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Dell laptop memory issue

Discussion in 'PC Hardware' started by Magnate, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. Magnate

    Magnate Guest

    Hi folks,

    A friend of mine has an old Dell Inspiron 4000 laptop, which has been
    running fine for several years since he bought it new. It came with only
    128MB RAM, and he asked me about upgrading it. I found him two 256MB
    Kingston modules on eBay, ordered them and fitted them for him. Ran
    memtest86+ for about sixteen hours (something like 7 or 8 full passes) - no
    errors whatsoever.

    He took the machine away happy. Everything he used it for worked fine, and
    much faster with 4x the RAM ... except one thing. He runs some DJing
    software (I don't know the exact name), and uses a Roland PCMCIA sound card
    to provide better quality sound than the on-board hardware.

    This DJing software was shutting down the laptop after an indeterminate
    period (never less than two hours, sometimes up to seven or eight). I don't
    mean BSOD, nor a normal shutdown, but a complete and instant power-off. Same
    symptom every time, the only variable was the lead time.

    We took the RAM back out and reverted to his previously 128MB, and the DJing
    software works fine again, indefinitely. Yet I've tested that RAM to pieces
    with memtest86+, and there is nothing wrong with it, so I can't send it
    back.

    Does anyone with more knowledge than me have any idea what's causing the
    trouble with this one piece of software? My only theory is that it's somehow
    power- or heat- related. Maybe the PCMCIA sound card is taking the machine's
    power consumption to its limit, and the extra stick of RAM was just pushing
    it over the edge, causing it to shut down due to ... overheating? It's not
    much of a theory, but I can't explain why the machine does an instant
    power-off if the RAM is bad, instead of a normal BSOD-type crash.

    Grateful for any suggestions,

    CC
     
    Magnate, Feb 24, 2009
    #1
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  2. Magnate

    Arno Guest

    I once had a module with a weak bit that took about 3 days to be detected
    by memtest86+. Of course, this is a worst-case scenario.
    A complete, instant poweroff does not sound like a memory issue to
    me at all. However the heat-theory does have merit. I had this on
    a sony Vaio sr11k (defective by design, had 2 self-destruct
    devices in there), that had inadequate chipset cooling. It eventually
    died after 2.5 years of light usage (1 year warranty).

    The north-bridge has to drive twice as many lines to the RAM now.
    Maybe the RAM is also faster? That would add even more thermal load.
    And it is possible this will kill the northbridge relatively fast.

    As to diagnosis, try with one of the new modules. If it takes noticeably
    longer to crash or does not crash at all, that would be a strong
    indicator. You could also reduce RAM timing as much as possible.

    Also, it would be a good idea to have a look into the laptop. Often
    these things get so clogged up by dust when they get older, that they
    overheat pretty fast. A good cleaning will sometimes do wonders.
    You can use a vaccuum cleaner, but make sure it is anti-static.
    AFAIK most modern ones are.

    Arno
     
    Arno, Feb 24, 2009
    #2
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  3. Magnate

    Magnate Guest

    I caught up with my friend yesterday, and he confirmed that it has now
    happened once with only the 128MB RAM, so the overheating theory is growing
    on me.
    Genius! Why didn't I think of that? Many thanks for the suggestion - will
    try one module.
    Yes, I suspect that the innards are gunked up with
    dust-that-is-now-compacted.

    Thanks again Arno,

    CC
     
    Magnate, Feb 26, 2009
    #3
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