What Causes RAM To Go Bad | Simple Test

Bad RAM causes are static discharge, bad RAM modules, power surges, and heat. When you turn on your computer the Power On Self Test (POST) checks for bad RAM. During the POST, RAM read and write is tested. During the test diagnostic POST codes show the causes of bad RAM. Or the computer will sound beep codes for bad RAM. The simplest way to test for bad RAM is to turn on your computer and watch for POST codes or to listen for a series of beeps. The second way to test RAM is to run the Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool if you are running Windows. 

What causes RAM to go bad

Bad RAM POST codes

POST Code Code Description
51 Memory initialization error. SPD reading has failed
52 Memory initialization error. Invalid memory size or memory modules do not match
53 Memory initialization error. No usable memory detected
54 Unspecified memory initialization error
55 Memory not installed

Bad RAM testing and how POST works

POST is short for Self-Test Power On. Immediately after the computer has powered up, the POST test begins. A POST has the purpose of checking for any hardware problems. You have no choice when it comes to running a POST. It runs immediately at computer boot-up each time. Running a POST requires neither Windows nor an operating system. POST does not rely on hard drive receives information to run. The BIOS initiates the running of a POST and not the software installed. After a successful boot the the computer will continue booting up. Even after a successful POST Windows may fail to load. This condition, is an excellent indicator of something wrong with, and not hardware, software, and drivers. On budget systems, failures usually are hidden behind the manufacturer's logo and, some codes do not even show or are visible. 

AMI BIOS Beep Codes
Beep Code Descriptions
1 short Memory refresh timer error.
2 short Parity error.
3 short Main memory read / write test error.
4 short System timer failure.
5 short Process error.
6 short Keyboard controller BAT test error.
7 short General exception error.
8 short Display memory error.
9 short ROM BIOS checksum error.
10 short CMOS shutdown Read/Write error.
11 short Cache Memory bad.

EVGA POST codes 

Asus motherboards codes 

Intel codes

On MAC OS, you are lucky because you get an ice icon or other graphic instead of a cryptic flashing light. On older MAC's you typically get beep codes as follows:

MAC beep codes

So the bottom line here is to test your computer's memory, all you have to do is turn on your computer, and the self-diagnosis POST test on the motherboard runs automatically and alerts you if it detects bad RAM. And as you know by now, the test also runs to determine hardware problems as well. It is not limited to just RAM testing.

How to tell if RAM is Bad on Windows-based computers

Sometimes you might have a mysterious problem, and for some strange reason, the POST test did not catch the problem. But you know symptoms persist. You might notice frequent computer freeze or sudden BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). Or maybe your computer decides to reboot itself. These are all great reasons to run a RAM test. It easy to let Windows test RAM for you. Windows 10 has a built-in testing tool called Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool. Before running the test, make sure you save all your work and closeout running applications. The test will allow you to choose between three testing options. They are as follows: Basic, Standard, and Extended. Usually, the tool run in Standard mode. All the tests included in the Basic mode run in the Standard process. And all the tests run in both the Basic and Standard tests are run in the Extended mode. To check the results, you will need to use the Windows Event Viewer (eventvwr.exe). A good test will result in the following message, “The Windows Memory Diagnostic tested the computer’s memory and detected no errors.” Now you know your memory is good. If you do find that you have bad RAM, then you can run the Extended test and recheck results. If you have multiple sticks of RAM, you can always pull one RAM stick out and test again to determine if you still have bad RAM. You can continue to remove and replace RAM until you find the bad stick of RAM.

On a typical motherboard, there are four RAM DIMM Slots unless you have an old computer. Each slot supports DDR memory varying in different sizes.  

RAM DIMM slot image

Static electricity can damage RAM

Have you ever felt a small electrical charge when touching an object after walking across the carpet? The transfer of electrons causes a zap. The shock is the result of electrons equalizing between the two surfaces. It is called static electricity. These shocks can damage your RAM. Not only RAM can be damaged but also other computer components. So if you are working on your computer and you have the case open, you want to make sure you do not have a static charge that will zap any of the components. The zap of static electricity damages RAM by resulting in an overload or too much electricity that results in a short circuit that permanently damages your RAM. That’s why manufacturers go out of their way by shipping RAM in antistatic bags. It prevents the RAM sticks from getting zapped during transport.

