Computer RAM or Memory Problems
We have noticed that many manufacturers have problems with the latest generation of 'earth friendly' DDR3 memory. Some examples are Hynix Eco RAM and Samsung Planet First RAM. Dell computer uses many different brands of memory, but one particular lot of T3500's that BCS purchased for a customer was loaded entirely with Hynix Eco RAM. Usually when RAM fails, it is obvious. The computer might not start, there is a RAM related blue screen when Windows is loaded, random patterns on the screen (with an integrated graphics chip) etc.
Unfortunately, the newer low voltage sticks do not exhibit classic memory failure symptoms. The blue screens sometimes cite incorrect Interrupts, a system process terminating unexpectedly, or other completely random driver related issues. The failure time is also intermittent and cyclical rather than persistent. This makes troubleshooting almost impossible, since the problem will not happen for X number of days after the computer is unplugged and plugged back in (or power cycled, sometimes the power button doesn't work!).
Supprisingly, the bad batches of RAM will usually pass all memory tests with flying colors until their usual period of failure.
The first encounter I had with bad Hynix Eco RAM was in one of the T3500's, it would run fine for a week and then give some random blue screen on the weekend. The issue seemed to be driver related, so we worked with Dell to reload the latest version of all the system drivers. The issue persisted, so we performed a bios update. After another week, we reloaded the operating system. None of these steps improved the situation.
I began to suspect a memory issue, but Dell (like other vendors) usually will not send out all new memory and expected that I would test each stick individually until the faulty one was found. Obviously this was a problem, since at worst this would require up to a month of waiting and site visits for our customer. Thankfully we have our own Dell Small Business Rep who was able to send replacement RAM all at once, completely resolving the issue.
We have noticed that the course of action varies widely depending upon the support rep. Some will hold hard to blaming software or driver issues, others will send the whole batch of replacement RAM immediately.
Our most recent experience with bad RAM is still in progress. It is Samsung Planet First RAM in an HP Pavillion. The freeze usually will only occur after a day and a half, and the RAM will pass all tests until that point. After failure and a cool down, the RAM will pass all the tests again. Without the cooldown time, the computer will not boot properly. Unfortunately, we have only been able to talk to level one techs who will not pass our case up to level two unless we have an error code. The machine freezes with a scrambled screen, and the operating system (Windows 7) cannot write to disk when the hardware freezes! This is week three of support calls, we will see how this one plays out.
The only 'good' news is that the RAM failure period shortens over time, and may fail completely.
Here are some screenshots from our current case for your entertainment.
Screen Scrambling in Bios
Getting a scrambled screen in the BIOS is guaranteed bad news, either RAM, graphics, or main board failure.