RAM is one of the most critical components in your computer because it stores and transmits information more quickly than long-term memory. When RAM starts to fail, it can be sneaky without any significant signs that it’s happening.
When you notice the issues pop up, investigate to see whether RAM is the root of the problem.
If you determine that memory isn’t the problem, you’ll have to explore other areas. If the memory is the problem, it might be time for an upgrade.
Why is RAM Important?
RAM holds all the information your computer might need to obtain quickly. With more RAM, it can save more in the memory and lead to smoother, more flawless performance. While other types of memory hold the information they store long-term, RAM wipes itself regularly to make room for more quick-access data.
Not all RAM is created equal. Faster RAM will deliver faster performance as the data in the memory is quickly delivered to other parts of the computer. Sometimes downgrading your RAM or reducing the amount of RAM available in your computer causes your computer to act less responsive.
On the other hand, upgrading your RAM can also create a much better performance.
What Can Failing RAM Do to My Computer?Bad RAM manifests in all sorts of ways. When your computer isn’t working correctly, RAM is one of the usual suspects you should investigate to get things back on track. Since the symptoms of failing RAM are similar to those of other failing computer parts, you might have to explore a bit to find an answer. Blue screens, random shutdowns, programs failing, and poor performance are all the results of failing memory. Check your RAM when you notice these things happening, and you might be surprised at what you find. If it isn’t in good condition anymore, it might cause issues.
How to Tell if Your RAM Is Failing
You should look for a few different signs that your RAM is failing. If you notice them, you can investigate how it performs using a RAM checking program. While Windows has one built-in, some users also recommend using a secondary program to ensure that it’s reporting the right results.
Crashes and Blue Screens
When your RAM starts to fail, it can make your computer lock up. Random crashes where the computer shuts down completely might happen. You can also begin to get bluescreens with a variety of messages. Most won’t specifically reference a problem with the memory.
Keep track of how often this is happening. If it’s frequent, you may want to test your memory. Many other problems can be harder to diagnose, making a RAM check one of your better options.
Programs Shutting Down
Another issue you might notice slowly is that certain programs shut down. There might be a specific event that triggers this. It might be completely random. It’s hard to say what will happen – but random program crashes are a sign of failing RAM.
Sometimes the programs shut down when they’re using a lot of resources. Keep a careful eye on programs during times of high usage and make a note if they crash. If so, you may need to check your RAM and temperatures to see if it’s an easy solution.
Stuttering or Poor Performance
Sometimes your programs and computer continue to work, but failing RAM makes them perform less well than expected. If you notice that your programs or games are suddenly not working as they should, it is a sign that your RAM is failing.
Keep an eye on it and try to use programs you’re familiar with to see whether the performance has degraded.
Check the performance of your GPU and CPU on the Task Manager’s performance tab. If they aren’t maxing out and you’re still experiencing issues, that’s a sign that it’s another component – like the RAM.
Problems with Saved Files
Failing memory can create issues with files on your PC. When RAM fails, it can damage your hard drive and cause problems with the long-term storage rather than just what’s saved on the RAM.
Don’t hesitate to test your RAM when you notice problems with your files. If that doesn’t work, you might need to replace your drive.
Keeping your files backed up is essential because of these types of problems. You can’t guarantee that your hard drives or RAM won’t suddenly degrade, stop working, and make your files unusable. If they’re backed up, you won’t lose anything important.
Reports of Memory Errors
Sometimes Windows will report that you have a memory error. In that case, stop what you’re doing and perform a memory test immediately. You shouldn’t keep using a computer with severe RAM issues since it can affect your files and drives.
Luckily, RAM is a pretty stable component that doesn’t go bad often. It shouldn’t be something you have to worry about regularly.
Your Computer Won’t Turn on
Sometimes when RAM fails, it completely stops your system from booting. You might hear a particular combination of beeps, or it might fail to start altogether.
You can remove your RAM sticks, put one or two in the first slots, and try to boot. If only one stick has failed, you might be able to get on and start troubleshooting by shifting RAM around in the motherboard slots.
Failing a RAM Test
When you think your memory is on the fritz, performing a RAM test can let you know how it’s actually doing. It’s one of the best ways to isolate the problem, and Windows happens to have a RAM test built into the operating system.
- Save your data and close any programs. The Windows Memory Diagnostic requires your computer to shut down.
- Press the Windows key to bring up the Start Menu.
- Type “Windows Memory Diagnostic” into the search bar.
- Click the corresponding program.
- Click “Restart now and check for problems” to run the test immediately.
- Wait for the test to complete.
- Wait for the computer to load.
- Once it pops up, read the message that says whether or not you have memory issues. If you do, you might need to consider what comes next and whether the RAM should be replaced.
You can download third-party tests as well. That might help you determine whether the memory is corrupt if the Windows test repeatedly says things are fine, but you still have errors.
However, RAM errors share a lot of symptoms with the errors you will see when other components fail. So, unfortunately, if Windows says it isn’t the RAM, it might be something else.
What Should I Do if My RAM is Failing?
The first thing you should do is reseat your RAM. Many issues seemingly caused by failing hardware can be attributed to RAM that isn’t squarely placed in the motherboard. Don’t be surprised if your computer still recognizes and seemingly utilizes the RAM – it might still help you to reseat it.
- Power down your computer and flip the switch on your PSU. Disconnect the cable from the computer to be sure.
- Open the side of the computer and remove anything necessary to access the motherboard. You may need to remove the motherboard from the case – it just depends on your setup.
- Release the RAM from the motherboard. Most have clips that hold that RAM down. Depress it to release the stick.
- Pull the stick of RAM straight up. You should remove one stick at a time rather than trying to do multiples.
- Remove all the ram.
- Use compressed air to clean the RAM and the motherboard. Blow away any dust or mess that might be impeding the performance.
- Put the RAM sticks back into the motherboard. Press the clips to secure them into their slots.
- Hook up the motherboard again if necessary. Close the computer and rehook the power. Once you’re done, you can restart it and test whether the RAM performs better.
Reseating the RAM won’t cure every problem with your memory. Sometimes it still won’t work when you’re done. But it’s a quick and cheap way to determine whether you can still use what you have rather than having to replace it.
You should also go into BIOS and completely reset your memory. You don’t want it to be overclocked or have any custom settings.
If the RAM is still not working, you might have to start thinking about replacing it. Since failing RAM can create so many issues with your computer, it should be a priority fix when you’re able.
When upgrading your RAM, consider adding more sticks or choosing ones with a higher clock speed. When your RAM is faster, so is your computer. RAM can create a bottleneck that prevents other components from reaching their full potential.
Upgrading your RAM is one way to improve your computer that doesn’t take a lot of effort, so even failing RAM doesn’t have to be bad – if it means your computer gets better overall.