This Guide is for hardware manufactured before 2010 which has now reached end of support. For newer systems (~2010 or later) the diagnostics are all incorporated into the UEFI BIOS (or late Legacy BIOS) of the motherboard for more details see here. 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.
Note many older systems had a diagnostics partition on the hard drive, however by now this partition has likely been removed by reinstallation of the Operating System. Also if the hard drive is damaged the extended tests will also be unable to run. In such a case you will get an error message saying the system can’t boot to the diagnostics utility. These extended tests can instead be run off a CD or a USB (this USB must be <2 GB and really old systems before 2006 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
Once the files extract navigate to this folder and run the DDDP program (if it doesn’t automatically run)
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.
Older Systems – Recreating the Diagnostics Partition
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.
The only way I found to create the diagnostics partition is from a 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.