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Memory testing software, can you rely on it?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Bluerinse, Nov 16, 2006.

  1. Bluerinse
    Honorary Member

    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

    I recently bought a pre-configured box from a supplier and it was as flaky as hell. I had no end of issues just trying to install XP on it, loads of errors saying that files couldn't be copied from the DVD drive to the SATA HDD. I rang the suppliers and they said that before they release any PCs they always run a battery of tests including RAM tests and this PC passed with flying colours.

    Hmmm, well I tried another optical drive with the same results, tried one stick of 512 RAM instead of both and managed to get the OS to load with less issues than before. Well I can spot a dodgy new box with my eyes shut and I knew something was awry with this baby. So, after faffing around with it for too long and being spammed with more error messages than you could shake a stick at, I returned the box back to the suppliers. They checked the RAM again and it passed their soak test 100%. They decided as it wasn't the RAM they would change the MOBO. I took it home, fired it up and it started playing up again, one error after another, all spurious and uninformative. Then even with no applications open up pops explorer.exe has a problem and needs to close. For those in the know this means the Windows shell itself, then Dr Watson pops up (error reporting tool) and it crashes. On a re-boot the same thing happens straight away.

    I decide to do a repair and 75% through I get a pop up error svhost.exe tried to access memory at address bla bla bla - the memory could not be read! I took a picture of this screen and emailed to the supplier, stating that I wanted new RAM, preferably a different batch, as despite what their tests have shown I believed the RAM was FUBAR'd.

    They agreed, so I pulled out the RAM using my well practiced ASD approach and put it into a nice Anti-static bag and returned it to them. The guy gave me two new sticks from a different manufacturer and then proceeded to handle the RAM I gave him, with no anti-static precautions at all, so that he could put the numbers into his computer. He was a salesman, clearly not a tech guy!

    Got the RAM home, stuck it in the slots, powered the baby up and bob's your uncle, I now have a perfectly stable PC to configure and deliver to my customer.

    Moral of the story - don't trust memory testing software, it might not give you an accurate diagnosis.

    I wasted hours and lost money in petrol, wear and tear and had a lot of stress. Be warned.
    Certifications: C&G Electronics - MCSA (W2K) MCSE (W2K)
  2. Raffaz

    Raffaz Kebab Lover Gold Member

    I thought the only proper way to test a RAM module is with some type of machine, but they are to expensive for the normal home user, is this correct? Glad ya got it sorted in the end
    Certifications: A+, MCP, MCDST, AutoCAD
    WIP: Rennovating my house
  3. hbroomhall

    hbroomhall Petabyte Poster Gold Member

    It is a fairly accepted truism that it is *very* difficult to test memory properly in a machine.

    The usual alternate way of doing this test is to do a 'make world' on a Unix box - this stress tests quite a lot.

    However - there is a reasonable well accepted tester available (for free) called Memtest86. I have a bootable CD with this on, and it has pointed out dodgy memory occasionaly. The main problem with this test is that if you switch on *all* the tests the complete cycle can last for more than a day! And you are supposed to run multiple cycles.

    Certifications: ECDL A+ Network+ i-Net+
    WIP: Server+
  4. Kerfuffle

    Kerfuffle Nibble Poster

    Trouble is, did they actually do ANY sort of test on it, or did they just tell you that to make you feel that they were as dedicated to finding the problem as you. When, in reality, it got stored away and/or shipped with another machine.

    "Err, look send him a new mobo instead and see how he gets on with that"

    Certifications: A+, Network+, ITIL v3, 70-270
    WIP: 70-290
  5. Bluerinse
    Honorary Member

    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

    Well they seemed pretty convinced that the RAM was not the problem, because it passed the tests. Changing the MOBO was not only a more hassle but a waste of my time and theirs.

    Harry, I have used Memtest86 and have a bootable CD too, and I agree the burn in tests take forever to run. I don't know what they used but it was software and they RAN the test whilst I waited (about 45 mins). It's one of those places where you have to wait in the showroom whilst the tech guy takes it out the back and does stuff you can't supervise.
    Certifications: C&G Electronics - MCSA (W2K) MCSE (W2K)

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