Memory Failure - Smash That Computer

Smash it, before it smashes you!
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Memory Failure

Fix It!

Humans are a bit like computers...when we get older we sometimes suffer from memory failure!
While it may inconvenience us (and is seldom life threatening), for a computer memory failure can lead to major problems.
Computers (a bit like like humans) have two kinds of memory - SHORT TERM and LONG TERM. Long term is usually in the form of HARD DISK storage. That's where all of our programs and files (like word processing and picture files) are kept. Short term memory is used for storing information while the computer CPU (Central Processing Unit) calculates stuff. It's only stored while the power is on, and then is lost. This type of memory is called RAM (Random Access Memory). If your RAM is faulty, it can cause the computer to stop working properly...or even to refuse to start at all!

RAM on board

I will be taking some photographs soon that show the best way to test memory to see if it is working properly. Your computer has some built in ways of testing memory already, called BEEP CODES. If, when you first turn it on the computer gives a series of long beeps, that can mean your memory (or video) has failed.
One thing that you can do then (if you have more than one stick of memory in your computer), is to remove one stick and see if the computer starts normally. Then swap it with the others. You might be able to diagnose your first computer fault!

Like many computer related tasks, there are a few safety precautions to follow! This may seem weird, but touch a faucet (that's a tap for those in these parts) before you touch your memory. This helps remove the potential for static electricity to damage your memory when it is handled.

USB Floppy

The Ultimate memory test Tool!

This one is for the more advanced user, but is the best way to test if your memory has any faults. To do this you will need to download a program called Memtest86. The latest versions run from CD or USB Flash Drive, but the earlier ones can be run on a floppy disk. If you already have a floppy drive, you can insert a disk, download Memtest onto it (it formats the floppy in the process) and restart your machine to boot from the floppy drive (If you have no floppy drive, try to get one that uses USB like the one pictured. That way you can take it from machine to machine). I now use the program on a CD, but you need image burning software to do this. I still have my USB floppy in case I need it!

The Memtest site has all the instructions on how to set it up - the new version is called Memtest 86+

Memtest86 starts running and it's sole task is to put your memory through a set of tests to see if it passes as OK. Some memory appears fine on the first few passes, but errors can suddenly come up when it gets put under stress, so it's good to run Memtest for at least a couple of hours (even overnight!) in case this happens. When an error occurs, you can isolate it to a particular memory stick by removing them all and testing one at a time. Throw the old stick away (don't be tempted to sell it) and replace.

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