Home x86 • Fixing the 3-beep issue on a Dell Inspiron 15z

Fixing the 3-beep issue on a Dell Inspiron 15z


Recently a Dell Inspiron 15z 5523 was handed over to our IT department for disposal. The issue with the laptop was that upon powering on it will beep 3 times and continuously to do so. While the laptop itself still looked pretty good (it’s an ultrabook) I wanted to have a look at the machine for myself so I took the unit home.

As I always do I will reveal the specs below. Note that the machine is from 2013 and therefore a couple of years old. The harddisk and memory was already stripped from the machine, so I placed some spare parts of my own in it to have a working whole.

CPU: Intel Core i5 3337U (2 x 1.8GHz with HT and turbo to 2.7GHz)
GPU: Integrated HD4000 graphics
RAM: 2 x 4GB DDR3 @ 1600MHz
ODD: Tray loading super-multi drive
USB: 2 x USB3.0 and 2 x USB2.0
NET: Atheros 1Gbit LAN and Intel WiFi 2230
OTHER: 1 x HDMI, 1 x SD reader, media buttons and a headphone jack

The screen is 15″ with a resolution of 1366×768 and has a capacitive touchscreen.

3 beep issue:
Dell uses beeps to indicate that there may be something wrong with the system. Where 2 beeps equals to a bad RAM module, the 3 beeps indicate a general system failure. As a system failure can be interpreted on a wide scale it’s not a narrow pin-point system what is actually failing on the system board. For instance it could be a corrupt bios, low CMOS battery etc.

Searching the internet on this issue I found out that it seems to be a very common habit for the Inspiron 15z to have the 3-beep issue. A lot of people are having issues as soon as they upgrade to Windows 10. While the 3-beep issue may be true to a system board failure (I’ve seen enough of them in the past) I had the feeling that it may be BIOS or software related. Upon further searching it seems that Dell has released a BIOS update for this machine with revision A05 which addresses this issue (for the Inspiron 13z it’s A10 or higher).

You will need some tools and software in order to continue:

* Philips screwdrivers to remove the screws (small ones)
* The BIOS update file (link here)
* FreeDOS (link here)
* A USB keyboard
* 30 minutes of your time

You need to create a USB bootable media from the FreeDOS image and place the BIOS update executable on it.

The steps to create the stick can be found all over the internet and will therefore not be covered in this post.

Opening up the laptop:
You need to disassemble almost the whole machine in order to reach the CMOS battery or other internal parts. As is with most Dell consumer laptops you have to remove the bottom screws (7x), the memory cover (because that unlocks the optical drive), remove the optical drive to reveal 1 very flat screw and within the memory compartiment there is one screw marked with “KB” which holds down the keyboard.

Turn over the machine and remove the keyboard, again 4 screws are waiting to be removed and several ZIF-cables have to be released.

Once that’s finished you can gently pry open the case, I found this the easiest to start at the optical drive opening as it released most easily there.

Once you have the cover removed the inside looks like this:

You can see the CMOS battery right beneath the Inspiron logo along with the WiFi module. There is also a little switch right of the HDMI connector which cut’s down the power from the battery if switched to the right and we need to switch that later.

Resetting the CMOS:
The most used trick to solve this issue is to reset the CMOS. In order to do so you have to:
* Remove the power cord from the machine
* Switch the battery power switch to the right
* Remove the CMOS battery

Now wait for a couple of minutes, so we are sure the machine is completely “dead”. After this, perform the steps above but this time in reverse order (and have move the switch to the left position).

Powering up the machine:
Now plug in the USB keyboard and press the power button on the machine (it’s beneath the left screen hinge). In my case the machine showed the DELL logo after 10 to 15 seconds. Press F2 repeatedly to enter the system BIOS.

Here I saw that the machine had a older BIOS than the current one by DELL which addresses the issue, in my case it was A02.

Updating the BIOS:
Now that the machine powers up again we need to update the BIOS as fast as possible to prevent it from going corrupt again (and you have to start over, I had to do so several times due to tests).

Insert the USB bootable media which contains FreeDOS and the BIOS update file and reset the machine by pressing Control + Alt + Delete. When you see the DELL logo start pressing F12 to have the boot menu pop up. Select the USB stick as boot device and press enter. You have to boot into FreeDOS without any memory drivers / expanders for the update to work. Start the executable to perform the update:

It may take several minutes to complete and the fan start running at full speed. Do not remove power from the machine during the update as this will permanently brick the device! After this the machine will reboot and start booting again.

After the update you can assemble the machine and should be good to go!

The battery needs at least 10% charge in order to update the BIOS whether it’s connected to a wall outlet or not.

Well, pictures don’t lie, here is a picture of the machine after the upgrade with Windows 10 on it:

One thing I did notice immediately was that after the upgrade the machine powered up much faster. Previously I had to wait 10 to 15 seconds before even the DELL logo showed. After the upgrade this was almost instant!

HELP! It did not work!
To be honest here: I can’t help you further then. While this trick works for most of the people with this issue it may still be a faulty mainboard which needs replacement. Should you have any questions regarding this issue or have fixed the issue with my information, feel free to leave a comment!

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