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Is a new RAM chip faulty? Odd symptoms


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#1
deeplyblue

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I'm trying to upgrade the RAM on my mother's PC. It's running XP SP2, and she likes to do photo editing and work on music files, so I thought a little extra RAM would improve matters. I've been putting extra RAM into PCs for 20 years, and never seen what happened next.

First check existing single 512MB chip. I inspected it physically, and checked what SANDRA said and, later, got the Crucial online scanner to tell me what it diagnosed. All agreed:

Existing chip: 512MB DDR 400 PC3200 non-ECC. (single-sided, 8 chips on 184-pin module brand: Elixir ??)

(Mobo: K8T-Neo-V 2 RAM slots)

Normally I'd buy a new Crucial chip, but I need this immediately and we may have a postal strike on our hands any day now, so I got a new chip from a local branch of PCWorld.

Spec of new chip (according to package):

512MB DDR 400 PC3200 non-ECC (single-sided, 8 chips on 184-pin module brand Integral). As far as I can tell, that's the same as the old one.

I opened the machine, put the new RAM chip into the second slot and started machine.

BSOD. Panicked (stupid, but I was tired) and failed to make a proper note of the error message - after years of shouting at others for not doing so!

Re-booted. Screen blank.

Re-booted, got it to respond to F8, and told it to go to Safe Mode. Got as far as a graphics driver and then stopped.

Repeat a couple of times, with similar results.

Took out new chip, leaving only old one in booted machine - AOK. Went online, checked out new scanner, demonstrated new settings for scanning in graphics prog. Tried different user, ditto. Really AOK.

Took out old chip, put in new chip, re-booted machine, it booted, I let it try to get into XP Normal Mode and then it gave me a BSOD with message:

"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM"

Well, it ain't missing (I thought it was not a proper filename to start off, but discovered that there is such a file sat there). As to whether it's corrupt or not I couldn't say, as check in Textpad showed lots of stuff, but it's obviously not a text file.

I've repeated this sequence several times now. With just the old RAM chip in, everything is just fine. With just the new RAM chip in, booting into Safe Mode stalls part way through; boot into Normal Mode and the file C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM is - according to the machine - missing or corrupt.

The two RAM chips appear to have identical specs, so they should work together. Even if they didn't work together, then they should both work in the same way. Oh, and I checked the two chips plugging them into and out of the same slot, in case the second slot was a problem.

I'm sure that I got the new RAM chip thoroughly clicked in, and, presumably it can't be totally duff, otherwise I wouldn't be getting as far as not being happy with the "WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM" file. Or, alternatively, not being able to get more than part way through the list of files when asked to boot into Safe Mode.

I've not previously needed to update any configuration files (let alone BIOS settings) when just adding a second identical RAM chip - or at any rate not for too many years for me to remember.

Oh, and I didn't try the whole Repair your system bit. It takes ages and ages to recover all your settings etc from one of those, and, if I have to, I'll leave her with just the original - and apparently perfectly functional system but with just 512MB RAM. And if - my reasoning went - swapping the RAM would cure the problem, then "repairing" the system probably wouldn't.

I've prided myself on my troubleshooting skills for years, but this time :) (new emoticon to me, and I couldn't resist using it!)

I have to leave this PC usable by 4pm Saturday (UK time), and if I can't manage anything else I'll have to leave my mother to take back the chip and insist that it's their fault and get a refund. She's quite good at that sort of thing, but I want to KNOW what's happening. Ideally I'd like to know what's happening in time to get a full Gig of RAM working in her system. Suggestions anyone?

Edit: New AV prog (Avira) added in 3 days ago, now uptodate and showing clean system.

db

Edited by deeplyblue, 06 August 2009 - 06:30 PM.

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#2
Broni

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New, bad RAM happens.

Run memtest on it...

1. Download - Pre-Compiled Bootable ISO (.zip)
2. Unzip downloaded memtest86+-2.11.iso.zip file.
3. Inside, you'll find memtest86+-2.11.iso file.
4. Download, and install ImgBurn: http://www.imgburn.com/
5. Insert blank CD into your CD drive.
6. Open ImgBurn, and click on Write image file to disc
7. Click on Browse for a file... icon:

Posted Image

8. Locate memtest86+-2.11.iso file, and click Open button.
9. Click on ImgBurn green arrow to start burning bootable memtest86 CD:

Posted Image

10. Once the CD is created, boot from it, and memtest will automatically start to run.

The running program will look something like this depending on the size and number of ram modules installed:


Posted Image

It's recommended to run 5-6 passes. Each pass contains very same 8 tests.

This will show the progress of the test. It can take a while. Be patient, or leave it running overnight.

Posted Image

The following image is the test results area:

Posted Image

The most important item here is the “errors” line. If you see ANY errors, even one, then you have bad RAM.
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#3
deeplyblue

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Thanks for that. My further researches are turning up that message about the file mentioned as a symptom of bad RAM (and bad HDs). It just seems such a bizarre combination of message and problem.

Will try the memtest tomorrow if I have time, and if (as (I increasingly suspect) it's bad we'll take it back to PCWorld and demand our money back - then go down the block to Maplins and try their RAM.

db

PS re your sig. I would carpe the diem if the ****ing thing would stay still long enough for me to get at it!

Edited by deeplyblue, 06 August 2009 - 07:52 PM.

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#4
Broni

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    Kraków my love :)

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Keep us posted...:)
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#5
123Runner

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Sometimes 2 different manufacturers of ram do not play nice together, BUT you have resolved that possibility by only installing the "new" ram and it fails.
I strongly suspect bad ram as already stated.
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#6
deeplyblue

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Thanks for the help. As it turned out I didn't need to start in on the MemTest route. When I spoke to my mother, she said, "I'm taking it back to PCWorld and demanding my money back." I didn't argue - when she's in that mood, even the taxmen don't argue - they give her the money back, it's easier. (And, No, there are no Thatcher blood in our genes, my mother's a Yorkshirewomen.)

PCWorld clearly agreed - they refunded the money without even demanding to see the screed (edited version of my OP - with all mention of my fallibility removed :) ) which I had carefully prepared for her.

I have also discovered that several people have reported the "Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM"
message as being brought up by bad hardware - usually hard drives or RAM. So it still bizarre to me, but no longer seems contradictory. So, fortunately, I had already decided that the RAM module was just bad. I only wish I hadn't told my mother just what a straightforward and quick upgrade it was to add a new RAM chip!

However, your hard work has not been wasted, as I have downloaded the software you recommended and will burn a CD now, so that I have it available should the need arise, and I'll keep it updated as and when.

Thanks again

db
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#7
Broni

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    Kraków my love :)

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Good news :)
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