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Beginners Guides: Diagnosing Bad Memory

Beginners Guides: Diagnosing Bad Memory - PCSTATS
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Abstract: In this guide, PCSTATS will discuss the common symptoms of faulty memory as well as looking at a handful of free memory testing software programs which can help you diagnose your troubles.
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Beginners Jul 21 2008   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > Beginners PCSTATS

Beginners Guides: Diagnosing Bad Memory
Having problems figuring out if your system is plagued with bad RAM or DDR? PCstats walks you though the steps to diagnose bad RAM. - Version 1.2.5

Does your Windows-based PC crash for no apparent reason? Well OK, mine does too, but does yours crash often? At random times? With Nasty blue Screens of Death? If the answer is "yes", you may very well have a memory problem. Faulty memory, or RAM, is often the cause of the dreaded 'flaky PC' syndrome, those hard-to-replicate errors that get you nasty looks from the store technician because "…nothing seems to be wrong with it. Sir."

In this short but sweet guide, PCstats will discuss the common symptoms of faulty memory as well as looking at a handful of free memory testing software programs which can help you diagnose your troubles.

When good RAM goes bad

Seeing as it consists only of a handful of Silicon memory chips (called DRAM) soldered to a small circuit board, computer memory is actually much more resistant to failure than most other computer parts. Having said that, it is also produced and distributed in more volume than any other computer part so it sort of evens out.

Memory DRAM chips are tested by their manufacturers before they are shipped, and this weeds out virtually all the 'defect' chips prior to sale. However, computer memory is also vulnerable to a variety of situations that can turn your working sticks of DDR or SDRAM memory sour.

Electrostatic shock from improper handling can damage memory. Try to avoid stroking your cat while you install your new 1GB DDR module! Likewise, power surges or poor power supplies can also damage your computer's memory, sometimes gradually. The same can be said for raising memory voltage too high if you are overclocking.

If your computer is excessively dusty, or is located in a humid environment the contacts between the memory module and the memory slot can be interfered with or corroded. Heat, either from other components or the RAM itself can also cause gradual damage. Obviously, careless handling can also damage computer memory by causing physical harm to the circuit board or contacts. This is one of the reasons why we advocate memory heat spreaders - they don't really do much in the way of cooling sticks of DDR, but they do offer a nice level of protection from handling.

Another factor to take into consideration is the possibility of defects in the memory slots of your computer's motherboard. These can be damaged by the same means as listed above, and can cause confusion, since any memory module plugged into a defective slot will appear to be defective even though it really isn't

Fortunately, as modern computer memory is produced uniformly and has relatively few points of failure as compared to other computer parts, manufacturers are able to provide decent warranty support. Most 'brand name' memory purchased directly form suppliers like Corsair, Crucial or Kingston carries a lifetime warranty, while 'white box' memory purchased from resellers typically has a longer warranty than most equivalent products, generally three years.

Signs of bad memory: 1. Starts Smoking, 2. Becomes Moody...

The indicators of faulty memory are legion, but let's start with a few common ones. From the top:

  1. Blue screens during the install procedure of Windows 2000 or XP. This is one of the surest signs of faulty memory.
  2. Random crashes or blue screens during the running of 2000 or XP. Note that heat can also be a culprit in the case of general flakiness like this, so you should test for that possibility too.
  3. Crashes during memory intensive operations. 3D games, benchmarks, compiling, Photoshop, etc.
  4. Distorted graphics on screen. This can also be related to the video card.
  5. Failure to boot. This can be accompanied by repeated long beeps, which is the accepted BIOS beep code for a memory problem. In this circumstance, you cannot test the memory with diagnostic software, so your only option is testing by replacement, either at home or at your computer dealer.

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Contents of Article: Beginners PCSTATS
 Pg 1.  — Beginners Guides: Diagnosing Bad Memory
 Pg 2.  Memory Testing Tips
 Pg 3.  Docmem and Windows Mem Test
 Pg 4.  Bad Memory Troubleshooting

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