Hardware

How do I... Use the Memory Diagnostic Tool in Windows Vista?

There are dozens of RAM diagnostic tools available for checking the status of RAM in your PC, but if you are running Microsoft Windows Vista you already have a diagnostic tool built into the operating system. Mark Kaelin shows you how it works.

This article is available as a TechRepublic download and as a TechRepublic gallery.

Random access memory is the essential backbone of the modern personal computer, yet many users ignore it as a potential source of problems. A bad stick of RAM can be the root cause of all kinds of annoying operating glitches, ranging from random application lockups to intermittent blue screens of death to boot failure. There are dozens of RAM diagnostic tools available for checking the status of RAM in your PC, but if you are running Microsoft Windows Vista, you already have a diagnostic tool built into the operating system.

RAM testing

The Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool is located in the Control Panel under the Administrative Tools icon. (Figure A)

Figure A

Control Panel

Clicking the icon reveals the Administrative Tools screen. (Figure B)

Figure B

Administrative Tools

You can also reach the Memory Diagnostic Tool by typing "memory" in the Windows Vista desktop search box located on the Start Menu. (Figure C)

Figure C

Searching memory

Running the Memory Diagnostic Tool opens a screen (Figure D) with two choices: Restart and run the test or run the test the next time you start your computer. The RAM testing will take place during the boot process before Windows Vista is loaded.

Figure D

Memory Diagnostic Tool choices

When the computer is restarted, you will see a simple screen that brings back memories of the old DOS from years long since past. (Figure E)

Figure E

The Memory Diagnostic Tool in action

The option screen [F1] offers you three testing choices, each with a different set of RAM tests to be performed. (Table A)

Table A

Basic

MATS+, INVC, and SCHCKR (cache enabled)

Standard

LRAND, Stride6 (cache enabled), CHCKR3, WMATS+, and WINVC

Extended

LRAND, Stride6 (cache enabled), CHCKR3, WMATS+, and WINVC, ERAND, Stride6 (cache disabled), and CHCKR8

The default is set to Standard.

In addition to these choices you can choose to disable or enable the cache. The default is set to use the cache as it is used normally.

You can also choose how many times you want to run the RAM tests. The default is two.

For Windows XP

While the Memory Diagnostic Tool is integrated into Windows Vista, that doesn't mean that Windows XP users are left out. There is also a downloadable version of the tool available from the TechRepublic Software Library.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

8 comments
technet
technet

This fails to tell how to get the results! If the machine reboots, and you aren't there to read the popup message, where is the log file where results can be looked up?

digitalports
digitalports

Left the thing wheres when you change the options with F1 to Extender or Basic, you should press F10 to apply the change and restart the test! ;) my 2 cents :P

Mohamedali_ali88
Mohamedali_ali88

hi this is simply . when are you power the system ,there is we can get sound beeb .and also Windows XP not open

Justin James
Justin James

I was really excited to see this in Vista, until I actually used it a few months ago. It just plain did not work for me. When I had bad RAM, this tool always crashed, how useful is that? Even worse, it would reboot the PC, so unless I saw it crash, if I was out of the room, it looked like a sucess. Memtest86 found and showed the problem in a few minutes. So while I applaud Microsoft putting this tool in there, they should not have bothered unless it worked! J.Ja

neuperg
neuperg

Too bad they did not have it generate a log with some meaningful technical info. No idea of how much memory it is testing as it just shows percent complete. Did it check 4GB or did it check all 8 GB? Bonehead tha wrote it and bonehead QC people that let this out the door at Microsoft. clearly it was an underutilized programmer from the powerpoint development group that did this utility rather than a person that has ever had a ram problem.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I ran it a few times on my laptop without causing any crashes. But, of course, I did not have any bad RAM. Would anyone else care to share their experience with this tool, good or bad?

digitalports
digitalports

What kinda crash? you mean Crashes as Blue Screens?, if yes, check the Exceptions and status code that BSOD provide. appear some error?, sorry ...i works also on Tech support as T2 of a Laptop Company too ;)

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