Random Crashes and Blue Screens? Check for Bad RAM

Faulty RAM is one of the more pernicious and elusive causes of frequent system crashes, blue screens, inability to startup and other issues. Unfortunately, users may not realize that they have bad RAM, and may instead search out software conflicts or other potential causes for their problems.


If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned issues, especially in a repeated fashion or when running specific, memory intensive applications (a number of users have reported memory issue flare-ups when playing demanding games), your best bet is to test for faulty RAM with a utility such as Memtest86 or RAM Probe.

Both of the aforementioned tools must be run from a floppy disk, CD-ROM or external USB drive.

We’ll run through some basic instructions for installing and running Memtest86 from a burned CD (the most common method):

  1. Download the Memtest86 Windows ISO (disk image)
  2. Extract the resulting ZIP file, which will include an ISO file.
  3. Launch your CD burning application of choice (you can use a 15-day free trial of Nero if you don’t have one–if you use Nero, choose “Burn Image” and select the ISO file).
  4. Select the ISO file using your CD burning application and press burn (or record). Do not simply copy the ISO file to a disc–you need to burn it as an image. In most CD burning applications, you can select “Open” then choose the Memtest86 ISO file.
  5. Once the CD is finished recording, leave it in your drive then restart your computer. If the system does not automatically boot into the Memtest86 program, restart and again, and while the computer is booting, quickly tap the F2 key to enter setup (for most computers), and select the newly burned Memtest86 disc as your boot disc

Now you will be in the Memtest86 test center. The test will take some time to complete–let it run for at least one hour. After this period of time, you may see one or more of a series of errors.

If errors are displayed, remove one or more RAM modules then run the test again. You can also try rotating modules to different slots and check for elimination of the errors. For a full list of error Memtest86 messages, see this page.

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