If your Windows machine is regularly crashing, freezing, or giving you the dreaded blue screen of death, it could have defective physical memory. Luckily, modern versions of Windows have a built-in tool to help you test for this.
If Windows detects that your RAM might be failing, it'll automatically run the Memory Diagnostic tool when the machine boots. However, you can also run the tool yourself.
To do this:
- Open the Control Panel
- Click Administrative Tools
- Click Windows Memory Diagnostic. [You can also launch the tool by entering "mdsched" in the search bar.]
- Select "Restart now and check for problems" or "Check for problems the next time I start my computer" [If you opt to restart and run the tool now, just be sure to save your work and close any open programs for before doing so.]
- Select your memory test options and run the test [Once the machine restarts, the tool will launch and run the memory test. You can press F1 to change the test options or just let it run with the standard settings.]
- Let the test run [The test could take a few minutes.]
Once the test if complete, Windows will continue to start and a pop-up will eventually appear showing the results. You can also view the results by opening the Event Viewer, clicking Windows Logs, clicking System, and then selecting the most recent log with MemoryDiagnostics-Results as the source.
If you're lucky, you'll see "no errors". If you see anything else, it might be time to replace your RAM or at the very least contact your machines manufacturer for more help.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.