Video >2010 Systems
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For newer systems (~2010 or later) the diagnostics are all onboard, contained within the system BIOS.
For older systems (~ before 2010) the extended diagnostics were contained on a diagnostics partition on the hard drive which could be removed during manual installation or inaccessible if the hard drive failed thus it is recommended to make a diagnostics bootable USB or CD.
To run the F12 Pre-Boot diagnostics, power down your computer. Wait 10 seconds, power it back up and press F12 at the Dell BIOs screen (pictured).
Select Diagnostics by using the [↓] and [↑] keys and then press enter. When prompted run the express test, alongside any extended tests.
Note many older systems had a diagnostics partition on the hard drive, if this partition is removed by reinstallation of the Operating System or if the hard drive is damaged the extended tests will be unable to run and you will get an error message saying the system can’t boot to the diagnostics utility.
In such cases these extended tests can be run off a CD or a USB (really old systems won’t boot from a USB).
To run the diagnostics on such systems please download the following file (on a working system) A1394A0. Run the .exe
Extract to the default location
The DDDP program will now run
Select Create a Bootable CD or Install to a USB Flash Drive. The CD/DVD is usually more reliable.
Once you have made the diagnostics CD/DVD or USB stick insert the CD/DVD or plug the USB stick into your problem system.
Power down your computer if not already powered down and wait at least 10 seconds before powering it back up. Hold F12 while powering up your computer (at the Dell BIOs screen).
Select boot from CD/DVD or from USB respectively.
Run the extended diagnostics and tests.
One of the most common problems is hard drive failure. If cannot locate your error or don’t know how to address it make a new post in the Disk Drives forum (if you know it is to do with your Hard Drive), Desktop General Hardware forum or Laptop General Hardware forum.
Older Systems – Recreating the Diagnostics Partition
Newer systems have all their preboot diagnostics incorporated as part of the UEFI BIOS. Most Dell systems with a Legacy BIOS had only the basic tests inbuilt into the Legacy BIOS and required a separate partition (or Bootable media) to run the extended tests.
Personally I don’t recreate the diagnostics partition on such systems as I find the HDD the most likely component to fail. Relying on diagnostics installed on a failed component is a bit of a chicken and egg situation.
Creating the Diagnostics partition is relatively difficult if you aren’t using Dell Backup and Recovery on a Factory Image. The diagnostics partition can be however created before OS installation with the Media Direct DVD. For more details see Preparing your Hard Drive: Setting Up Media Direct on Dell Systems.
If your system is not a Media Direct system you can delete Disk 0 Partition 2 and Disk 0 Partition 3: MEDIADIRECT during Windows OS installation and recreate a new partition to reclaim the 2 GB of space. I have tested this procedure on a Latitude D820, OptiPlex 745, 755 and 760 which all aren’t Media Direct systems.