Dell Latitude D520: The Case of a Missing DIMM Socket

Ah the joys of IT work. They never end. Even if you want them too. Even if you pray that they stop, they chase and hunt you down and make you fix stuff. Today I solved the case of a missing DIMM socket. Yes, apparently we lost a socket in one of the Dell laptops. But let me start form the beginning.

Every once in a while (read every hour on the hour) some user calls or walks over to the help desk and cries that his or her computer is slow. It is usually true because spyware and aware tends to be quite resource intensive, and our users are hell bent on installing all of it. And by that I mean they go out of the way to collect new spyware and trojans they don’t have yet. If they find a new piece on the interwebs they go “Oh! I don’t have this one yet!” and they install it. Reimaging their drives is just a temporary measure. Once they are handed in a clean computer, they go straight back to collecting malware with doubled efforts – as if they were trying to rebuild their lost collections.

The only other thing we can do to fix the “my computer is slow” whines is add more memory. It is a simple procedure, and memory is relatively cheap so we often put in extra RAM chips into the computers we reimage so that the users can have more resources to run their mallware. Today someone dropped off a Latitude D520 which according to the specs (and by specs I mean the Dell website) is supposed to be upgradable to 4GB of RAM and has 2 DIMM sockets. Only they couldn’t find the second socket. We had like people standing around and staring at this machine with dumbfounded looks on their faces. I walk over and they show me: the DIMM A socket is not there.

Normally these Dell machines have a little hatch on the back. You loosen up one screw, pop it open and it gives you access to the memory. This machine was a bit different, in that only a single socket labeled DIMM B was present. I even snapped a picture of it with my phone:

1114081120.jpg

I flipped the machine over, booted it up and checked amount of installed memory. It said 1GB and the chip sitting in that exposed DIMM was a 512MB one. CPU-Z confirmed that the mobo had exactly 2 memory slots. Something was amiss here. For a second I wondered if the remaining 512MB is not by some chance soldered into mobo but CPU-Z said that was not the case, so I was relieved. I suggested that maybe the DIMM fell out when they were moving the machine, and sent my minions to check underneath the desks and in the hallway while I worked.

The DIMM socket had to be somewhere on the motherboard. The question was, where exactly was it located. I studied the machine from all sides looking for other access points but found none. It seemed that I will need to take it apart to find out. So I started breaking it down. I snapped off the hinge guard, unscrewed the keyboard, moved it aside and… PEKABOO! I found it:

1114081117a.jpg

Do you see it? It is right there, underneath the keyboard. Very odd place to put memory if you ask me. Let me give you a closer look:

1114081117.jpg

Case solved! I’m not sure if this design is present in all Latitude laptops or only in D5xx line. I have a D830 on my desk so I might check if I have the same odd mobo layout. Most of the other machines in the office are Inspirons and a few new Vostros floating around (yeah, the powers that be like Dell a lot) and they all seem to have their both DIMM sockets located on the back, side by side. Which IMHO is the right way to do it. For the D520 replacing both DIMM’s is a two step process that involves removing and re-attaching the keyboard.

Anyways, I figured I’ll share a heart warming story about loosing and finding a DIMM socket.

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17 Responses to Dell Latitude D520: The Case of a Missing DIMM Socket

  1. Garrick UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    memory is relatively cheap so we often put in extra RAM chips into the computers we reimage so that the users can have more resources to run their mallware.

    That has to be the new line of the week!

    I showed this to my IT guys here and they are rolling right now.

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  2. freelancer SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    That really seems to be the only solution though, doesn’t it? When I help people with their computers, I always used to spend some time removing spyware and stuff. Nowadays I don’t bother, because I’ll just have to do it again next time.

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  3. Zack UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    This memory spot isn’t suprising to me. As I was reading your post, I was thinking “Under the keyboard.” This has been done for awhile. I have a almost 9 year old IBM T40 that has one slot on the back, and one UNDER the fricken keyboard. It’s very annoying, but it’s the way some companies do things. I think it’s to get the average user to call them asking how to upgrade more…then the company sends someone out for $150 to do something that takes

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  4. Zack UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    previous post cut me off.

