How to test PC memory


Random access memory, more commonly referred to as RAM or PC memory, is volatile memory used to temporarily store data only when the computer is switched on. Compared to conventional storage drives, RAM is ludicrously fast and is used to quickly swap in-and-out and access the necessary data for applications to properly function.
RAM is easily one of the more problematic computer components to diagnose. As when it fails, it fails spectacularly, resulting in instantaneous crashes and the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.
RAM can go from perfectly fine to practically unusable with no in-between, leaving you utterly dumfounded as to what’s happening with your system. It’s not like a gradually failing graphics card, where there’s distinctive visual clues like artifacting and corruption clearly alarm you of their unwanted presence.
It’s a nerve-racking event when your RAM suddenly fails, as it’s easy to jump to the worrying conclusion your entire PC is completely screwed. Fortunately, testing RAM is a rather straight-forward procedure, requiring barely any fine-tuned manual adjustments or fiddly tweaks. Here’s our recommended methods for testing PC memory.


First and foremost, we’d try slowly dialling back any RAM overclocks or XMP profiles and seeing if the situation improves. This is done through the BIOS. Entering the BIOS varies widely from computer to computer, so the admittedly desperate but go-to method is frantically spamming either the Delete, F2, F10 or F12 keys.
The instructions will flash on the screen for a split-second during boot, but if you’re understandably not able to catch them, refer back to the ol’ reliable system or motherboard manually for precise guidance.
You unfortunately might’ve received an overly sensitive stick which can’t handle its rated speed, or its clocks were set too fast accidentally. Your RAM is still technically faulty, but if disabling the overclock alleviates the issues, it buys you more time to properly diagnose the RAM and await a replacement.
An important consideration to communicate is RAM tends to come installed across multiple sticks (or ‘DIMMs’). Multi-channel configurations are especially common on higher-end gaming PCs.
If you’re having RAM troubles, it doesn’t necessarily mean every RAM stick is faulty. A single stick could be the troublesome source, tripping up your entire PC in the process. If you’re comfortable handling components, try opening your computer and removing any additional DIMMs so only one is installed at a time.
This is a hands-on method to quickly test your RAM if your experiencing constant crashes. By isolating down to an individual stick, you know you’ve caught the culprit if it continually crashes like before. If it doesn’t, power off and swap your available sticks until you’ve located the correct one.
Out of all the PC components, RAM is generally agreed to be the simplest to handle by far, as there’s no need to worry about awkward cables or screws. If you intend to attempt the above method for yourself, here’s a quick run-down of the installation process.
If you’ve only got one PC memory stick or need more concrete evidence and credentials to back up your claim, we’ve chosen a couple of our preferred software methods – Windows Diagnostic Tool and MemTest86. 

Windows Diagnostic Tool

For those running Windows, a handy tool built directly into the operating system itself. As such, there’s no download links or external programs, simply search for and launch ‘Windows Memory Diagnostic’ using the Windows search bar.
You’ll be prompted to either restart now or start the diagnoses process the next time your PC starts, whenever suits your schedule best. Windows will automatically restart and boot into the testing procedure, so ensure your essential documents are saved before clicking anything.
The tool’s interface may look a bit daunting and primitive, something from decades past, but you won’t have to interact with it at all. Everything’s automated and will boot back into Windows once completed.
The test is fairly extensive, not as in-depth as our other recommended tool, but it’ll still take several minutes to complete. Progress bars may slow down or outright stall for minutes at a time, but don’t panic. Testing RAM is a complicated matter, as it takes multiple passes of varying intensity to identify any issues. It’ll eventually finish and once rebooted, Windows will spring up with a notification showing the outcome.
It can take a weirdly excessive amount of time for the notification to appear, though. To manually access the results, search for and launch ‘Event Viewer’ using the Windows search bar.
From here, select ‘Windows Logs’ in the left pane, then right-click ‘System’. From the drop-down menu, select ‘Find’ and search for ‘MemoryDiagnostics-Results’.
Back in the main Event Viewer window in the bottom-middle pane, you’ll see the test results under the General tab.


While the Windows diagnostic tool is a quick and easy affair, RAM issues are insidious, rearing their ugly head potentially hours after you’ve run the test. To ensure you’ve precisely pinpointed to root cause of the problem, a more comprehensive test is required – MemTest86.
It boots directly from a USB drive before the operating system is initialized, so it’ll work on any x86 or ARM computer, using a stringent series of battle-tested algorithms in development for over two decades. If there’s a problem, MemTest86 will find it. If it doesn’t, you’ll know for definite the RAM isn’t the issue.
The set-up process is a bit more involved requiring a download, a sacrificial USB drive to format and quickly entering boot menu. We’ll walk you through the entire process.
First, download MemTest86 here and extract the zip file to a dedicated folder. Plug in a USB you’re entirely comfortable with wiping blank, as MemTest86 needs a freshly formatted drive to install itself to. Navigate to the folder you extracted to and run ‘imageUSB.exe’.
The software interface is a bit overwhelming, but there’s only two steps needed. There’s no need change any settings, the out-of-the-box defaults are recommended.
Double check against ours if necessary. With your USB drive plugged in, simply select it in the top panel, click ‘Write’ and wait for the program to complete the installation process.
Leaving the USB drive plugged in, reboot your system and enter the boot menu. This process is practically identical to entering the BIOS as previously mentioned.
In the boot menu, select the USB drive to boot from and after a short while you’ll soon be presented with the MemTest86 start screen.
Click ‘Config’, then on the following screen select ‘(S)tart Test’ and let the test begin.
The noteworthy distinction between Windows Diagnostic Tool and MemTest86 is the sheer thoroughness of the test. Depending on the amount and capacity of RAM, this test can easily take multiple hours. If you want to fully complete the test, you won’t be using your computer for a lengthy amount of time. Honestly, it’s common practice to leave it running overnight and waiting till morning to see if it threw up an bright-red error message under the error column.

Test complete

If you encounter an error and need replacement PC memory, 


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