Testing RAM with Memtest86+

Memtest86+ stress tests a computer's random access memory (RAM) for errors. Easy to run, it is one of the first diagnostic tools I use when facing a problem of unknown origin. …

You can download Memtest86+ from the project site, but since it comes bundled with Mandriva Linux installation DVDs and live CDs, I use those. Boot the machine to be tested from the DVD or CD, select "Memory Test", and away you go.

Memtest86+ provides a lot of information, but you don't need to know anything beyond this:

  • Memtest86+ will continue to cycle through the tests indefinitely until you manually stop it by pressing the Escape key. One cycle through all the tests is called a pass, and the program shows you what pass you are currently on. In the screenshot, we are on "pass 0", meaning we haven't yet finished the first pass.
  • For a thorough check, let the program finish ten passes or so. Letting it run overnight is an easy way to do this. If all you need is a quick check, a single pass is sufficient to catch most errors.
  • Even a single result that appears in red means you almost certainly have a hardware problem, usually (though not exclusively) RAM. Let the program finish one full pass (see screen shot), then consult the documentation for troubleshooting tips.


About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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