MemTest-86 is a simple but thorough tool which will scan your PC's RAM for errors. It's been around for almost 20 years, but is still being updated to fix bugs and ensure it works with the latest hardware (which includes both 32 and 64-bit systems, so don't be concerned about the "86").

The program comes in the form of an ISO image, so it's not quite as convenient to use as some of the competition. You'll need to use another program to burn MemTest-86 to disc (or create a bootable USB key) before it's ready for use. But once you have made those preparations, everything else works very well.

MemTest-86 boots immediately, for instance. There's no complicated operating system which needs to fire up, first - you're straight into the program's simple text-based interface. A menu offers a selection of test options, but you don't even have to worry about that: just wait a few seconds and the default test pattern will begin.

The screen then updates to show you exactly what's going on, the various tests that are being used. It's fairly technical, but if nothing else the "Pass %" and "Test %" will show you how far through the checks you are. And again, there are a lot of error types which could be reported at the end of the test (MemTest-86 is very thorough and detailed), but you don't really have to understand those, either. If you see any errors, there's a problem with your hardware; if you don't, your issues are probably somewhere else.

Version 7.0 (Version History):

  • New Features

    Row Hammer Test (Test 13) now uses double-sided hammering and random data patterns in an attempt to expose more RAM modules susceptible to disturbance errors.
    PXE network boot is now fully supported (MemTest86 Site Edition only) to support scalable, diskless deployment to PXE-enabled clients. Like the Pro version, the configuration file (acquired from the PXE server via TFTP) can be used for customization and configuration of MemTest86 memory tests. Report files can also be uploaded to the server. Logging, however, is unavailable.
    Memory tests are run in Parallel CPU mode by default, if supported by the UEFI firmware. Running in parallel mode significantly decreases the test time as compared to running in single CPU mode and should also help to detect more errors faster. This was made possible after developing a work around for UEFI BIOS bug that prevented multi-threading on some machines.
    Added 'HAMMERPAT' config file parameter to specify the data pattern to use for the row hammer test. By default, random data patterns are used.
    Added 'HAMMERMODE' config file parameter to specify whether to use single or double sided hammering. By default, double-sided hammering is used.
    Added 'CPULIST' config file parameter to specify a subset of available CPUs to enable for the memory tests.
    Added 'DISABLEMP' config file parameter to disable multiprocessor support in MemTest86. This can be used as a workaround for certain UEFI firmwares that have issues running MemTest86 in multi-CPU modes.
    Added 'BGCOLOR' config file parameter to specify the background colour to use
    Added Portuguese translations
    Added Czech translations

    Fixes/Enhancements

    Added ECC support for different revisions of Intel Skylake memory controllers
    Fixed ECC detection on Intel Broadwell-H chipsets
    Changed how ECC errors are detected on Broadwell chipsets
    Changed how ECC errors are detected on Atom C2000 chipset
    Fixed incorrect channel/slot number being reported for ECC errors on E5 chipsets
    Added SMBUS (SPD) support for Intel Broxton
    Added SMBUS (SPD) support for Intel Airmont
    Added SMBUS (SPD) support for Intel Sunrise Point-LP
    Reduced the number of iterations for the Modulo 20 Test (Test 9) to decrease the test time
    Reduced the number of addresses to be hammered for the Row hammer Test (Test 13) to decrease the test time
    When no tests are completed, the test report now displays "N/A" as oppose to "PASS"
    The High Precision Event Timer (HPET) is now used to measure the clock speed, if available. Otherwise, the older Programmable Interval Timer (PIT) is used.
    The clock speed displayed in the RAM info is now the effective clock speed as opposed to the actual clock speed. The effective clock speed is twice the actual clock speed for DDR RAM.
    Speeds greater than 10000MB/s are converted to GB/s when displaying memory/cache speeds in the test screen
    Memory sizes greater than 10240MB are now displayed in GB
    Console is no longer forced to 80 x 25 if the current mode has a higher resolution
    Fixed issue with certain UEFI firmware when switching from console to graphics mode
    Fixed RAM benchmark chart title string overflow
    Various system info related updates/fixes (CPU)

Verdict

A thorough and reliable way to check your system for RAM issues