How to protect your RAM against static electricity

The best and easiest way to protect your RAM from static electricity is to avoid rubbing anything. It includes rubbing your socks against carpeted floors and pulling off a wool sweater right before you start work on your computer. But the safest way is to purchase an antistatic wrist strap. It’s easy to use. Just put it around your wrist and then connect the other end to the computer case. The antistatic wrist wrap keeps you grounded by making a connection to your computer case. Now you can use both hands while working on the inside of your computer.

Protect RAM Against Static Electricity
Anti-static Products Description Price
Vastar ESD Anti-Static Wrist Strap Blue in color. Simple anti-static wrist strap the expands to around 4 feet. Simple and effective. $7
iMBAPrice Anti-Static Adjustable Grounding Wrist Strap Black and yellow. Simple anti-static wrist strap the expands to around 4 feet. Simple and effective. $4
Anti-Static Mat ESD Safe Gray mat and wrist band. Matt is rated to 932 degrees F. Gray in color. 15.9 inches by 12 inches. $20
Electrostatic Discharge Protection Included a Green mat, anti-static wrist strap and grounding wire. Matt size is 11.81 by 15.74 inches. $19
ThxToms ESD Anti Static Gloves Has dense carbon fiber and can replace a wrist strap. Good flexibility with fingers coated with polyurethane for grip. Not for use with a heat gun. Get the right size. Comes in different sizes. You get one pair. $7
Kaisi Heat Insulation Silicone Repair Mat Nice blue mat 17.7 by 11.8 inches, contains scale, ruler and screw position holder. Comes in different sizes, Small, Medium and Large. $15
StarTech.com Anti-Static Mat White large 25 by 27.5 inch electrical grounding desk pad. Gives you a large surface to work on. $22
Kaisiking 4 Pcs Large Soldering Mat Blue silicone repair mat with wrist band, 2 tweezers. 21.6 by 13.8 inches. $24
Soldering Mat Heat Resistant 932°F Gray soldering mat heat resistant to 932°F. Size is 15.9 by 12 inches. Comes in Blue too. $18
Antistatic Bag Large Bags are 12 by 16 inches and state ESD shielding. 10 bags. Top is resealable. Will fit an ATX motherboard. $12
Open Top & Resealable Anti-static Bags ESD Shielding Multi-pack different size bags. Good to have when needed to store and protect motherboards, hard drives and CPUs. Very practical. $14

Also, do not forget to ground yourself before pulling your RAM out of the antistatic bag. One last method of protection is to purchase an antistatic mat. If you frequently find yourself working on your computer, then buying an antistatic mat makes since. For most folks, this might be an overkill. Many folks never follow any of these procedures when working on their computer. They open the computer case and reach in and pull out the RAM and stick the new in with no problems. And I have to say they are lucky. But If I am going to spend over a hundred dollars on a stick of RAM, you can bet I am going to purchase and wear an antistatic wrist wrap costing less than ten dollars.

Bad RAM modules

Sometimes you get a bad RAM stick. But I will say that receiving a bad RAM module nowadays is rare. Testing is so good and, the quality of manufacturing is so high that the chances of you receiving bad RAM sick are not very likely, although it could still happen. All RAM manufactured today is built form custom performance PCB and highly-screened memory IC units. Bad RAM modules are a product of a few years ago. 2018 and earlier, it was commonplace to get defective RAM modules. Manufacturers have come a long way in a short time in terms of quality. The competition between RAM manufacturers is so high if one manufacture sells bad RAM, they will soon go out of business. Most RAM manufacturers have a five-star rating and stand behind their product. So as long as you do your part by wearing an antistatic wrist wrap when touching your RAM, you should have no problems with bad RAM.

