Troubleshooting Category One Memory Problems

Troubleshooting Category 1 Memory Problems

If you haven’t added any new hardware, and you haven’t made any changes to the existing hardware (e.g. you haven’t been inside the PC case for any reason), this narrows the possibilities considerably.

You suspect the problem resulted from an external source:
If you suspect that your computer, or any of its components, may have been damaged as the result of a brown-out, power surge or spike (power pulse in excess of the normal power line voltage), a lightening strike to a power or telephone line in the neighborhood or directly at your location, we recommend that you proceed no further and make arrangements to have you PC inspected by a competent professional. If you have insurance, you may also want to contact your insurance representative.

Someone accidentally unplugged the computer, or there was a momentary loss of power:
If the power problem you experienced is limited to that of someone accidentally unplugging the computer, or just a momentary loss of power, and the memory problem suddenly appeared, then the following may help you diagnose the cause.

  • The sudden loss of power may have been enough to trigger a problem with a failing memory module. To attempt to diagnose this, you may want to clean the inside of the computer to remove dust and debris and then clean the individual memory modules as noted below.

  • A sudden loss of power may have altered the software BIOS code in the BIOS chip on your PC’s motherboard. To resolve this, you can try clearing the BIOS settings first, and if that doesn’t work, then it may be wise to take the PC to a technician.

  • There are two ways to attempt to clear the BIOS settings and reload the default code. One is to boot the PC into the BIOS setup and use the “set defaults” option in the BIOS. If the damage is minimal the BIOS can be reset in this way. If you can’t get into the BIOS setup because the problem being experienced, the second method would be to force the BIOS into a reset by moving a “clear BIOS” jumper on the motherboard. Either of these methods require that you have the manual for you motherboard. If you need more definitive help, visit our Technical Support area, in the menu select Motherboard and BIOS Issues and then select Clear CMOS or Passwords.

  • If clearing the BIOS doesn’t work, you may need to open the case, blow out the dust and accumulated debris (or vacuum it out, although this rarely works) and then clean the memory modules as noted below.

A virus or two may have infected your computer:
While it is possible that a virus has infected your system by altering the BIOS code used by your motherboard, that possibility today is extremely rare. Most computer produced over the last 5-6 years use motherboards with BIOS chips that incorporate a BIOS block. This block prevents anything from being written to the BIOS unless it results from a special program written by the BIOS developer. But, it is possible!

If you feel that this is a real possibility and (A) have excluded all other possibilities and (B) you are not using any form of anti-virus software, we recommend that you stop here, purchase the anti-virus software you need and then make certain that your PC is virus free.

Your PC is 3 to 6 years old and has never had the case opened and the interior cleaned and inspected:
If the memory failure is intermittent, (happens randomly), you may want to try a thorough cleaning before deciding to replace the memory modules. This can be done relatively quickly and will usually will eliminate dirt, dust and other debris as the cause of your problem.

Here’s how, along with a list of the very minimum things you will need:

  • Can of compressed air  (Purchase from local computer hardware store)
  • Contact Clean (Purchase from local computer hardware store)
  • Cotton Bud or Q-Tip (For cleaning with Contact Clean)
  • Small piece of cotton cloth (an old T-shirt will do)
  • Screwdriver (pc case removal)
  • PC users manual
  1. Insure that your environment is static free by removing any unwanted plastic from in and around your workbench.
  2. Unplug the computer system from its AC source, and (if possible) attach a ground wire to the ground screw in between the two sockets. This insures that case is still grounded, thus reducing the risk of damage to the module or system from ESD (Electro Static Discharge).
  3. After removing the case cover, ground yourself by touching any of the metal surfaces on your computer case. This step discharges any static built up on your body and clothing.
  4. Visually locate the computer memory expansion slots. This is normally visible but if in doubt, refer to your PC’s operation manual.
  5. Next, remove the memory modules and visually inspect them and the memory sockets. Make sure all the edge pins are straight, and there are no cracks, gouges, broken pins or other signs of damage. You may want to note the way the modules were installed so that you can reinstall them later.
  6. Wet the end of a cotton swab with the solvent, the swab should be wet but not dripping, and using a circular motion, clean the contacts on the memory module.
  7. Next, use the cotton cloth to wipe away any fuzz from the cotton as well as any remaining cleaning liquid and then allow the surface of the contacts to dry thoroughly.
  8. Replace the memory module into the socket carefully.
  9. Repeat steps 5 through 8 for each module you have.
  10. Place a boot floppy into the floppy drive to prevent booting the operating system on the hard drive and then power on the computer to test the RAM. If there are no memory errors, shutdown, replace the PC’s case and power-up.

Additional Tips:

  • While using contact cleaner is the preferred method, in an emergency you can clean the contacts with a pencil eraser. Just wipe the contacts thoroughly with a clean cotton cloth (T-shirt) dampened with some nail polish remover before putting them back.
  • Continuous RAM errors are usually a sign of a bad memory module. If cleaning the contacts doesn’t solve your problem, try to isolate the faulty module and replace it.

If none of the above procedures have worked for you, then it’s rather obvious that the problems are more serious and require additional diagnostic methods and possibly some diagnostic software testing.

The next series of methods and procedures will take you deeper into memory testing techniques that you can use to resolve a possible memory problem. You are reminded of the fact that these are suggestions only, and do not represent a comprehensive diagnostic of your computers memory. If you feel that any of the suggested methods and techniques re beyond the scope of your ability, then you may want to seek the assistance of a qualified technician.

Follow this link to begin by Diagnosing The Most Common Memory Problems:

Click here to go to the Performance Center Home Page

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