    “to do something that takes” about 5 minutes.

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  5. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I had the same experience as Zack reading the article. I’ve seen a few laptops with the split memory sockets, though usually the ‘internal’ one has the standard memory leaving the ‘external’ one free for expansion.

    Ah, the joys of getting a new model laptop and trying to figure out how to open it without busting it, just to swap out the memory…

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  6. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    My 2 year old Dell Inspiron (forgot model number) at home also has a “missing” ram slot. I found this out when I toyed with it, exposing the rear parts that I can open with a screwdriver. Is this inherent in all Dell laptops now? Maybe I should check my office laptop (a Dell Latitude D630) too…

    I was also looking for the other ram slot (so far, the only laptop with soldered ram I know is the MBA. Even netbooks uses slots.). I searched for the tech docs on Dell’s website and it showed me where the second slot is, under the damn keyboard. The instructions were pretty clear for a noob like me to pry it open.

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  7. Jason Rain ISRAEL Google Chrome Windows says:

    I love it!

    “Once they are handed in a clean computer, they go straight back to collecting malware with doubled efforts – as if they were trying to rebuild their lost collections.”

    Seriously, I fell on the floor laughing. What we see a lot of techs do is just use http://www.reimage.com which automates the malware \ virus \registry corruption repair process. It’s kind of helpful fighting the ongoing battle against computer mutilation.

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  8. hrvoje CROATIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I have a HP nx6325 and same thing happened to me. First I was angry on myself because I didn’t read the specs and bought 2 chips, and there was room for only one. I called a friend of mine who has similar laptop and he had two chips on the same side. Then it was taking apart time and I found it :)

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @freelancer: Yup, it is a sisyphean task, but someone has to do it. I don’t do it for them – I do it for the good of the internets as a whole, and other people on their network. Whenever I clean a machine I know that for the next 2-3 days that machine won’t be sending out spam or performing ddos attacks as a part of some botnet. At least I hope it can last this long. :P

    @Jason Rain: Interesting idea for an online service, but seems a bit pricy. And of course there is always the question of effectiveness. Their marketing stuff makes everything look so easy and awesome but the question is how do they compare to the big names in the anti-spyware market right now with the respect to detection rate, false positives and etc..

    Also, I’m sort of wondering if this is entirely legal. The adverts on that site say that the service will replace the damaged files with new, clean copies. Where do these copies come from? Are they licensed? Are you allowed to distribute them this way? If I use your service, am I breaking Windows TOS? Can replacing these files trigger Windows activation again? Can it affect Genuine Advantage hash checks?

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  10. Rob UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Luke, thanks for posting this! I had to install some new ram for a user here at my office as well for not so surprisingly the same reasons. I knew where the other DIMM was, but wasn’t too sure about actually cracking open the case like that and wanted to find some pictures and stuff to make sure I was tackling it the correct way (I never like to be the guinea pig). Anyhow, thanks again!

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  11. Brandon UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Thanks for the very useful and entertaining post!

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  12. Michael UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Thanks for this post it was baffling us this morning!! You saved us a lot of time.

    Michael

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  13. It is usually true because spyware and aware tends to be quite resource intensive, and our users are hell bent on installing all of it.

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  14. I studied the machine from all sides looking for other access points but found none.

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  15. Matze GERMANY Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Thank you.
    Greeting from frankfurt

    Reply  |  Quote
  16. Chris CANADA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Thanks for this I was scraching my head for a while on this one.

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  17. Norb HUNGARY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Well, I’ve upgraded many laptops with additional memory as well, and usually I check the service manual first on the manufacturer’s site to see if there are any caveats. I recommend this approach to those who are so easily dumbfounded :) And yes, as others have said, having an additional memory slot under the keyboard is actually pretty common.

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