Memory testing on Asus M5A97

Hurricane Michael touched only lightly in Northeast Florida, which was a relief after what Irma did the previous year. However, we weren’t completely unscathed. and the lights did blip and the UPS kicked in, but not soon enough. Thereafter, my desktop machine’s energy-saving modes started acting up.

This is a machine that had been swapped with a production server when it acted up there (turns out the CPU was overheating and needed some thermal paste), but it had already been diagnosed with bad RAM once, so when lesser remedies failed, I kicked the box into memtest86+.

The results were appalling. There were 2 4GB sticks and one 8GB stick in the machine and I tested them alone and in combination. The 8G stick failed outright, and the 4 GB sticks would test fine, but only one at a time. Add 2, and the machine would fail. Anything more than 4GB total in the box would blow it.

This wasn’t simply a test fail – the entire box would reboot shortly after the test started, before the CPU even hit full operating temperature. I feared the worst and bought another motherboard and more RAM.

When that came in, I tested it. And got the exact same results. The new motherboard rebooted. And the new memory sticks were both 8GB, and they both caused reboots. Anything more than 4 GB would fail on either motherboard.

Such consistency leaves only one other failure point and that’s the venerable memtest86+ test program itself. Not something that you’d usually expect to fail so catastrophically, especially since the latest Fedora release was installed, but I’d tweaked the daylights out of the the BIOS (including manually setting RAM timings), and no luck. And, incidentally, memtest86+ was displaying the wrong RAM timings.

So I did some searching for alternatives and found 2. One will run on a live Linux OS, although of course, its ability to test RAM is limited by having to work around the RAM being used by the OS and apps. The other is memtest86, which is what memtest86+ was forked from and is now available in both free and paid models.

I tried memtester, which runs under Linux, and it did flunk part of my original 8G stick. Then I tried memtest86. Unlike memtest86+, it did not spontaneously reboot. In fact, all the RAM passed!

Since memtester did claim certain bits were bad, I need to do more research, but apparently despite having been updated are recently as this past July, memtest86+ apparently lacks decent support for UEFI, DDR4 and who knows what else, making it essentially useless even for as dated a board as the M5A97. And yes, I know it’s showing its age, but it meets all the necessary criteria for my needs.