heard when a computer is powering up can give an indication as to whether the memory, keyboard, CPU, or any other things are not functioning properly. As a matter of fact, if the computer fails to make a sound that too is an indication that something is wrong with one or more hardware components.

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    Use Motherboard Beep Codes to Troubleshoot Hardware Problems

    The sequence of the error beep codes will depend, to an extent, on who is the manufacturer of the motherboard, or more specifically its CMOS/BIOS. For Dell computers the motherboard beep codes can be found in the list below.

    If the computer starts to beep during the start-up process, write down the audio codes and compare it to the beep code list below to get a general idea of what is wrong. If the problem seems to be minor, you may attempt to resolve it yourself. Otherwise, you may need to call a technician or Dell’s technical support.

    Beep Code ---------------- Cause

    1-1-2 ------------------------ Microprocessor register failure

    1-1-3 ------------------------ NVRAM read/write failure

    1-1-4 ------------------------ ROM BIOS checksum failure

    1-2-1 ------------------------ Programmable interval timer failure

    1-2-2 ------------------------ DMA initialization failure

    1-2-3 ------------------------ DMA page register read/write failure

    1-3 -------------------------- Video Memory test failure

    1-3-1 through 2-4-4 ------- Memory not being properly identified or used

    3-1-1 ------------------------ Slave DMA register failure

    3-1-2 ------------------------ Master DMA register failure

    3-1-3 ------------------------ Master interrupt mask register failure

    3-1-4 ------------------------ Slave interrupt mask register failure

    3-2-2 ------------------------ Interrupt vector loading failure

    3-2-4 ------------------------ Keyboard Controller test failure

    3-3-1 ------------------------ NVRAM power loss

    3-3-2 ------------------------ Invalid NVRAM configuration

    3-3-4 ------------------------ Video Memory test failure

    3-4-1 ------------------------ Screen initialization failure

    3-4-2 ------------------------ Screen retrace failure

    3-4-3 ------------------------ Search for video ROM failure

    4-2-1 ------------------------ No timer tick

    4-2-2 ------------------------ Shutdown failure

    4-2-3 ------------------------ Gate A20 failure

    4-2-4 ------------------------ Unexpected interrupt in protected mode

    4-3-1 ------------------------ Memory failure above address 0FFFFh

    4-3-3 ------------------------ Timer-chip counter 2 failure

    4-3-4 ------------------------ Time-of-day clock stopped

    4-4-1 ------------------------ Serial or parallel port test failure

    4-4-2 ------------------------ Failure to decompress code to shadowed memory

    4-4-3 ------------------------ Math-coprocessor test failure

    4-4-4 ------------------------ Cache test failure

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    Other Dell Diagnostic Methods

    While motherboard beep codes provide a valuable way to diagnose general computer hardware problems, by no means are they the only way of diagnosing a hardware problem. Dell also has a diagnostic program that can be run from the startup screen. Accessing this screen may vary among models, so refer to the user manual or keening watch the startup screen for a prompt to enter the diagnostic mode.

    You noticed that the lights on the front of your dell computer tend to flash in curious patterns. The pattern that the lights flash in can also be used to diagnose a hardware problem. Consult the user manual’s troubleshooting section or Dell’s website for more details.

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    Summary

    While using the motherboard beep codes, light patterns and diagnostic tools can help you pinpoint what specific hardware problem your Dell computer is experiencing, it is only the start to resolving those problems. In some cases you will need to call an expert or Dell’s tech support to resolve more serious problems. But in general, these diagnostic tools can be quite handy for resolving most problems.

    Dell Motherboard Beep Codes -Diagnostics and Troubleshooting 

    Credit

    Image: Aresauburn. http://www.flickr.com/photos/aresauburnphotos/1034975850/



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