SysAdmin: When your computer becomes forgetful

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

BusinessSometimes your computer crashes without reason. It happens at any time, for no particular reason.
Other times you’re trying to install a new OS on a brand new PC and at some point, it fails, reboot itself or just hangs.

A couple years ago I had this really depressing experience with a brand new system I was building. All the components were newly bought, but installing the OS (a Linux distro) used to fail almost at the end of the process.
No matter how many times I tried, I could never get to the end of it.
By clever subterfuge I managed to get it installed only to have it crash on a regular basis.
It was unstable, unreliable and after two days wasted banging my head against the walls, I gave up…

Memtest86 Well, no for too long. A flash of inspiration came to me and I popped in the install CD and ran the only utility that was available at the prompt: memtest86.
That simple tool is a godsend (if I may appropriate the word from the believers. I promise to give it back). After running its various memory tests for 10 minutes it reported errors in one of the RAM sticks installed on the motherboard.
All that aggravation for a puny bit that was not remembering its state…
I promptly returned the RAM and tested the new one for a few hours until I was confident there was no issue with its chips and went my merry way to install the OS I so desperately needed. All went without a hitch.

So my advice is: go to the memtest86 website. Burn the bootable ISO and test your PC from time to time, especially if you have strange intermittent issues that you can’t pin down to a simple software problem.
You’d be amazed at the number of times I had to ditch a stick of RAM… memtest86 saved by sanity countless times.
By the way, consider donating a little bit if it helped you too. That’s always cheaper than a session with a shrink…

Entry Filed under  :  Hardware,Software,sysadmin

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Renaud This is a simple technical weblog where I dump thoughts and experiences from my computer-related world.
It is mostly focused on software development but I also have wider interests and dabble in architecture, business and system administration.
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