- Troubleshooting RAM breaks down into one of two areas. A, installation errors. You've made a mistake during installing RAM or adding RAM. The much more scary one, things just suddenly go poof. Let's cover all those. First of all, the most important thing you need to be able to do is look in Windows and say, "How much RAM does Windows see that I have?" To do that... I've got Windows 7 running, but this words the same in every version of Windows covered on the A plus. We're gonna click on the Start button, go to computer, right click on it, and select properties.
This is your system information for this particular system. If you take a look, it says, installed memory RAM, 16 gigabytes of RAM. That's exactly what I have. If I had, let's say I was doing an upgrade, I had eight gigabytes, and I wanted to upgrade to 16, so I put two four gigabyte sticks in there, and this still said eight gigabytes, I probably messed up the RAM. I probably put the wrong speed of RAM in. I messed up the channel. I put different sizes of RAM in, or something really basic like that.
It's always something simple. One of the things that also very important is if you're gonna be upgrading RAM, you have to be able to say, "Well, what RAM is in my computer right now?" If I walk up to your machine, I don't have your motherboard book or anything nine times out of 10. What I'd like to know is exactly how much RAM do you have in your computer, how many sticks, what type, what speed, what everything, so that I can go to the store and buy the RAM without having to come back, open the machine up more than once.
To do that, I've turn to a really powerful tool, good old CPU-Z. Watch this guide. CPU-Z goes a lot further than just for CPUs. In particular, I noticed there's an object called SPD. SPD is a RAM feature called serial presence detect. It's kind of like CPU information, except for RAM. I can literally go through here. It'll show me exactly the type of RAM that I have, and it will tell me how big it is.
This is a four gigabyte stick, but here's the cool part. Look at this. It shows me all the slots. This particular system has eight slots, so I can go through. Nothing in slot number two, something in three, nothing in four. I think I'm getting a pattern here. Five, nothing in six. It ends up in seven, and nothing in eight. I can look at this system automatically and know that I've got four four gigabyte DDR3 1077 sticks in this system.
I don't even have to open the computer. I know that there's four open slots. I can run to the store, get the right RAM, and only have to crawl under this table once to put the right RAM in. Definitely take advantage of powerful tools like CPU-Z that use the SPD feature of your RAM to get the right answers. All right. That's gonna cover the basic stuff. The scary stuff is when RAM dies. There is something called mean time between failures, MTBF.
Everything in this world has an MTBF. RAM has a mean time between failure measured in decades. It will take decades before most RAM will fail on you. Now, that is the assuming you give the RAM good electricity, and you don't kick it, and you don't blow cigarette smoke in it, and do all kinds of evil things to it that makes RAM unhappy. When RAM goes bad out of the blue, it's ugly. Invariably, you'll get either a blue screen of death, or your system simply locks up out of nowhere. You will get reboots.
You will get complete freezes where it just stops moving completely. Sometimes you'll get what I call the melting screen where literally the screen itself starts to decay. All of these errors point to bad RAM. Now, you got two choices here. You can either pull all your RAM out and buy some new RAM, and see if that fixes it, or you can use memory testing tools. The world is separated into those who have Windows 7 and better and those who don't. If you don't, you're gonna have to turn to a wonderful powerful and free tool that's been around for a long, long time, called MemTest86.
Let's take a look at my copy of Windows XP that's actually booting into MemTest86. MemTest86 is a very, very old and well-updated program that does only one thing. It test your memory. What it's doing right now, and this is a very slow process. MemTest86 takes hours to run. MemTest86 is running through my system, and it's just going in and testing my RAM very, very aggressively. You pretty much just boot into it.
By the way, it's not a Windows program. You literally have to boot into MemTest86. You can make an ISO disk and boot off of a optical media. You can boot off a thumb drive, whatever you want, but you have to boot off of it. This is MemTest86. If he finds anything wrong, he'll report it to me, and put it in very easy to read hexadecimal. This is a bit of a frustration with those memory testers, because they don't sit there and say, "That stick is bad." I wish somebody would invent one of those type of testing programs, because I'd buy it.
Instead, they hexadecimal notation. The bottom line is that if a program like MemTest86 shows an error, and it'll say it pretty clearly, "Error at memory location, blah, blah, blah." you know that one of your sticks is bad. Most of us don't have any more than four sticks of RAM, so you use a process of elimination, and try to figure which one is bad. At least the important thing is, is tools like this will tell you you've got bad memory, as opposed to "Gee, do I have bad memory or not?" That's how we got to deal with it if we're before Windows 7.
Now, if you're a Windows 7 or later, it comes with an excellent memory testing tool. Let me show you that. Now, if you're Windows 7, all you have to do is go to control panel, and go under administrative tools. This is a little bit kind of anticlimactic, and find Windows Memory Diagnostic. Now, just like Memory Test 86, he has to run on his own. Now, instead of having to boot to it, what we can do is do a restart, and have it check for problems. We can do it right now, or you can tell it to wait for the next time you restart your computer.
Either one that you chose, when you reboot the computer, you're gonna see a screen surprisingly similar to what you see with MemTest86, where it does pretty much the same thing, even down to the color of the screen. They're very, very similar. The bottom line is that these tools run without Windows in order to aggressively test your memory. Also, keep in mind that they don't really tell you exactly what stick is bad. They just let you know a stick is bad, and then it's through a process of elimination that you get to figure out how to do it. The trick to dealing with bad RAM, and I mean really bad RAM, is to appreciate that no one's gonna point to a particular stick.
You got to take your time, march through it. If you got four sticks, take two out. Is it running good now? Hey, one of those two is bad. Throw them both out and get two new sticks. That's really the process you gotta go through in order to troubleshoot your memory.
The CompTIA A+ 220-901 exam is comprised of six key parts. The first, core processing, is covered by this course. Instructor Mike Meyers explains the fundamentals of PCs, microprocessors, RAM, and BIOS. He also shows you how to set up, connect, maintain, and troubleshoot the main components of a computer.
Note: The six courses designed for the CompTIA A+ (220-901) exam preparation include core processing, core hardware, peripherals and building a PC, displays and printers, networking, and laptops and mobile devices.
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- How do personal computers (PCs) work?
- What is a central processing unit (CPU)?
- When is random access memory (RAM) used?
- What is a basic input/output system (BIOS)?
- Installing a CPU
- Working with extensions and sockets
- Troubleshooting RAM
- Setting up a BIOS