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Old 11-03-2009, 02:37 PM
Talon Karrde Talon Karrde is offline
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What causes RAM to go bad?

I hope it's okay to ask about computer problems here. If it needs to be moved to MPSIMS or something I understand.

I bought 4 gigs of RAM a few months ago. It worked fine for a while, until one day it suddenly didn't. It wouldn't even start Windows, so I had to keep switching them around. Now only one of the two sticks is in my computer and I always get a read/write error when I start the computer, so it only gives 1.68 out of two gigs. Sometimes it's not all that stable, as sometimes Firefox will repeatedly crash until I restart the computer.

So what might have caused this to happen? I don't think the RAM sticks were bad when I got them because they worked fine for a number of weeks.

I have my computer sitting on a carpeted floor and someone dragged it across the floor while it was on the day before it stopped working perfectly. I wonder if that could have caused some kind of static buildup.
I also was running a huge defrag program overnight before it went bad. I don't know how that could have contributed unless it overheated or something.

When I got my 4 gigs of ram I took out the two 512 MB sticks and now those don't seem to work either. I assumed I wasn't handling them carefully enough and that caused the problem but could it be my motherboard?
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Old 11-03-2009, 03:06 PM
pan1 pan1 is offline
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Static can kill any number of the delicate circuits in your computer.

Why would you have it on an uninsulated surface where static could be an issue?

Drag it across the carpet? Gulp!!! motion in and of itself is not dangerous unless its erratic and very shaky or bumpy - then it could cause a hard drive failure. - Less likely if the PC is off.

Ram fails all the time for no apparant reason. Somewhere on the chip a connection wears out and if that doesn't kill it directly it may cause a surge elsewhere on the chip. It has the potential to last dozens of years, but can wear out darned quick too.

I've never heard of RAM overheating.

It might not be the ram, but the Motherboard - if other RAM isn't working, that's my suspicion.
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Old 11-03-2009, 03:32 PM
Stathol Stathol is offline
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If the problem does indeed reside somewhere in the memory system, there is more than one possible culprit. As you noted, it could be a problem with the motherboard. It could also be a problem with the memory controller. The memory controller will either be part of the northbridge chipset of the motherboard, or part of the CPU, depending on what sort of processor you have.

When you say you had to "keep switching them around", do you mean that merely rearranging the modules (without removing any) would get the system running again? If so, that sounds more like a problem with the motherboard than with the modules themselves. Especially since your old 512MB modules suddenly don't work. It's a bit hard to diagnose these sorts of things without a second computer to swap hardware with, though.

But to answer what you actually asked in the title, memory module failures are often a case of slight (or not-so-slight) manufacturing defects -- for example, impurities in the silicon. These may be small enough that the memory module performs within tolerances when it first rolls off the manufacturing line. However, long-term exposure to heat and electrical current can cause changes at the molecular level. These changes can, in turn, affect the electrical properties of the circuits. Sometimes this is enough to push a marginal memory module over the edge into outright malfunction.

Side notes:

The computer case will typically protect your the internal components from static discharge. I mean, you don't want to take a taser to your computer case, but normal little static shocks to the outside of the machine are generally not a problem. I doubt dragging the machine could have hurt anything unless perhaps the case was off at the time.

With respect to RAM overheating, it's certainly possible. Most RAM modules these days have heat spreaders on them, and for good reason. You usually don't see sudden, dramatic temperature-related deaths, but chronic exposure to slight-too-hot temperatures can definitely shorten the lifespan of your memory and lead to gradual failures over time. Just ask anyone who's experienced the notorious "red ring of death" on their xbox 360.
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