In this article we will look at how you can check to see whether your RAM sticks are working correctly as well as the slots on the motherboard. Please note that in order to correctly run this test, you should test each stick one-by-one and in each slot for at least 7 passes. The reason for this, is that it will be much easier to determine which RAM stick may be causing you problems (if you have more than one) as well as to see whether the slot itself may be defective on the motherboard and not the stick itself. Another thing that can cause issues for people who have recently installed RAM via upgrading or a new build, is that they have installed the modules into the incorrect slots. Double check with your motherboards manual just to be certain, especially when dealing with duel-channel memory.
A few symptoms of bad RAM
There are many, many different signs that can alert you to issues with RAM, from random error messages through to complete systems shut downs, but the most common indications are:
- You start to notice that your machines performance has become slow and unresponsive.
- Opening and closing programs is taking longer that usual, including browser windows
- You are getting warning beeps from your computer when trying to boot.
- Your computer randomly/continuously BSoDs and restarts.
- Your computer won’t boot.
Please note that for this article I am using the latest version of MemTest86+ which is v4.20. The latest version of MemTest86+ brings with it the following updates:
- New Features
- Added failsafe mode (press F1 at startup)
- Added support for Intel “Sandy Bridge” CPU
- Added support for AMD “fusion” CPU
- Added Coreboot “table forward” support
- Bug Fixes
- Corrected some memory brands not detected properly
- Various bug fixes
There are three ways that you can run these tests. The first way is to simply download the MemTest86+ ISO file and burn it to a blank CD or DVD and then boot to it. I will also be showing you how you can run the tests via USB and via floppy disk.
Using MemTest86+ via CD/DVD:
Firstly you can download the pre-compiled bootable MemTest86+ .ISO from here.
Then simply extract the files from the zipped archive to your desktop (just double-click on the zipped folder and drag the yellow folder inside named mt420.iso to your desktop)
Make sure that you have a blank CD /DVD ready and inserted into your computer, as we will now burn the ISO to disk. Right-click on the mt420.iso that you have just extracted to your desktop and select Open. If you don’t have any burning software associated with a .iso files, then choose Select a program from a list of installed programs and choose Windows Disk Image burner.
The built-in image burning window will now present itself.
Now just hit Burn.
Now you are ready to run MemTest86+. You will need to make sure that the CD Drive is set as the first boot device in BIOS. Then reboot your system and MemTest86+ will start to run immediately. The program is completely unattended, so you just need to let it run.
Using MemTest86+ via USB: (Win 9x/2k/xp/7)
Firstly, make sure that your computer is able to boot from USB (check in BIOS) and that the USB stick that you will be putting the MemTest86+ files onto is blank. Now download the MemTest86+ Auto-installer for USB. This will make your USB bootable as well as placing the required files onto your USB.
If it sees that there are files currently on the USB stick, you will get a warning telling you that these will be wiped. Once you are sure, hit Create.
The procedure should only take a few seconds to complete. You may see a command window briefly flash up, but it can be ignored and is part of the process.
Once the USB stick has been created, simply hit Next, followed by Finish
Now make sure that you have set your system to boot to USB first and restart your computer. MemTest86+ is unattended you the program will begin immediately.
Using MemTest86+ via Floppy: (DOS/Win)
For most modern machines, this will be of no use whatsoever due to the fact that computers no longer ship with floppy drives installed. That said there are still a lot of machines that use these devices (we do at work on some of the older units) which is why I have included it.
You can download the pre-compiled MemTest86+ package for floppy here.
Then simply extract the files from the zipped archive to your desktop (just double-click on the zipped folder and drag the yellow folder inside named floppy to your desktop)
Now insert a blank floppy disk into your computer
Now open the floppy folder that you extracted to your desktop, and double-click on the install.bat file to start writing the files to your floppy disk. Please note that you may not be able to see the .bat extension due to having
A command window will now open. Here you will have to enter the target drive which will be you A: Drive, so just type A: and then hit Enter
It will now ask you to insert a blank floppy disk. I assume you already have, so just hit Enter
This will only take a few seconds to complete.
Note that if you are going to run MemTest straight away, simply leave the floppy in the drive and reboot. The program will begin immediately after the system restarts.
The program should run immediately after your computer has started and will not require any interaction on your behalf. If the program does not run at boot, then make sure that you have set either the CD/DVD, USB or floppy (depending on how you are running the program) as the first boot device. As I said earlier, it is advisable to run at least 7 passes on each stick individually, and in each slot. The amount of time it will take to run 7 passes on each stick will vary on your CPU’s capabilities as well as how much memory your sticks have. The more passes you run on each stick the better, so you may want to let it run over night. Note that it will run indefinitely, so once you have run it for 7 passes, move on to the next stick/slot until you have finished checking your RAM. If any errors are found, they will be shown in red. (you can’t miss it) If errors are found, don’t automatically think that the stick itself is at fault, as it may be the slot on the motherboard that is damaged which is why you need to test each stick in each slot. You should also make sure that the actual RAM that has been installed is actually compatible with your motherboard. The easiest way to check this is to go to Crucial.com and run their System Scanner, or look it up manually on the site. Crucial is also one of the best places to buy new RAM whilst making sure that you choose the right memory for your machine.
When handling your RAM sticks, make sure that you don’t touch the gold contacts and be sure to discharge any static that you have on you. The simplest way to do this is to touch the side of you computer case, or use an antistatic wrist band. It should also go without saying that you must make sure that your computer is turned off and disconnected before removing the RAM sticks. To remove a stick, press the small levers at each end of the sticks down, which will release the modules. When placing the RAM stick back in the slot (or another one to test that slot) make sure that the contacts are aligned correctly with the slots, (they can only go in one way) and insert the sticks until the levers on the sides snap back into place to the grooves on the side of your RAM. You may need to press firmly down when getting the RAM sticks back into the slots, but be careful not to push down too hard or else you may damage your motherboard.
Other things that you should also check for, is whether the RAM slots are dust free, and that the contact points on the sticks themselves are dirt free. You should use rubbing alcohol and Q-tips (cotton buds) to do this properly if you think it is required.
When you are running your test, you may notice that you have more information presented to you in the screen than I have in the image above. This is due to the fact that in order to get the screenshot, I ran my version of MemTest on a virtual machine.
Hope that helps.