Testing PC Memory

Fred, Have you ever reviewed this Memtest86?  If so, is it worthwhile? —Duane Howe

Yes, and yes, Duane. <g> In fact, in http://langa.com/newsletters/2004/2004-04-01.htm#3 we discussed MemTest86 ( http://www.google.com/search?q=memtest86 ) and a conceptually similar free tool from Microsoft ( http://langa.com/newsletters/2003/2003-08-21.htm#2 and http://oca.microsoft.com/en/windiag.asp )

Physical memory (RAM) tends to be very reliable; and these days, it’s relatively inexpensive. But some years ago, RAM was in short supply and almost unbelievably expensive. As a cost-cutting measure, some RAM makers started offering RAM with no error-correcting circuitry built in. At the time, it was a controversial move.

Today, such RAM is common, and usually works fine. But when it doesn’t, there’s no built-in mechanism to catch and correct the errors, and you can end up with very strange, hard-to-diagnose effects in your PC.

Software-based RAM-testing tools can help by exercising every address in a RAM bank, making sure that what comes out is the same as what goes in; and helping you to identify any bad RAM modules. You usually can’t repair RAM; you can only replace it. But a RAM tester helps you replace only what’s truly broken.

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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.