RAM Failures

Bad RAM is somehow harder to diagnose as similar symptoms may be caused by software problems, other hardware problems or even motherboard failure. However if you experience any of these symptoms, you should check for bad RAM before attempting any other troubleshooting.

Symptoms:

  • Windows doesn’t start showing different error messages each time.
  • Windows crashes (blue screen) or freezes frequently.
  • Windows crashes as soon as you try to start a program.
  • Unexplained random crashes and freezes without error messages.

Troubleshooting:

Download Memtest86+ and burn it to a CD or make a floppy. For CD get the “Pre-Compiled Bootable ISO (.zip)” and for floppy (if you can start your laptop from a floppy drive) get the “Pre-Compiled package for Floppy (DOS – Win)”. If you are making a CD, you will have to “burn” the ISO image to the CD, not just copy it. There are numerous guides how to do that with different CD burning software (you cannot do it with the build-in Windows CD burning). In general you need to find where on the menus of your favourite CD burning program it says something like “Create CD from Image” or “Burn Image to Disk” or similar. Then select the .iso image file and burn it. If your laptop crashes a lot and you cannot make the Memtest CD or floppy, ask a friend or talk to your local repair shop and ask them to make one for you (it probably will be $5-$10).

Start the laptop from the CD/floppy and let Memtest86 run for a couple of hours. To start your laptop from the CD you may need to select a temporary boot device by pressing F12, F11 or F8 as soon as the logo appears on the screen (2-3 sec. after turning it on) or immediately after entering the BIOS/HD password if you have set one. If that doesn’t work, you will have to change the boot order in the BIOS. To do that try pressing F1, F2 or “Esc” (for Toshiba) to get to the BIOS settings and make the CD the first booting device.

If Memtest86 finds errors (there usually will be thousands of them) try removing one of the RAM chips (if your laptop has two of them) and run Memtest86 again.

Most laptops have two RAM slots that are easily accessible under a tab on the bottom. Others have just one slot there and the other is under the keyboard, on some there is RAM soldered on the motherboard (Toshiba), and a few laptops have just one RAM slot.

Removing laptop RAM: remove the screws, touch an exposed metal part of the laptop with both your hands (usually the VGA connector has two visible screws that you can touch to discharge any static electricity), then release both clips that hold the RAM and it will pop up. Hold the RAM on the sides (avoid touching the chips) and gently pull it out. To install, insert back the RAM and gently push it down until it locks in place.On some laptops the RAM is under the keyboard, or one chip is on the bottom of the laptop as described above, and another is under the keyboard. It is usually very easy to remove the keyboard on almost all laptops. Try to find the service manual for your model and find the description there. Alternatively, there are step-by-step picture guides on the Internet for most laptop models.

Memtest86 will run until you stop it by pressing “Esc” key. If your laptop freezes or restarts by itself while running the RAM test, it either is overheating or has another hardware problem.

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