IT Dojo: Investigate RAM problems with Vista’s Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool
November 24, 2008, 7:55am PST | Length: 00:06:46
Application failures, operating system faults, Stop errors: If you see any of these while running Windows Vista, you could have defective or failing RAM. In this IT Dojo video, Bill Detwiler shows you how to investigate possible RAM problems with the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool, included in Vista. Once you’ve watched this IT Dojo video, you can find a link to the original TechRepublic article and print the tip from our IT Dojo Blog.
Bill Detwiler: Application failures, operating system faults, Stop errors: If you see any of these while running Windows Vista, you could have defective or failing RAM.
I'm Bill Detwiler and it this IT Dojo video, I'll show you how to investigate possible RAM problems with the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool, included in Vista.
If you suspect your system instability stems from RAM problems, you can use the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool to test your machine's RAM.
There are several ways to launch the diagnostic tool, depending on how severe your problems are. If you are experiencing intermittent problems but can still boot into Vista, you can launch the tool by clicking the Start button, selecting Control Panel, and clicking the System and Maintenance icon. When you access the System and Maintenance window, select Administrative Tools. Then, click the Memory Diagnostics Tool icon.
You can also click the Start button, type Memory in the Start Search box, and then click the Memory Diagnostics Tool icon. Either way, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond to it.
When you see the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool dialog box, click the Restart Now and Check for Problems option. When you do, the dialog box will close and your system will automatically restart.
If you are experiencing problems booting up Vista, you can run the tool from the Windows Boot Manager menu.
Press and hold down F-8 while the system starts up. When you see the Windows Boot Manager menu, use the arrow key to select the Windows Memory Diagnostic option at the bottom of the screen and press [Enter].
Finally, if you are experiencing major problems booting up Vista, you can run the tool from the Windows Vista DVD. Boot the system from the DVD and follow along until you see the Install Now prompt. When you see the prompt, locate and select the Repair Your Computer option. Once the System Recovery Options menu appears, select the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool option.
Once the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool's white-on-blue screen appears, the test will commence.
As the test advances, you'll see the progress marked as a percentage and a progress bar. As it works, the tool performs its test by repeatedly writing values to the memory and then reading those values from memory in order to verify that the data has not changed.
By default, the tool runs a standard test, but you can run two other types of tests. To change the test type, press [F-1] to access the Options screen.
In the Test Mix section you can chose the Basic mix, which runs a limited number of tests, or the Extended mix, which runs an exhaustive set of tests and could take up to eight or more hours.
Each test mix has default cache settings, which should be optimal to that particular test mix. However, you can press [Tab] to access the Cache section 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 mix 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 [F-10] will save the settings and start the test mix.
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, as the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool can identify and avoid using the problem section of the chip and allow the Vista to start up without crashing. The test results report will be available from the notification area when the system restarts.
You can also find the test results report in the System Event Log under the Source name MemoryDiagnosticsResults and Event ID 1201.
Now, it was nice of Microsoft to include the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool in Vista. But if you're not running Vista, you can still test your RAM using Microsoft's earlier utility named Windows Memory Diagnostic (without the Tool on the end).
The earlier Windows Memory Diagnostic requires you to create a special boot CD or 3.5" floppy from which the program can run.
You can still download Windows Memory Diagnostic from Microsoft's Online Crash Analysis Web page.
While Vista's Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool and the earlier Windows Memory Diagnostic aren't infallible -- some TechRepublic members have complain of false positives or the superiority of hardware-based testers -- they are at least a first step in testing potential memory problems.
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