Memory Diagnostics Shootout

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The Winners

In order to run a reasonably useful comparison as well as test the capabilities of the diagnostics, I needed to find a set of defective modules that had a variety of problems. A representative of Micron’s QA department agreed to supply me with modules that had failed their own internal tests. To make sure the test was fair, eight non-ECC PC100 SDRAM modules were selected at random from their defect bin and I was not informed what nature of the problems were. I also used a Centon module of my own that I had suspected of having some problems. Each module was tested on the exact same system with each of the diagnostics (BCM diagnostics were run in both Windows and DOS modes).

Using nine known defective modules is not a definitive test, of course, but as you can see from the results, it did identify the better diagnostics. In the table, each module is listed across the top (labeled A through I), with the diagnostic products listed down the left side. Each cell contains a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to indicate whether an error was detected. One module would not allow the system to boot at all (indicated by ‘NB’), but the RST Pro card was able to initialize and run tests (though the module was so bad, the display was almost unreadable as even the text fields contained corrupted data).

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

RST Pro

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

RST

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

NB

Yes

Yes

Yes

DocMem

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

NB

Yes

No

No

QuickTech Pro

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

NB

Yes

Yes

Yes

MemTest86

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

NB

Yes

Yes

Yes

BCM (Win)

No

No

No

No (BSOD)

No

NB

Yes

No

Yes

PHD PCI

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

NB

Yes

Yes

Yes

Burn-In

No

No

No

No

No

NB

No

No

No

BCM (DOS)

No

No

No

Yes

No

NB

Yes

No

No

The results should be pretty self-explanatory. As stated above, I would love to give the five diagnostics that found all errors an even more difficult test, if I can find the modules to do it with. As it stands, I would have to say that for the end user, and the technician who only requires the occasional memory test (and does not use ECC memory), MemTest86 seems fully capable of doing the job, and the price is right (free!). However, for those who require a more complete set of diagnostics for system design, diagnosis and repair, or who will be doing validation on many memory modules on a regular basis, one of the Ultra-X products might be much better suited for the task. This is because MemTest86 is a memory diagnostic only, while the Ultra-X products have additional features that will be of use to the professional (such as PCI register editing, SPD information, test selection and configuration options, additional component testing, etc.).

I would like to follow up this comparison and perform additional testing, as well as include some other diagnostics, if possible. If there are any manufacturers who would like to send me some known defective modules and/or diagnostics, I will gladly run another set of tests. If you need to test ECC modules, RST Pro is the only one I know of that claims to perform this type of testing, though I have not had the opportunity to verify this yet. I would like to hear from anyone who knows of other diagnostics that should be considered for the next shootout.


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