Troubleshooting Category One Memory Problems

Troubleshooting Category 2 Memory Problems

Troubleshooting what we refer to as Category 2 memory errors is decidedly more difficult as there are many more factors to consider in order to determine a cause. Our approach to defining a cause for a Category 2 memory error is different from one that we would follow if the computer were sitting on our diagnostic bench. Remember that this is a broad based diagnostic approach designed for the Internet to give you the ability to sift through as many reasons or causes for these errors as possible while at the same time eliminating those possibilities that someone may have suggested that have no relevance.

You have been experiencing memory error problems with your computer from the day you received it:
We have been receiving an increasing number of calls for help to sort out memory problems with new computers, especially those that fall into the low-end mass produced class. Although it provides you with very little consolation, you must remember that mass producers do not install module that cost $75 to $100 in systems they sell for $1,000 or less. If you have purchased a new computer and have been having memory related problems, it is most probably due to one of three reasons, a poor quality or failing memory module, a physical problem with the motherboard or a setting or jumper on that motherboard or there is a problem with a BIOS setting. You can attempt to reset the BIOS to rule that out as a possibility, but as for the other possibilities, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer and have them examine the system.

You have added memory or changed the memory modules and now you’re experiencing memory errors:
This type of memory problem occurs all too frequently. Here is a short list of the possible causes:

  • If you have added memory modules to those already in your computer, make sure that the new modules exactly match the type you already have. Mismatched memory modules occur frequently. In theory you should be able to install PC 66, PC 100 and PC 133 memory, however we have found more often than not that this does not work.

  • If you computer requires PC 133 memory and you have added memory and a memory problem has arisen, in all probability the new modules are not PC 133 qualified. This is also true for PC 100 memory modules. All too frequently some resellers offer memory modules that are supposed to PC 100 or PC 133 qualified and they are borderline at best. If you need more information about PC 100 or PC 133 standards, follow either of these links. PC 100 Compliant Memory or PC 133 Compliant Memory.

  • If you have replaced all of your computers memory modules and now you are receiving memory errors, there are several possibilities.

    • The memory modules you have installed are not supported by the motherboard in your computer. You will need to either review the manual for your computer or its motherboard, or contact the manufacturer, in order to determine whether the memory modules you have purchased are supported by the motherboard. If they are not, you will need to exchange them. If they are, then you will need to check the motherboards BIOS settings. NOTE: Some computers support the use of modules that use ECC (Error Correcting Code) and some do not. This is one of the first places to check!

    • The BIOS settings on your motherboard are incorrect for the type or amount of memory installed. This is always a possibility when old modules are replaced with new. There are two ways to handle this possibility. 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.

    • One or more of the memory modules is defective. Although this is an extremely rare possibility, it does happen. We purchase thousands of modules annually, and we have had this occur more than once, which is the reason that we test every component going into a system we build. If you have purchased more than one memory module, remove all but one and test your system with a single module. If the error persists, then swap the module with another and test again.

    • The modules you purchased are mismatched. This is as rare as receiving a new, but defective, module. Compare the modules completely to insure that they are identical. If they are, then you will need to dig deeper.

You have added new components “internally” to your computer (other than memory) and now you are receiving memory errors:
This does happen occasionally, and generally it is because we have overlooked something obvious such as disturbing a memory module or other internal component. Here’s a short list of things to check and others to ignore.

  • First, adding or replacing a floppy drive will not cause a memory error. Adding or replacing hard drives, CD ROM drives, CD ROM burners, SCSI controllers, SCSI drives, sound or video cards will not cause a memory error.

  • If you have replaced the motherboard but are using your original memory modules, then check the motherboard manual to determine the memory types the motherboard supports. Compare this information against your actual memory modules. As an example, if your motherboard requires PC 133 qualified memory, do not attempt to use PC 100 SDRAM or EDO memory unless you know for a fact that the motherboard supports either of them. Another possibility when replacing the motherboard is the correct BIOS settings for the memory being used. Boot into the BIOS setup and verify the settings. You may need to reset the BIOS and then correct the settings.

  • It is possible that you may have unintentionally moved something, disturbed or jarred it loose or even caused something to drop onto the motherboard that is causing a short circuit. Check every connection inside the computer and make certain everything is connected properly. Presuming that the computer is laying on its side, verify that there are no screws, wires or debris of any kind laying on the motherboard that may cause a short circuit.

  • Verify that you have inserted the memory modules correctly and that they are fully seated in their slots and the locks are in place. If you are uncertain as to whether or not you have installed the modules correctly, remove the modules and reseat them. If you are having any difficulty, view our DIMM Memory Installation page.

You have added new “external” components to your computer, and now you are receiving memory errors:
Presuming that you have not changed anything inside of your computers case, including the installation of any add-in cards or other devices to support and external device, there are no external components that should be the cause of a memory error or failure. The addition of external devices such as printers, drives, scanners etc will not cause a memory error.

Let’s distinguish between a memory error on startup or boot from that of a Windows error message when Windows is started. It is always possible that you could load software, including drivers, to support an external device such as a printer, scanner, external hard drive, tape drive, CD ROM drive or CD-R/CD-RW drive that may cause an error in one of the Windows operating systems, including a general protection fault (GPF). However this is not a memory error! If you are getting a true hard memory error during the initial start of your computer, it is purely coincidental and has nothing to do with the externally attached device.

You have added new software and now you are receiving a memory error:

As we noted in the previous comment, you will need to distinguish between a memory error on startup or boot from that of a Windows error message when Windows is started. It is always possible that you could load software, including drivers, that may cause an error in one of the Windows operating systems, including a general protection fault (GPF). However this is not a memory error!

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 these suggested methods and techniques are 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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