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Testing RAM
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Once you discover that you may have a RAM problem, you have a couple of options First, several companies manufacture hardware RAM testing devices, but unless you have a lot of disposable income, they re probably priced way too high for the average tech (US$1500 and higher) Second, you can use the method I use replace and pray Open the system case and replace each stick, one at a time, with a known good replacement stick (You have one of those lying around, don t you ) This method, although potentially time-consuming, certainly works With PC prices as low as they are now, you could simply replace the whole system for less than the price of a dedicated RAM tester Third, you could run a software-based tester on the RAM Because you have to load a software tester into the memory it s about to scan, there s always a small chance that simply starting the software RAM tester might cause an error Still, you can find some pretty good free ones out there My favorite is the venerable Memtest86 written by Mr Chris Brady (wwwmemtest86com) Memtest86 will exhaustively check your RAM and report bad RAM when it finds it (Figure 437)
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4: RAM
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Go to 17 for a more detailed description of video memory
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Serial Connections
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Serial connections run ones and zeroes through a single wire, as opposed to parallel connections that use many wires With only one wire to worry about, manufacturers can heavily shield serial connections and make them run blazingly fast You ll see the shift from parallel to serial in many aspects of the modern PC
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Figure 437
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The Next Generations
Figure 438
Computer games have done more for advances in PC hardware than anything else Have you ever seen a late-generation game such as Half-Life 2 or Far Cry These games require powerful video cards, and every video card comes with DRAM To make these beautiful games, the video card s DRAM needs to be incredibly fast Video card makers adopted many DRAM technologies such as DDR even before they were popular as system RAM on PCs If you want to see where DRAM is going, check out video cards (Figure 438) Two advancements to DDR2 originally found only in video cards will show up as primary system memory within a year of this writing: DDR3 and DDR4 DDR3 uses even less power than DDR2 and doubles again the speed of the DRAM s I/O DDR4 chips push the speed even higher than DDR3! DDR3 and DDR4 will almost certainly appear in the upcoming fully buffered DIMMs (FB-DIMMs) FB-DIMMs are registered but with a twist They replace the 64-bit-wide DIMM data connection with a staggeringly fast serial connection, expected to reach as much as 48 GBps! That Half-Life 2 these beautiful graphics are possible because of fast should be fast enough to keep our PCs DRAM (and other technology improvements) happy for the next few years!
Mike Meyers A+ Guide to Managing and Troubleshooting PCs
4 Review
Summary
After reading this chapter and completing the exercises, you should understand the following about RAM
Understanding DRAM
The sticks of RAM snapped into your motherboard are DRAM DRAM can be thought of as a spreadsheet in which each cell holds a 1 or 0 Each cell represents a single bit The number of columns and rows are finite If a chip contains 1,048,576 rows and eight columns it can be described as a 1 M 8 chip A chip containing 2,097,152 rows and 16 columns can be described as a 2 M 16 chip DRAM needs to be able to fill the data bus A 1 M 8 DRAM chip is only 8 bits wide and would provide the CPU with only 8 bits of data You would need eight of the 1 M 8 chips to fill a 64-bit data bus DRAM chips are soldered to a circuit board called a stick or module, and when these chips are combined, a single stick can fill the data bus Modern DRAM sticks come in 32-bit- and 64-bit-wide varieties
RAM speed must match or exceed that of the system For example, PC66 RAM can only be used on a motherboard running at (or below) 66 MHz A motherboard with a frontside bus of 100 MHz needs at least PC100 RAM Rambus DRAM (RDRAM) was created by Rambus, Inc and came in sticks called RIMMs Due to cost, licensing issues, and compatibility, RDRAM is now obsolete RIMMs are 64 bits wide and come in speeds of 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, and 1066 MHz Different notches prevent you from snapping a RIMM into a motherboard DIMM slot or vice versa The RIMM memory controller uses a dual-channel architecture: it alternates between two banks to increase the speed of data retrieval You need to install RIMMs in pairs to accommodate this feature All RIMM slots on the motherboard must be filled with either a RIMM or a CRIMM A CRIMM, or continuity RIMM, is simply a stick with no memory chips on it Double Data Rate SDRAM (DDR RAM) is faster than regular SDRAM because it doubles the throughput Desktop PCs use 184-pin DDR DIMMs whereas laptops use either 200-pin or 172-pin small outline DIMMs (SO-DIMM) DDR RAM modules have notches that differ from both regular SDRAM and RDRAM, so DDR RAM will only snap into DDR slots on a motherboard DDR RAM is advertised one of two ways One way is with DDR followed by the speed; for example, DDR400 for a stick of RAM runs at 400 MHz Because DDR RAM runs at twice the clock speed, DDR400 is meant for a 200-MHz frontside bus DDR RAM is also advertised by PC followed by the throughput; for example, PC3200 The number is determined by multiplying the speed by eight (as all DDR sticks are 64 bits, or 8 bytes, wide) Thus, DDR400 has a throughput of 3200 bytes per second (400 MHz 8 bytes) DDR400 and PC3200 are equivalent
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