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 Memtest86 – Memtest 86 Tutorial & Guide

Setting Up Memtest86:

When you go to the Memtest86 homepage you will see a “download” link at the very top of their page. If you follow this link it will take you to a page with 4 main links at the top. 90% of our users are going to want to download the third link down the page [This is the link for the Windows version of the program] labeled:

Download – Memtest86 v3.2 ISO image (zip)

I recommend saving the file to your desktop so it is easy to find. Once you have the file you will need to extract if from the ZIP file. If you are running Windows XP you should just be able to double click on the ZIP file and the drag it to your desktop. Otherwise if you are running an older version of Windows you will need to download Winzip which can be found at the follow link:

You do not need to buy this program as the evaluation version they offer will do all the basic things you need it to, to extract this file. Once you have Winzip installed follow the above instructions and double click on the file, and then drag the file you see in the window to your desktop.

The file you should have extracted from the above examples is labeled:


[NOTE: Memtest86 only allows for creating a bootable diagnostic CD. If you do not have a CD Burner and are unable to create the diagnostic disc, you may want to refer to the guide on "Setting Up MS Memory Diagnostic" which will give you two options for creating a disc.]

Burning The Program to CD:

As you can see from looking at the file extension this is an ISO file indicated by the .ISO at the end of the filename. An ISO file, also known as an “Image” file is used to burn an exact copy of a file or program within certain CD burning software. One program that works great for burning these types of files is “Nero Burning Rom”. If you have this program you are good to go. If not you can download the program from the following location:

If you do not want to purchase this software, you can look for the “Free Trial” version on their site which will let you use the basic functions of the software needed to burn the ISO file. Once you have Nero downloaded and installed you open up your “memtest86-3.2.iso” file into Nero so that you can burn the diagnostic program to CD.

You need to open the file in Nero a certain way to make to make sure that it burns the ISO file correctly. To do this, right click on the file and it will bring up a menu of options. You want to select the “Open With” option from the menu. Once you have selected this it will open an “Open With” dialog that will display all the software that are currently installed on your system

If you have installed Nero correctly you should be able to scroll down the list and select Nero and then click “OK”. If you like you an leave the “Always use this program to open these files” option checked [or add a check if it is not] and in the future your computer will know to always open ISO image files in Nero so you can burn them.

Once you have selected OK Nero will open automatically and take you to the “Image Recording – Write a premastered image” window. You can leave the options that are set at their defaults and then click the “next” button in the lower right hand corner.

At this point Nero should begin the “Burning Process” which will show you a percentage bar of how much time is left on the program for burning your CD. Since this is such a small file, the burn process should only take about 1 minute and then it will pop up with a window that says

Burn process completed successfully at 40x (6,000 KB/s)

Or something similar to that, you are mainly checking to make sure it says it completed successfully. Click ok on the success window and then click the “next” button in the lower right corner one more time to finish your diagnostic disc.

At this point the program should automatically eject your disc from the system at which point you can close down Nero since we are done using it. I would recommend putting the disc back into the system and then checking through Windows Explorer to make sure you see data on the disc as another method to verify the disc was burned successfully.

Through Windows Explorer click on your CD-Rom drive. If the data has been burned correctly you should see a “BOOT” folder on your CD. If this is there the diagnostic program has been burned correctly.

Once you have verified that your disc is good to go, you can leave it in the drive and reboot the system to start the memory diagnostic. I will only be giving a brief rundown of the program and interface since Memtest86 offers a comprehensive guide to their program on the page you downloaded the file from. If you want more information than what is included here please refer back to that page.

Running the Diagnostic Program:

The basic diagnostic screen has five main sections of relevant information. Three at the top which are labeled, PASS %, TEST %, and TEST #. This will basically show you the total progress of the current test, the overall progress of the diagnostic test, and the test number is currently performing.

On the middle left hand side of the of the program interface there is a “Wall Time” section that will keep track of how long the diagnostic test has been running for. This just gives you an idea if you are not attending the testing process.

The main section to look for is the lower half of the screen which is usually blank. As long as the memory testing is going ok with no errors this section of the screen should remain blank. If the diagnostic program finds any serious faults in the memory you will see it display a memory dump of address’s in this section. This is similar to what is displayed on your screen when you encounter a blue screen of death.

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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