Memory bug bites Dell notebooks

PC maker says memory problem could be cause of system hangs or "blue screens" with certain Latitude and Inspiron notebooks when they're awakened from suspend mode
Written by John G. Spooner, Contributor

If your Dell notebook is cranky when you wake it up from sleep mode, it might be suffering from bad memory. Dell has acknowledged that a memory problem with certain models in its Latitude and Inspiron notebook lines could be the root of symptoms that include system hangs or Windows "blue screen" errors.

The symptoms crop up only when a notebook is brought out of suspend mode.

The notebooks that may be affected include Latitude CPiA, CPiR, CPt, CPx and CS models; as well as Inspiron 3500, 3700, 7000 and 7500 models, according to a letter Dell began sending to customers about two weeks ago, which was viewed by ZDNet News.

The flawed memory can cause data to be corrupted and or lost -- resulting in such symptoms as a hung system when a user seeks to wake the notebook to resume working. The problem is related to flawed RAM modules supplied to Dell by one of its component vendors between February and November 1999. Dell would not release the name of the vendor.

When a notebook goes into suspend or sleep mode, it either suspends to memory or suspends to disk. When it suspends to memory, the default setting on these Dell notebooks is to place a user's data in the system RAM.

The flawed memory, in this case, can cause that data to be corrupted and or lost -- resulting in such symptoms as a hung system when a user tries to awaken the notebook to resume working.

Dell officials said on Tuesday that the problem has been resolved and a fix had been issued. The fix consists of replacing affected memory modules. A basic input/output system or BIOS software update may also fix the problem, according to the letter. The BIOS controls communications between the operating system and the hardware of the PC.

To address the problem and begin the process of delivering new memory modules to those customers, Dell has developed an application that can test notebooks for the affected memory. The application can be downloaded from Dell's customer support Web site.

The application, if it finds the memory to be affected, provides details on how to contact Dell and arrange for delivery of new memory modules, company officials said.

The modules can be installed by IT staff at corporations or, for consumers, by Dell service technicians.

Workarounds for the problems include changing the suspend settings from "suspend to memory" to "suspend to disk". These settings are controlled by the notebooks' BIOS software.

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