RAM Recommendations
Product Cas Latency MHz RGB
Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB 16 GB CL16 3200 Y
G.Skill Trident Z Neo Series 16 GB CL18 3600 Y
G.Skill Trident Z RGB Series 16 GB CL15 2400 Y
Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 16 GB CL16 3200 Y
G.Skill N Ripjaws V Series 16 GB CL15 2400 N
Patriot Viper 4 Blackout 16 GB CL16 3000 Y

How to protect your RAM against heat

RAM sticks are air-cooled and contain heat sinks made of aluminum. The heat sinks are an attempt to bring down operating temperatures on internal components. Insufficient cooling and or improper cooling can lead to RAM failures and or damage to internal components. This condition will lead to a computer crash. Now some folks say that RAM does not need active cooling like a fan or, for that matter, even heat sinks. But there is a catch. And the key is if you are not going to overclock your RAM, then it’s true. You do not need active cooling.

With that said, you now know so you can decide if you need active cooling for your memory or not. There are many excellent RAM coolers on the market today. RAM coolers help in reducing operating temperatures during abundant memory-intensive operations. These RAM coolers work for all types of RAM, and most can cool a maximum of four DIMMs at one time. RAM coolers are super easy to install. They easily clip to the memory latches. RAM cooler has a ball-bearing fan that spins between 2500 and 3500 RPM. And most come with a 3-pin connector that connects directly to your motherboard. An alternative way to run the RAM cooler is to use a 3-pin adapter and plug it directly into a 4-pin Molex connector. The main feature to look out for when purchasing a RAM cooler is to get the best ball-bearing fan you can. It is where you should spend your money because it the only moving part it will eventually wear out.

One final word, if you are not a fan of fans, then you can always opt for a giant RAM heat spreader. Heat spreaders require no fan to do the cooling. These components are made of aluminum-magnesium alloy and are very effective in keeping your memory cool. You can even get ones with RGB lighting. Very cool looks.

RAM Cooler Recommendations
Product Description *Price
RAM RGB Heat Sink Cooler No fans, uses an aluminum heat spreader.Equipped with RGB lights. Very good fanless alternative. $18
G.Skill Turbulence III Memory Cooler Fits over the ram and snaps on easily. 3500 RPM fans with 8.6 CFM at max. $25
Corsair Dominator Airflow Platinum RGB Memory Cooler Can personalize the LED colors. Up to 10.6 CFM at 3,700 RPM. Advanced ball bearing fans. $67
Corsair Vengeance Airflow Memory Cooling Fan RPM: 3500/2500. Delivers 14.5 CFM at 3,500 RPM. Contains modular color accent covers in red, blue and silver. $31
ADATA Spectrix D80 DDR4 – It just looks so cool!!! Value?? Coolness, yes! Liquid-Cooled RGB Module and Aluminum heatsink. The world's first RGB DDR4 memory with a hybrid liquid-air cooling system. $130
*Prices are as of this writing and are subject to change. Rounded to the neareset dollar.

So, to sum up, protecting your RAM against heat. You do not need to ao anything. If you are going to overclock your RAM, then maybe you can opt for a Heat Spreader. If you want to look cool, and there is nothing wrong with that, you can opt for a RAM cooling Fan. Or heck, you can even go water-cooled.

Bad RAM conclusion

By now, you have learned that you test RAM every time you turn on your computer. So to run a test, turn on your computer and let the POST diagnose any problems. All you have to do is watch for the POST codes. In the rare circumstance, you need to run a RAM test independent of the automatic POST you, can use the Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool if you are running Windows. In any case, running across bad RAM nowadays is rare. Manufacturers have stepped up their game and, quality is excellent. Besides, RAM seldom overheats. Cooling RAM is only necessary for overclockers. I do not think it’s needed. I say, there is a cool look by having a RAM cooler. It should look fabulous! My thinking is the number one reason RAM goes bad is by static electricity. Most folks do not take the necessary precautions when replacing or upgrading their RAM.


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I hope this article was of use to you. Please comment below on your experience with bad RAM.

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