How much memory does the BIOS show? (F2 when the Dell Logo appears)
And how much memory is windows showing?
Low memory will make the boot very slow and it will also make the computer very slow.
If for example one of the memories has gone bad in a certain memory location I've seen Dells lower the usable memory.
The reason I'm asking is that you said
(except the memory is limited to 256mb)
The Dell Memory Diagnostic should check all the memory.
Try running This memory test.
***** [b]A.[/b] If you have more than one RAM module installed, try starting computer with one RAM stick at a time.
[b]NOTE[/b] Keep in mind, the manual check listed above is always superior to the software check, listed below. DO NOT proceed with memtest, if you can go with option A
B. If you have only one RAM stick installed...
1. Download - Pre-Compiled Bootable ISO (.zip)
2. Unzip downloaded memtest86+-....iso.zip file.
3. Inside, you'll find memtest86+-....iso file.
4. Download, and install ImgBurn: [url=http://www.imgburn.com/]http://www.imgburn.com/[/url]
5. Insert blank CD into your CD drive.
6. Open [b]ImgBurn[/b], and click on Write image file to disc
7. Click on Browse for a file... icon:
8. Locate memtest86+-....iso file, and click Open button.
9. Click on ImgBurn green arrow to start burning bootable memtest86 CD:
10. Once the CD is created, boot from it, and memtest will automatically start to run.
The running program will look something like this depending on the size and number of ram modules installed:
It's recommended to run 5-6 passes. Each pass contains very same 8 tests.
This will show the progress of the test. It can take a while. Be patient, or leave it running overnight.
The following image is the test results area:
The most important item here is the “errors” line. If you see ANY errors, even one, most likely, you have bad RAM.
Edited by rotor123, 26 February 2013 - 01:36 PM.