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Diagnosing a Memory Error

Posted on 2004-04-20
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Last Modified: 2012-08-14
I'm running a Dell Precision Workstation 650 (1 yr old). It has 2GB, 266MHz,Double Data Rate SDRAM,ECC,4x512 memory. It's still covered by a service agreement; however, sometimes I like to get some expert advice before calling tech support.
      A few months ago, at boot, I would get the message "Uncorrectable memory failure ...Press F1 to continue". The Dell Diagnostics "March A Test" identified the problem in addresses 73D00000h - 73DFFFFFh as Error Code 2F00:0419, ECC Error encountered. Suspected DIMM B.
     Dell sent me 4 new DIMMs. However, I would still get the message sometimes--not all the time. I would just "Press F1 to continue..." since the machine worked fine. More recently, the machine has been freezing.
     I ran the Dell diagnostics, and got the same error code, this time for DIMM A. If I switch the first and last DIMMs, I get the same error message, identifying DIMM A as the problem. Does it seem likely that the problem really is the DIMM or something in the system board?
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Question by:doctortony
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    Assisted Solution

    by:PeteLong
    I think youve allready answered this yourself! sounds more like the DIMM socket

    try these on your RAM

    Test your Memory Modules

    Windows Memory Diagnostic

    The Windows Memory Diagnostic tests the Random Access Memory (RAM) on your computer for errors. The diagnostic includes a comprehensive set of memory tests. If you are experiencing problems while running Windows, you can use the diagnostic to determine whether the problems are caused by failing hardware, such as RAM or the memory system of your motherboard. Windows Memory Diagnostic is designed to be easy and fast. On most configurations, you can download the diagnostic, read the documentation, run the test and complete the first test pass in less than 30 minutes.

    To run Windows Memory Diagnostic, you must reboot your computer with the disk or CD-ROM on which you installed Windows Memory Diagnostic in the drive. After the reboot, Windows Memory Diagnostic will load and its interface will appear. After loading, the first test pass will begin, using the default standard test suite, and continue until complete, unless Windows Memory Diagnostic is either paused or exited. Once the first test pass is complete, Windows Memory Diagnostic will begin a second test pass using the same settings as before. Windows Memory Diagnostic will continue to run test passes until you exit
    http://oca.microsoft.com/en/windiag.asp

    Memtest86 - A Stand-alone Memory Diagnostic
    Memtest86 is thorough, stand alone memory test for x86 architecture computers. BIOS based memory tests are only a quick check and often miss many of the failures that are detected by Memtest86.
    http://www.memtest86.com/

    DocMemory Diagnostic
    DocMemory diagnostic software can be installed on a single self-booting floppy disk, making it independent of any operating system.
    http://www.simmtester.com/page/products/doc/docfeat.asp
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    Assisted Solution

    by:Callandor
    Since it's identifying a memory slot, that would be the system board, rather than the memory.  Download and run the diagnostic program at www.memtest86.com.  If it fails, you have bad RAM; if it passes, you may have a false positive, and only a comparison against RAM that you know works will reveal which it is.
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    Expert Comment

    by:Callandor
    I see Pete is on the case ... :-)
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    by:PeteLong
    :)
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    Accepted Solution

    by:
    This is my offered dianosis based on the following symptoms:
    1. failures have been noted for both sockets(B, then A) and with multiple memory modules(originals and replacements).
    2. works for a while then fails with increasing frequency.
    Dx: improper installation due to flexing of the mainboard.
    Tx: use a nonconductive support under the sockets when installing(don't forget to remove) the DIMMs to prevent mainboard flex as the modules are "snapped" into place. The module must be correctly aligned in the sockets retention tabs and both ends simultaneouly pressed firmly into place, snap. The mainboard must not flex and the module must not be rocked into position. It is best practice to install the memory prior to installation of the mainboard on the standoffs in the chassis to avoid this situation.
    Info: if the mainboard is flexed during installtion of the modules, the heat up and cool down cycles of operation will degrade the memory contacts causing intermittant and unpredictable memory failures progressively. Before pronouncing any more deaths (mainboard) try CPR using the above technique.
    If proper installation does not solve the problem, call the coroner and send the mainboard to the morgue.
    T
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    by:PeteLong
    tmj883 - Outstanding post :)
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    by:tmj883
    Wish I could correct some of my spelling but I hope this helps all of the subscribers. I have found this to be a "hidden" problem with many different mainboards and mem modules especially for people who upgrade a pre-existing system with more memory. The application of modern memory technology has become complex. The term compatible memory means alot of different things today. While we concentrate on the number of banks, timings, bandwidth, etc. let's not forget basics like detailed assembly practices.
    For doctortony,
    What if we have good installation of good modules in a good mainboard...two other possibilities come to mind when it comes to Dell machines...case heat(Dells are generally quiet machines but their cooling is from the school of minimal) assure good ventilation. And power supply...these are minimal efforts as well. Could be a failing ps. In any event, Dell backs their products...use your service agreement...T
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    Expert Comment

    by:PeteLong
    ThanQ
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