How to Test Memory – Test Bad Memory in a PC

Testing Memory:

This is an article about how to test memory that you have recently purchased or may be giving you problems. It is a good idea to test your new memory to make sure it will not give you problems down the road. This guide will also help you diagnose whether existing memory you have is faulty or is producing errors on your system.

“The Blue Screen of Death”, which you may see referred to as “BSOD” can be a common sign that the memory you have might be faulty. This is what happens when you are working on your PC and the screen goes completely blue and displays an error message that looks like a bunch of zeros and letters. The specific message does not give you much insight as to what may be going on unless you are an advanced user. But the act of the system displaying a blue screen is a good sign that you either need to reinstall your operating system or need to test your memory for problems.

Three other common signs of a memory problem or conflict can be if the system errors out during installations of software. Another sign can be if your system randomly reboots while you are working on it. The final symptom can be corrupted files that you have recently created or downloaded. The system will usually give you an error saying a file is corrupted in this case, although this is the least common of the three problems mentioned.

If you are running into these issues you may want to consider doing a diagnostic of your memory since a reinstall can fail if the memory is in fact faulty.

What Software do I Need to do a Diagnostic ?

There are two main programs people recommend for testing your memory. They are “MS Memory Diagnostic” which is provided by Microsoft, and “Memtest86” which can be found by searching through or going to their homepage at:

I usually recommend that people use both programs since one program can sometimes pick things up that the other program missed.

Now let’s talk about how to get these programs and how to set them up. In some cases if you are having lots of memory problems you may not be able to work on your PC long enough to get each one setup and burned to CD. If this is the case there are two things you can do.

The first thing you can try is an old fashioned way of ruling out bad memory. It relies on you having at least two sticks of memory or more in your system. If you do have several sticks of memory, in most cases only one will go bad and the others can still be working fine. You can check for this by removing all your memory from the system, and then replacing it one stick at a time.

When you add one stick back into the system, run the computer and see if you are still getting memory errors. If only one stick is bad and it is currently out of the system you should be able to get your diagnostic discs setup since you will now be running more stable. This procedure in itself can rule out which stick is at fault although it helps to have diagnostic information when you apply for return authorization from the company you purchased your memory from.

If the above method does not help and you are still unable to get you PC to a point where it is stable enough for you to make your diagnostic disc, I would recommend checking with a friend and seeing if you can use their PC to make your disc. Or if you have access to a computer at work you can usually make the disc there too. Just check with your supervisor and make sure that it is not a problem if you do.

Continued in the following sections:



How to Use MS Memory Diagnostic – Guide & Tutorial

How Do I Setup MS Memory Diagnostic ?

First we will cover setting up the “MS Memory Diagnostic Disc”. The first thing you need to do is download a copy of the program from Microsoft.  In Internet Explorer for go to the “TOOLS” menu and select “Windows Update”. If you are not using Internet Explorer you can also search for “Windows Update” and it should be the first link returned in your search.

[You may have problems with the Windows Update site if you are not using Internet Explorer. Microsoft has made changes that can sometimes conflict with other browsers, so if you don't normally run IE you may need to in order to access this part of the site.]

Once you are on the Windows Update site you should see a search field in the top right hand corner of your screen. Type in “Memory Diagnostic” and click search. The first link in your search results should be “Microsoft Online Crash Analysis“. Click on this link and it will take you to the page you can download the software from. At the top of the page you will see three blue links and the middle one should be “Download Windows Memory Diagnostic”. Click on this link and save the “mtinst.exe” file to your desktop.

Once the file has finished downloading double click on the new “mtinst.exe” file that should have appeared on your desktop. It will bring up the license agreement which you will need to “accept” in order to use the software. Once you have done this it will open a small program window that will give you two options.

CREATE STARTUP DISC [How to Create a Bootable Floppy Disc]

SAVE CD IMAGE TO DISC [How to Create a Bootable CD-ROM Disc]

Once you have completed one of the previous sections and created a bootable floppy disc, or bootable CD-Rom disc you should be ready to start the diagnostic. Follow the above guides which pertain to the specific disc you made for how to boot from that type of media.

In a perfect world you should just be able to put either your CD or floppy disc in the system, and it should automatically boot into the diagnostic program.

Running a Diagnostic:

Once the diagnostic program has started you will notice 3 main sections to the program. The first section is a top window with progress bars. There is a number displayed in this section which says pass 1/6 and changes according to what cycle of the diagnostic the program is on. Once it has passed 6/6 the program has completed one full cycle of testing and this is considered a completed tested. You can let it run longer for a more thorough test but 1 cycle is usually enough to find serious faults in your memory.

The next section is in the middle which has a PASS field on the left hand side. This will show you what diagnostic it is currently performing on the memory. This is color coded which helps. You basically want only GREEN and BLUE text. This means your memory is testing fine, and the program has not found any problems. If you see any section in here turn up in RED it means the program has found a problem with your memory. If this occurs write down a note of what test it was performing when this happened. This can help you give tech departments more information when applying for a return authorization on your memory.

The last section is a results field at the bottom of the program. If the program completes one full cycle [or several if you are being very thorough] you should see a message that says “No errors have been found“. If you noticed any RED text come up in the program during the diagnostic, as mentioned above, you will see what looks like a memory dump at the bottom of the screen. This is similar to the error message that is displayed during a Blue Screen of Death in windows.

After the diagnostic is complete, either eject your disc and boot back into Windows. Or if you are testing multiple sticks of memory leave the disc in the system, and power down. Once you have powered down disconnect your AC cable and remove the first stick of memory you tested and add the next stick into the system that you want to test.

[You can test numerous sticks of memory at once if you like, but this is only helpful when determining that all your memory is working fine. If you are testing numerous sticks and the diagnostic does detect problems, you will need to remove all your memory and test the sticks one by one to determine which one/s is being affected by the problem.]

You now have most everything you need to know about setting up and testing your memory with diagnostic programs. This guide should help you get to the source of any intermittent problems related to your memory.

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