Question Memory debacles on an ancient Dell Inspiron 546 mainboard

Oct 27, 2020
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Hi all,

This has been bugging me for quite some time and can't find any logical - or even illogical - explanation.
So I picked up an ancient Dell Inspiron 546 at a thrift store with a nice AMD Phenom X4 Quad Core CPU incl a working fan as well, and 4x1 GB PC2-800 RAM. PS attached, board boots into a live Win10 stick.

Nice-o, methinks, let's see what more we can do. Off the shelf come 4x2 GB PC2-800 and jump into the MB. Win10 installs in no time on a 120GB SSD I had at hand. After 15 minutes Win10 starts dyin' on me in a cyclic reboot loop with blue screens of death, every time with another fault code. Groundhog Day, here I come.

After the umpteenth reboot Win10 keeps giving me memory-related fault codes in BSOD. Internet says board supports 8GB in 4x2 config, no ECC, PC2-800, so what the hell. Upper two RAMs gone, thing boots and runs 2 hours w/ no error. These two modules out, the "upper two RAMs" in the lower 2 slots - 2 hours with no error. Last test: upper two slots filled again - BSOD back with memory errors.

RAM tested in other MB : no errors. Conclusion: the 4x2 modules are OK.

Next thing I remember upper two slots filled with the original 2x1GB modules: Win10 quite happy with 6 gig and runs 24 hours with no issues.

I know there have been some RAM modules in the past which were "AMD only" while others were "universal" ones, on my Kingstons - both sets - there's lifetime warranty and were sold as universal ones - good for both Intel and AMD - and that has been proven in other mainboards.

So now that we established that the RAM is OK, the DIMM slots are OK, the board is certified for 8GB with the current and latest BIOS and Win10 64-bit effectively sees and handles all RAM it's been given:

Seriously, what's wrong with this guy?

It irritates me to hell that I can't figure out such a seemingly simple issue. Is it possible that one of the SIMM slots in the upper bank is defect or has a wrong contact? Please help!
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
Not able to directly answer with respect to "what's wrong with this guy" but you may be able to get a different view of things.

Windows 10 - Powershell.

Take a look at the installed RAM as Windows "sees" it.

Reference:

https://www.action1.com/kb/checking-RAM-type-with-Powershell-on-Windows.html

Compare the results between working RAM configurations and those configurations that end in error.

For example:

Get-WmiObject Win32_PhysicalMemory | Format-List *

Could be some sort of "perfect storm". Buried in the details....
 
Oct 27, 2020
16
2
15
0
Not able to directly answer with respect to "what's wrong with this guy" but you may be able to get a different view of things.

Windows 10 - Powershell.

Take a look at the installed RAM as Windows "sees" it.

Reference:

https://www.action1.com/kb/checking-RAM-type-with-Powershell-on-Windows.html

Compare the results between working RAM configurations and those configurations that end in error.

For example:

Get-WmiObject Win32_PhysicalMemory | Format-List *

Could be some sort of "perfect storm". Buried in the details....
Hi and thanks for your answer. However, this is something I can't try. When booting in the 4x2GB configuration, the mainboard immediately goes into an endless BSOD reboot loop so there is simply no chance of evoking PowerShell.

When running this command against one pair in the lower two memory slots, and then again with the otheir pair in the lower two memory slots, I am getting completely identical outputs -> ergo the RAM modules are perfectly identical. Thats why my suspicion fell on memory slot 3 and/or 4. They can handle the 1GB (single-sided RAM) pretty well, but fail on the 2GB (double sided) ones. A friendly Dell Netherlands employee dug me up some old dusty tomes that say that the board SHOULD be able to handle 4 pcs of both single-sided AND double-sided modules up to 2 GB each bringing the total available memory to 8 GB.

So the only thing I can think of right now is a defect memory slot on the mainboard itself. A bent pin, a soldering that's not absolutely kosher, anything.

It's not that I desperately need this mainboard and the 8GB RAM on it, it's more my engineering mind that can't bear being beaten on such a seemingly innocent issue.
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
Maybe an earlier - not so current version of BIOS might work.

Try using Powershell within the RAM combinations that do work. Compare the results to what is and/or is expected. Tedious but something may turn up.

Reading back I am wondering about that 120 GB boot drive: how full is it? Thought being that Windows (or something else) is trying to update and running afoul of drive space in some manner. Bit of stretch in many ways yet worth checking just a a matter of elimination. For the most part, low disk space should generate applicable errors - some straightforward and understandable statement about what is wrong. Yet, such statements can often be cryptic and counter intuitive.

Try booting via a Linux USB stick.

For example:

https://opensource.com/article/20/4/first-linux-computer

Linux is not (full disclosure) within my comfort zone.

However, if the system is bootable via all of RAM combinations that you have tried then it would be my understanding that would exclude hardware related issues.

I will defer to the Linux community with regards to means and methods.

Mostly depends on how much you want to delve into the matter. Overall you are not "beaten" - even if it all simply comes down to "gremlins".
 

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