Windows

Use Windows Memory Diagnostic to investigate RAM problems in Windows 7

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, Greg Shultz shows you how to launch and use the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool to test for defective RAM.

In last week's article, "Access More Troubleshooting Tools with Windows 7 System Recovery Options," I described the tools on the System Recovery Options menu and told you that I would cover the tools in more detail in future articles. Well, I recently had to use Windows Memory Diagnostic and thought that it would be a good place to start. So, if you're encountering application failures, operating system faults, or Stop errors, you could have defective or failing RAM. The Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool in Windows 7 can help you test the RAM chips in your system.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to launch and use the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool.

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Launching Windows Memory Diagnostic

There are actually several ways that you can launch the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool. The method that you will use will depend on your situation.

As I showed you last week, you can launch Windows Memory Diagnostic from the System Recovery Options menu. However, if you are experiencing intermittent problems and can still boot into Windows 7, you can launch the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool by clicking the Start button, selecting Control Panel, and clicking the System and Security icon. When you access the System and Security window, select Administrative Tools. Then, click the Windows Memory Diagnostic icon.

Alternatively, you can click the Start button, type Memory in the Start Search box, and then click the Windows Memory Diagnostic icon.

When you see the Windows Memory Diagnostic dialog box, as shown in Figure A, click the Restart Now and Check for Problems option. When you do, the dialog box will close and your system will automatically restart.

Figure A

To start Windows Memory Diagnostic, click the Restart Now and Check for Problems option.

Running and testing

Regardless of the way you launch it, once the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool screen appears, the test will commence. (Note that in this command-line version, the name now has the word Tool appended to it.) As the test advances, you'll see the progress marked as a percentage and a progress bar, like the one shown in Figure B. As it works, the Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool performs its test by repeatedly writing values to the memory and then reading those values back from memory in order to verify that the data has not changed.

Figure B

Once the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool's white-on-blue screen appears, the test will commence.
By default, Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool runs the Standard test, but you can run two other types of tests. To change the test type, press [F1] to access the Options screen, shown in Figure C.

Figure C

The Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool's Option menu allows you to choose a Basic as well as an Extended type of test.

In the Test Mix section of the Options screen you can chose the Basic test, which runs a limited number of tests, or the Extended test, which runs an exhaustive set of tests. In fact, the Extended mix is so exhaustive that it will often run for eight or more hours.

Each test mix has default cache settings, which should be optimal to that particular test. However, you can use [Tab] to access the Cache section of the screen and choose a custom cache setting. In the case of these tests, the cache being tested is cache on the microprocessor that is used to hold data retrieved from memory modules. While some tests use the cache, other tests disable the cache in order to force the processor to access all the data from the memory module.

Each test will repeat two times by default. However, you can press [Tab] to access the Pass Count section and choose the number of times that you want the test to repeat. Once you make your selections, pressing [F10] will apply the settings and start the test.

As the tests run, the Status area will let you know if problems are found. However, you don't have to stay glued to the screen, because the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool can identify and avoid using the problem section of the chip. By identifying those sections, the tool will allow Windows 7 to start up normally without crashing.

Once Windows restarts and you log on, the test results report will be available from the notification area, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

A pop-up from the notification area will allow you to display the test results report.
You can also find the test results report by using Event Viewer. Just look in the System Event Log under Source and find MemoryDiagnostics-Results and then under Event ID it should read 1201, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

The test results can also be found in Event Viewer.

What's your take?

Have you used the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool to troubleshoot RAM problems before? If so, what were the results? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

6 comments
jorovan
jorovan

I hope windows will upgrade their memory diagnostic tool to display a much more detailed result after the scan and display what RAM has a problem whether RAM 1 or RAM 2 or both, currently it doesn't identify the RAM that has a problem. importantly if a RAM is found to have a problem using this tool it could be a basis to send back the RAM module to the manufacturer and to be replaced with a new one, if this is possible.

akayani
akayani

I've had one module for the laptop that passed all of the memory tests, Windows and Memtest yet failed to load Win 7 64. I think these tools are great but they are not perfect particularly in diagnosing issues for 64bit systems. I did ask for comment from the manufacturer on this but got no response. I'd say if you have an issue you can't rely on these memory testing tools as being able to fully test all memory functions that particularly Win 7 64 uses. Beware! What it seems to me is that they are designed to test 32 bit issues and not 64 bit. I'd be interested to know it others have experienced these issues.

dave
dave

I will try MemTest and Ultimate Boot CD a try.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Has all of the required Utilities to do a Full Diagnostic of the Hardware and allows you to rebuild Windows sometimes. Col

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you had trouble with your RAM lately? What tool did you use to diagnose the problem?