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How do I test my system memory for errors ?

by Tom Cumming


1. Goto

2. Scroll down to the heading "Memtest86 3.0 Release (22/May/2002)";

3. Click on the link "Download - Pre-Compiled Memtest86 v3.0 installable from Windows and DOS.";

4. Save this file to a temporary location, such as the desktop;

5. When it has downloaded, unzip all the files, again to somewhere temporary like the desktop;

6. Double click on the folder you unzipped all the files to;

7. Run the "Install" (install.bat) batch file by double clicking on it;

8. Type in the drive letter for your floppy disk drive (usually 'a') and press enter;

9. Put a blank formatted floppy disk in the drive and press enter again;

10.Wait a few seconds for the disk to be written to and the window to dissapear;

11.Restart your computer, leaving the disk in the drive;

12.Wait for the blue Memtest screen to appear; [1]

You will then be presented with a horribly complicated window full of lots of technical stuff about your system memory. You can safely ignore all but two things on the screen:

(a): The "Pass" and "Test" bars at the top-right corner of the screen. The testing process is comprised of a series of different tests, each carried out one after another, and the completion of all the tests once is called a "pass". The two bars show how far through the current pass and the current test the program is. You should let it complete at least one "pass", but

(b): The "errors" and "ECC errors" counts, about a third of the way down the screen on the right, is simply incremented every time the program finds anything suspect. The "errors" column indicates faults with the actual memory, and "ECC errors" counts failures of the Error Checking and Correction circuitary in your memory, if fitted. At a very basic level, all you need to know is that if you get to the end of a few passes and either of these figures are reading anything other than zero, your memory is faulty and/or poor quality. If you want to know more detail than that, please read the readme file.

Once you have finished testing, simply eject the floppy drive, press Esc, and your computer will restart and boot back into Windows.

When back in Windows you can delete the temporary files you left on the desktop if you wish.

[1]: If your computer just restarts and boots Windows again, then your computer has not been set up to boot from the floppy disk drive. To fix this, you need to go into your computer's BIOS setup, which is normally done by holding down a key when you first switch on the computer, and may be indicated on the screen with a sentence like "Press F2 to enter setup." Once in the setup program, you should find an option to change the boot order, in which you should set to scan the floppy disk drive (normally 'a'), followed by the hard drive (normally 'c'). This varies from one machine to the next, so refer to your computer or motherboard manual for more information.


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