Skip to main content

How to test RAM: Troubleshooting to find bad RAM

this speedy ddr5 kit is now the worlds fastest ram g skill trident z5

RAM is one of the key components of any computer, so when it starts failing, things like crashes and performance issues start occurring — even if you have the best RAM you can buy. It might not even be obvious that RAM is unstable, which is why it's important to know how to test your RAM.




3 hours

What You Need

  • A USB storage device

Instability is a spectrum, so depending on how unstable your RAM is, different things can happen. Slightly unstable RAM might perform a little worse than expected and could cause the occasional crash. More instability will cause more performance issues and more BSODs. For instance, the "page fault in non-paged area" BSOD error message is one you can expect if your RAM is unstable.

Windows Memory Diagnostic

Windows has a built-in memory testing tool called Windows Memory Diagnostic. It's a simple but usually effective tool for finding RAM issues. Before you start, make sure you save all your data, because you will need to restart your PC.

Step 1: Go to the Windows search bar and type in Memory diagnostic. Select it.

Windows Memory Diagnostic in the Windows search bar.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 2: Then, you will see the window below. Click the first option, which will automatically restart your PC.

Windows Memory Diagnostics options.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 3: When your PC reboots, you'll be greeted with a blue-looking screen that tells you that your RAM is being tested. This takes about 15-30 minutes to complete.

Step 4: Once the test finishes, your PC will reboot back into Windows. Once you log in, you'll get a notification that will inform you whether your RAM passed the test. A fail means the RAM is unstable, and you should replace your modules.


If your PC passed the Windows Memory Diagnostic but you still suspect you have a RAM issue, then you'll want to try MemTest86, a much more comprehensive test by PassMark. Much like Windows Memory Diagnostic, it runs a test outside of Windows itself, so you'll be unable to use your PC while the test is going. All you need to use MemTest86 is a USB storage device, which you will have to format, so make sure there's nothing important on the device

Step 1: Download the free version of MemTest86 on PassMark's website. You'll receive a .zip file.

MemTest86 in the Windows download folder.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 2: Open the .zip file and copy/paste its contents into a new folder.

MemTest86 .zip file contents.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 3: Plug in your USB storage device and run imageUSB.exe. Again, your storage device will be formatted, so make sure nothing important is on it.

Step 4: At the top of the window, select the storage device you want to use for MemTest86, then find the Write button at the bottom and select it. The program will ask you if you're really sure, since this part formats your storage device. After a minute, you'll see an Imaging complete notification, which means your device is ready to use MemTest86. Before you move on, save all your data, because you will be restarting your PC soon.

MemTest86 installation instructions.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 5: Now you'll need to boot into your USB storage device. First, go to the Windows search bar and search Advanced startup, which should pull up Change advanced startup options. Select it.

Advanced startup in the Windows search bar.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 6: You should see a box labelled Advanced startup with a Restart now button. Select it and your PC will restart.

The restart button in the advanced startup option menu.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 7: Once your PC reboots, you should see the Windows recovery screen. Click Choose a device and select your USB device, which might be called something like UEFI: Removable Device.

Step 8: Your PC will then load MemTest86, which should start testing immediately. It can take around three hours to finish testing, so be patient.

Step 9: Once the test has finished, you'll see a message that either says the RAM passed or that it failed. If it has failed, you need to replace your RAM — maybe with some of the best RAM for gaming.

If your RAM didn't pass either test, then it's unstable or bad. There are a few solutions that might work for you.

First, if you're overclocking your RAM, you overclocked too hard and you'll need to dial things back. Either reset your RAM back to the default speed and timings, or reduce your overclock and test again. Overclocking RAM is difficult and finicky, so it's entirely possible even a slight overclock can make your RAM unstable. If you're having trouble overclocking, we have a guide for you.

If you haven't messed around with your RAM, then there could be a system incompatibility. While all RAM can fit into any compatible motherboard, not all RAM plays nicely with every system, and every motherboard usually has a list of RAM kits that are confirmed to work well. If your PC is experiencing problems at stock settings, you can try to underclock your RAM to increase stability. Basically, follow our RAM overclocking guide and decrease the clock speed instead of increasing it. Obviously, you're going to lose some performance doing this, but it's better than having an unstable PC.

If your RAM is validated to work with your motherboard, if you're on a laptop or a prebuilt PC that you haven't modified, or if instability issues have appeared suddenly, then your RAM might be dying. If you bought your RAM and installed it in your own PC, and if it's still under warranty, you should be able to get a new kit from the manufacturer. If you have a laptop or a prebuilt and you have never touched the RAM, you'll probably have to get a replacement or repair from the place you bought your PC from.

You can also replace the RAM yourself. If you have a prebuilt desktop that uses off-the-shelf parts (Maingear and CyberPower desktops for example) or built your own PC, buy another kit of RAM, make sure it's validated for your motherboard, and install it as you normally would. If you have a prebuilt that uses proprietary parts (such as HP's and Dell's desktops) or a laptop, then you'll probably need an OEM-certified kit of RAM. These can be trickier to find, so make sure you do your due diligence before you buy.

Matthew Connatser
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matthew Connatser is a freelance writer who works on writing and updating PC guides at Digital Trends. He first got into PCs…
How to find your computer specs on Windows 11
Windows 11 Woman on Laptop Lifestyle

With more and more people upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11, many users are having to adjust to the new layout and style of Windows 11. One feature that's important to be able to locate is the specs of your PC, as being able to see what components you have can help to figure out if you need to upgrade a particular component.

There are a few easy ways to see your PC specs in Windows 11, so here we'll show you how so that you'll be prepared for next time you need to look up some information about your computer.

Read more
How much RAM do you need for a laptop, gaming PC, or tablet?
ram prices are increasing until third quarter 2017 corsair vengeance led ddr4 memory

Random access memory, usually shortened to RAM or simply “memory,” is one of the most important parts of any computing device. Modern PCs, tablets, and phones typically have from 2GB up to 32GB, though some have even more. But how much RAM do you need, exactly?

Adding more RAM to your computer won't make it run faster if you already have enough, though, and wastes money you could spend elsewhere on upgrading your PC. Games that require 16GB of RAM won't necessarily run faster if you have 32GB -- although making sure background tasks have enough memory is a good way to improve performance in demanding applications.

Read more
If you’re still gaming on 16GB of RAM, you’re missing out
Corsair DDR5 RAM inside a PC.

A good gaming PC is not just a top-notch graphics card, a reliable processor, and a bunch of irrelevant components. Every part plays a role in delivering a smooth gaming experience, and while those two big-ticket components may have the biggest impact, the amount of memory (RAM) in your PC is also a huge deal.

Trust me -- and this is coming from someone who was still running 16GB last year -- the difference between 16GB and 32GB RAM is like night and day. Whether we like it or not, that upgrade is one that's looming on the horizon for many gamers -- and now is a surprisingly good time to pull that trigger.
We're on the brink of a RAM evolution
It's safe to say that the narrative around memory, and I mean both regular RAM and video memory (VRAM) found in graphics cards, has shifted a lot in the past year or so. Previously a somewhat overlooked component, RAM became a hot topic among PC gamers and in the media, and knowing how much RAM your PC needs has become a necessity.

Read more