In a break from Hugo, this month we’re going to look at memory, specifically an experience I’ve just had with upgrading my PC’s memory.
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The adventure begins
I’ve been using my current custom built PC (by me) since 2019. I did so as to be able to create the quietest machine I could (I suffer from permanent Tinnitus) and yet have something I could do everything on, development, games and photography / video. Due to costs / budget at the time, I went with 16GB of RAM, which has been for the most part sufficient. I also went for a case with a glass side panel, something perhaps not really necessary but found I was selecting more game machine orientated components to get the durability and performance I wanted during the research process. Which, by the way, PC Part Picker (uk.pcpartpicker.com) really helped. As a consequence and positioning of the computer behind my monitor, I’ve been staring at two empty RAM slots ever since. Then in late October 2023 whilst watching a game load and take more and more RAM, then eating into the paging file on the HDD, I decided that it was finally time to populate them.
Doing my research, carefully as I always do, I found and ordered the exact same memory from the same manufacture and as it turned out, supplier. This is to ensure that its as matched as it can be and operate in the exact same way as what I have already. Even though I could have gone for an additional 32GB, I stuck with 16GB, meaning that I’d go from two to four 8GB identical memory modules. Upon arrival, I eagerly did my earthing / anti-static precautions and connected up the grounding plug to the case, touching the radiator to be sure I’d discharged any static build-up. Installing the memory was then straightforward, followed by putting everything back together, turning on, checking what the BIOS stated then booting up and the OS reporting the updated amount. All good, or so I thought!
Strange things happen
PC is happy, I’m working away, then suddenly a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), oh no! Recover from that, do a few checks, odd but continue anyway. Then more odd crashes happen, but not a BSOD. Have I somehow caught a virus / malware? Humm, better test the memory, but how? That’s when I remembered about MemTest86 (www.memtest86.com), downloaded, flashed to a spare USB drive, booted from it then let the tests begin. Everything seems fine until ominously, test 13, a ‘Hammer’ test. Reading up on it (www.memtest86.com/tech_individual-test-descr.html) I thought, ok! Only that test failing and it seems to be a bit of an edge case, so rebooted and kept going.
More oddities, really odd in fact! I’d downloaded a copy of Ubuntu as an ISO file to use in a virtual machine. Its not exactly small, 4.5 GB or so and can be verified as being correct by its checksum (ubuntu.com/tutorials/how-to-verify-ubuntu#6-check-the-iso). Not good, the checksum was incorrect. Humm, rebooted, downloaded a new copy and checked again, now fine. Continued working, then started to create a virtual machine with the ISO file. Ubuntu complains on installation that the checksums are wrong. What is going on? Rechecked the ISO file and ‘what!’, the checksum has changed. Rechecked again and its changed again! In fact, every time I do so the checksum changes.
Rebooted and checked the checksum and its what it should be! Really odd. This all happened over a few days as I was having other issues, thinking that it could also be a recent driver update (WinDbg – learn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-hardware/drivers/debugger/crash-dump-files) and looking up the meaning of the codes. Several restores, SFC and DISM (support.microsoft.com/en-gb/topic/use-the-system-file-checker-tool-to-repair-missing-or-corrupted-system-files-79aa86cb-ca52-166a-92a3-966e85d4094e), safe mode restores later, still having issues! But strangely only after the machine had been on for a while.
Back to MemTest86
Ran test 13 only a few times, fine, passed. Kept using the computer, still got issues. So ran the tests again using the default configuration and fail:
I’ve been using the XMP profile (help.corsair.com/hc/en-us/articles/360025282412-Run-DRAM-at-its-Rated-Speed-with-XMP) in the BIOS to overclock the RAM at the settings set by the manufacturer, so decided to turn that off and retest at the standard speed, again fail:
Looking at ‘Why am I only getting errors during Test 13 Hammer Test?’ (www.memtest86.com/troubleshooting.htm#hammer) and below it seems that I can’t rely on the memory address to identify the specific module, however it was now clear that the new memory could be at fault, so took it out and reran the tests:
Pass! Given the information on the MemTest86 site and what I’ve been experiencing then my only option was ‘Replace the RAM modules’. I reported my results to the supplier, sent back the memory and they replaced it.
Back to normal
Anxiously I installed the replacement memory and reran the tests, pass!
And to be sure, I ran all of the default configured four passes. At last after many hours and lots of strained hair pulling (of my own hair), all seems to be well and has been so far.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about my little adventure. I’ve certainly learnt lots, the hard way, by doing so and welcome any comments you may have.