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  • Should I try cleaning faulty RAM?

    Home Forums AskWoody support PC hardware Questions: How to troubleshoot hardware problems Should I try cleaning faulty RAM?

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      • #2288043 Reply

        Windows Memory Diagnostic and MemTest86 report errors with my desktop’s RAM (I tested both sticks individually, both are affected) and I experience BSODs that are related to memory.

        I’ve read that cleaning the RAM’s connectors with an eraser or isopropyl alcohol and swabs can often fix the problem. I’ve seen tutorials on YouTube. Is this true?

        Link to YouTube Tutorial

        How likely is it that the RAM is simply dirty versus defective (and must be replaced)?

      • #2288065 Reply
        AskWoody Plus

        You would have no problem with taking out the RAM sticks and cleaning them, like in the video.  If they really are faulty then no amount of cleaning will fix them, and they would need to be replaced.  But if the problem is just dirty contacts, then carefully cleaning them could fix it.  Either way, you have nothing to lose, and possibly something to gain.  Be careful, when removing the sticks, to note which slots they were in, so as to replace them in exactly the same way.  It’s perhaps a bit suss that both sticks are affected?  Possibly only one is defective;  try replacing them one at a time, as suggested in the video, and see if you still get errors on each one individually.

        Windows 10 Pro 64 bit 2004

        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Bundaburra.
        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2288071 Reply
        AskWoody Plus

        By sheer coincidence, yesterday afternoon I went back into my office to find my Linux box in some kind of deep sleep where it wouldn’t come out by shaking the mouse or typing on the keyboard. The only thing that worked was to press the power button, which briefly brought the desktop back which was then immediately overlaid by the shutdown screen. Of course nothing worked there, all I could do was wait for the computer to shut down.

        When I pressed the power button back on, it would not boot but instead went into a state where the LED on the button would blink in red 5 times, then wait a couple of seconds and then blink red again 5 times.

        A trip to the Web indicated that, for this model, that sequence means that there is a problem with the RAM. (Ah, you were wondering where this story was headed…)

        When I opened the case, enormous dust bunnies came flying out. So instead of taking out the RAM sticks I decided to blow compressed air from a can into the case. More clouds of dust flew out. Guess the computer was overdue for a cleaning. Dust is a computer’s biggest enemy.

        Removing the RAM in this mini-tower PC involves a lot of preliminary work taking out other stuff, so following the dusting and before doing all that I tried plugging the machine back in to see what happened: if it still objected, then I would switch out the RAM.

        Fortunately, this time the computer booted back up normally. Kubuntu Linux even took me back to the same set of windows I’d had open before the shutdown. Everything seems to be working fine.

        So if you haven’t done this already, I’d suggest giving the inside of the computer a good shot of compressed air all over before undertaking more laborious steps.

        Good luck!


        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Cybertooth.
        2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2288087 Reply
        Paul T
        AskWoody MVP

        Do not attempt to use an eraser to clean contacts. Any amount of residue will prevent the contact working.

        Memory has gold plated contacts. All you need to do to clean them is remove and replace. The mechanical stress will do the work for you.

        As @Cybertooth said, clean out the dust first.
        My preference is to vacuum the dust out with a small nozzle, as blowing can push dust further into crevices. You can make a small nozzle from rolled up paper and sticky tape.

        cheers, Paul

      • #2288233 Reply
        AskWoody Lounger

        Memory has gold plated contacts. All you need to do to clean them is remove and replace. The mechanical stress will do the work for you.

        … almost always but not guaranteed.

        If there’s environmental damage (from smoke, accumulating droplets, aerosols, … other nasty and unhealthy stuff in the air… or in some cases even straight up residue from liquids and even solids) you might actually have to do a proper cleaning with solvents and swabs. And I mean, also clean the motherboard side of it.

        Garage computers might dust with metal particles and weird droplets in it caked on, for example. And since not all mechanics, especially hobbyists, go to the trouble of buying fully sealed computers…

      • #2288259 Reply

        I really appreciate all your answers.  Today I tried removing and replacing a single stick while the other was simply removed. I did this a few times but MemTest86 still found errors.

        I tried cleaning with a paintbrush, rubbing alcohol and even the eraser. Nothing worked. Maybe I didn’t scrub hard enough.

        Joking aside, I ordered a new kit and I’m going to install it tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

        • #2288264 Reply
          AskWoody Lounger

          Try Cybertooth’s suggestion. If you can also remove the case cover on the back side of the motherboard, get in there with the compressed air can’s nozzle and blow that out as well. Only do this with the computer powered down, then unplugged, and after pressing the power button do discharge any residual power in the computer’s power supply.

          2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2288470 Reply

        After doing all I could to save them, I gave up on my old RAM sticks. I’m fairly certain that they are faulty, considering their age.

        The new RAM is working perfectly. Zero errors after 3 hours of MemTest86.

        I didn’t know that you can discharge the power supply’s residual power by pressing the power button! Good to know!

        Thanks for all the advice, I learned a lot.

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