How to Detect if Bad RAM is causing problems with your Laptop

Published: 02nd November 2011
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RAM chips are located inside your laptop and may consist of one or two chips. It is very common for one or sometimes both RAM chips to partially or completely fail. A partial fail would occur when one or more bits or bytes cannot be read or written to reliably every time. A complete fail occurs when none of the RAM can be read or written to.
You may notice any of the following that may be caused by a faulty or failing RAM chip that is located inside the laptop:-
1. The laptop will not power up to a bios screen; the power lights usually come on and sometimes the internal speaker may beep. Most laptops do a partial test of the RAM on power up and will not produce a picture if this test cannot be done due to a failed chip, however, if there is a partial failure of the RAM chip a bios screen may be seen with a RAM error message. The laptop’s own RAM test is not usually extensive and may not indicate a fault when there is only a partial RAM fault. The laptop may not power up when ‘hot’. Sometimes, RAM will fail when it has warmed up preventing the laptop restarting when it has been on for some time. If the laptop is left long enough to completely cool down then it may start correctly.
2. The laptop may show a bios screen and start to load Windows. At some time in between, the load may stop and crash randomly every time the laptop is powered up. This would usually occur due to a partially faulty RAM; as Windows loads and using different RAM locations it may access a faulty byte and crash. Strange screen effects may be seen depending on where the faulty byte or bytes are located in the RAM.
3. The laptop may power up as normal and then crash or restart at random during use. This may occur due to either a partial or complete RAM failure. Sometimes a RAM chip will fail completely or partially as it warms up.
4. If regular ‘blue screens of death’ are seen either during power up or normal use then the RAM may be faulty or failing especially if the error says ‘IRQL_Less_or_Not_Equal’, however, viruses and other hardware failure could give the same indicators.
5. Sometimes the laptop will apparently work normally but will ‘lock up’ or reset when a particular program is run. This often occurs with large programs that make a lot of use of graphics especially if only a few bytes are faulty in a RAM chip. If may only occur after several hours use when the RAM chip has fully reached its operating temperature.
6. Occasionally, the screen graphics will distort or change to blocks or lines, the laptop may still seem to work or maybe crash. This may indicate a RAM chip fault; however, it is more likely to be a faulty graphics chip or graphics RAM fault.
Unfortunately, many of the crashes listed above can be caused by faults other than defective RAM, however by swapping and changing RAM chips should allow diagnosis. Laptops may come with one or two RAM chips. If there are two RAM chips then remove each in turn and see if the fault is corrected. If so then you have probably isolated the faulty RAM chip. If you only have one RAM chip inside your laptop then you could try swapping it for a new chip. There are many RAM test programs available; however, they are not always reliable at diagnosing partial RAM chip failure. Sometimes it is necessary to change the RAM to eliminate partial RAM chip faults.
I have spent many years successfully repairing broken laptops. Rarely is it necessary to replace the faulty laptop motherboard. laptop repair at motherboard level is not easy but is always a challenge.

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