Is your new Windows 7 system acting flakey? It could be bad memory. This excerpt from David A Karp's Windows 7 Annoynaces will help you test for bad memory (RAM).
Bad memory can manifest itself in anything from frequent error messages and crashes to your system simply not starting. Errors in your computer’s memory (RAM) aren’t always consistent, either; they can be intermittent and can get worse over time.
Problems due to using the wrong kind of memory are not uncommon; odds are your friend’s old memory modules not only won’t work in your system, but they’re probably responsible for that burning smell, too. See the sidebar How to Buy Memory for details.
Not sure what kind of memory is in your PC? Download the free SIW utility from http://www.gtopala.c...w-download.html. Run the program and choose the Memory item in the Hardware tree to see the manufacturer, capacity, speed, form factor and other vital details of your installed RAM modules.
So, you suspect a memory problem? The first thing to do is pull out each memory module and make sure there isn’t any dust or other obstruction between the pins and your motherboard (use a microfiber cloth or lens-cleaning paper; don’t use any liquids or solvents). Look for broken or bent sockets, metal filings or other obstructions, and, of course, any smoke or burn marks. Make sure all your modules are seated properly; they should snap into place and should be level and firm (don’t break them testing their firmness, of course).
If all that is in order, there are two ways to determine whether your RAM is actually faulty: test it or swap it out.
The easiest and least-effective memory test is the one your PC does for you; see Appendix A, BIOS Settings for the BIOS setting that disables “quick start,” which is necessary to perform a full memory test each time you boot your PC.
For best results, use Memtest86+, available free from http://www.memtest.org/. (Avoid releases of Memtest86 earlier than version 4.0—those without the plus + moniker—as they have trouble with some multicore CPUs and more than 4GB of RAM.) To use the program, download the latest ISO file and burn it to a CD (see Chapter 4, Video, Audio, and Media). Then, boot your PC with the CD, as described in Chapter 1, Get Started with Windows 7.
If testing has revealed a problem, it’s time for a trip to your local computer store or web store to spend some money. It may only be necessary to buy a single additional module (assuming you’ve already got more than one), because most likely only one module in your system is actually faulty. Next, systematically replace each module in your computer with the one you’ve just acquired, and test the system by turning it on. If the problem seems to be resolved, you’ve most likely found the culprit—throw it out immediately. If the system still crashes, try replacing the next module with the new one, and repeat the process. If you replace all the memory in your system and the problem persists, there may be more than one faulty memory module, or the problem may lie elsewhere, such as a bad CPU or motherboard (or you may even find that you’re not using the correct memory in the first place).
You can, of course, also take this opportunity to add more memory to your system (possibly replacing all your existing modules). Adding memory is one of the best ways to improve overall system performance; see the sidebar for more information.
There is one situation in which the right kind of memory may still not work properly in a PC, even when there’s nothing technically wrong with it. Despite what your computer’s marketing literature may promise, you may encounter problems if you install too much memory in your PC. (It’s worth mentioning that this problem is more typical of desktop PCs, as laptops rarely have more than one or two memory slots.)
The 32-bit edition of Windows 7—or rather any 32-bit operating system—has a limitation on the amount of memory it will recognize. As explained in Chapter 1, Get Started with Windows 7, you’ll need the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 if you want to make use of 4 GB or more of RAM. The most 32-bit Windows can use is about 3 GB.
Say your motherboard has four slots for RAM, each of which (the manual states) supports memory modules of up to 8 GB. This means, at least in theory, that you could install 32 GB of memory in your PC. So why won’t Windows boot when you fill all four slots?
Imagine a pickup truck; you pick the color. The manufacturer says it has a towing capacity (how heavy a trailer it can pull) of 6,000 pounds. But when you’re towing 6,000 pounds, you can’t necessarily go 65 mph on the freeway without scaring a whole lot of other drivers. Perhaps 35 mph on a side road makes more sense.
Computer memory works the same way. You may be able to run 4 or even 8 GB of RAM without a problem, but fill all those slots, and something else has to give.
Turns out, the compromise you’ll need to make is the memory speed. In order to fill up your motherboard, you’ll probably need to slow down your memory, which, unfortunately, negates some of the speed gains that much memory might otherwise provide. The specific memory times you’ll need vary widely among memory types and motherboard manufacturers, but it’s a common enough problem that a quick search online may reveal some memory timings known to work. The manufacturer of your memory will probably also have some recommendations.
To change the timing for your memory, you’ll need to dive into your PC’s BIOS setup, covered in Appendix A, BIOS Settings. Unfortunately, some trial and error is inevitable with something like memory timing; expect to restart your PC a dozen or so times until you find values that work.
Learn more about this topic from Windows 7 Annoyances.
Windows 7 may be faster and more stable than Windows Vista, but that's a far cry from problem-free. With Windows 7 Annoyances, you'll learn how to deal with a wide range of nagging problems before they deal with you. Annoyances.org founder David Karp offers you the tools to fix all sorts of Windows 7 issues, along with solutions, hacks, and timesaving tips to make the most of your PC.