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.
The Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool is located in the Control Panel under the Administrative Tools icon. (Figure A)
Clicking the icon reveals the Administrative Tools screen. (Figure B)
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)
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.
|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)
|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)
MATS+, INVC, and SCHCKR (cache enabled)
LRAND, Stride6 (cache enabled), CHCKR3, WMATS+, and WINVC
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.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.