How to Run the Dell 32bit diagnostics

All information on this site is furnished in a general manner and can have errors, oversights and so cannot be expected to cover every specific scenario. Please research any information used with Dell documentation or contact their tech support if any clarification is needed

With troubleshooting problems, it can sometimes be difficult to tell when a problem is caused by Windows software issues or when other factors like hardware failure might be causing a problem. One way you can test hardware issues outside of Windows is to run the Dell 32bit diagnostics which can be thought of as a separate operating system running from a different area of the hard drive.

To start Dell diagnostics, on notebooks you could hold down the FN key while you press in on the power button. On either notebooks or desktops you can restart the compuer and tap the F12 key a couple of times when you see the Dell logo screen .

The next thing you will see is a boot menu, at this screen the diagnostics option will be the last item on the menu, usually labeled either "Diagnostics" or "Utility Partition". Use the arrow keys to choose whichever of these two you have at the bottom of the menu and then tap the enter key to get things started.


A series of short Preboot Assessment tests will run from a blue background. At the end of these tests, you will get the option to proceed to the full tests area by tapping any key (usually the Enter key). If you're asked to choose between system tests and memory tests, choose System tests. From there, the next step I usually recommend is clicking on the Custom test as you can test anything you can think of, including memory from there. There are a lot of different test options so feel free to try any of them, they are non-destructive (but the extended test is very time consuming so keep that one as the last/final test option).

Preboot Assessment:

If you choose Custom tests, here's the screen you would see to allow you to choose which specific tests you want to run. Just click the hardware to test and click the run test button on the bottom.

Quick description of the main hardware testing categories:

Express Test: A quick test of most of the hardware. Usually takes a half hour to an hour to run.
Extended Test: A long in depth test of most of the parts on the computer. Usually takes a few hours to run. I rarely recommend this test, the length of time it takes to run is usually longer than it's worth.

Custom Test: Allows you to test 1 part at a time with varying amounts of depth.

Another type of test not shown here but that is very common to see is Symptom Tree which can run batteries of tests based on the type of problem you're trying to fix (system getting hot, etc.)

Here is an example of Custom Tests which gives you a menu and all you have to do is to click on the item on the list you want to run and then you'd click on the run tests button at the bottom of the screen.