Checking for Faulty RAM

by Barry Dysert
(last updated May 5, 2014)

The acronym RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It's the memory that you have in your computer system; it is not "memory" in a storage device, such as a hard drive. Memory is critical to the proper operation of your system, so it's important that you not only have an adequate amount of memory but also that what's in your computer is operating as it should. Although it doesn't happen too often, it is possible for memory to go bad. Fortunately, Windows provides an easy way to check for faulty RAM.

Windows is usually aware when there may be a memory-related problem. If it detects a problem you will suddenly be prompted to run the built-in Memory Diagnostics Tool. You can, however, run the tool manually if you wish. To do so, click the Start button, type "memory" (without the quotes), and select the item named "Windows Memory Diagnostic." In short order Windows displays the Windows Memory Diagnostic dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Windows Memory Diagnostic screen.

At this point you can choose to restart your system immediately and have it run diagnostics, or you can indicate that you want to run diagnostics the next time you restart your computer. (If you change your mind and don't want to run the diagnostics at all, just click Cancel.)

Assuming you've selected one of the two options, the memory diagnostics tool automatically begins running the next time your computer restarts. Upon its restart, memory tests will be run even before you're able to login again. It runs automatically, but you can alter its behavior by pressing the F1 key while it's running to change options. The options you can change include: Test Mix, Cache, and Pass Count.

The Text Mix option allows you to specify whether you want it to run the Basic, Standard, or Extended set of tests. The Cache option allows you to specify whether cache is on, off, or whether the default cache setting of each test should be used. The Pass Count option allows you to specify the number of passes the diagnostic should run before quitting. This can be set to a number from zero (meaning an infinite number of passes) to 99.

When the tests are completed, the system is automatically restarted, and when you login you will see the results of the tests in the System Notification Area (i.e., the System Tray).

 This tip (13099) applies to Windows 7.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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