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DrKlahn
DrKlahn, Hardware Engineer
Category: Computer
Satisfied Customers: 1854
Experience:  BSci: Electrical Engr., Industrial Engr, and Computer Sci.
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I have an Acer Aspire 3634Lmi which I am cleaning up for a

Resolved Question:

I have an Acer Aspire 3634Lmi which I am cleaning up for a friend. The original RAM is DDR333. I have installed a 1G stick of DDR400 RAM as that's all I have. The machine runs fine generally, but doing a defrag the system BSOD'd. I suspect that the original HDD might be the cause, but I'm wondering if the wrong memory speed might be causing this?

I have been unable to find a utility to thoroughly test the drive. I would also like to find a utility to test the RAM...
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Computer
Expert:  DrKlahn replied 11 months ago.

DrKlahn :

Thanks for using JustAnswer, the internet's independent site for Q&A consulting. I'm "DrKlahn," and I'd like to help you with this question.

DrKlahn :

Please send me a short message when you're online and ready to begin.

DrKlahn :

Notice / disclosure: JustAnswer is a Q&A service not associated with any equipment or software manufacturer. The "9 second" ad does not mean questions are answered in 9 seconds - it means about 400 questions are answered per hour.

Customer:

How do i find my answer?

DrKlahn :

Good morning from the USA (local time 01:34 AM). Welcome to JustAnswer. The system indicates that you're a new user of our site, so do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have about how things work.

DrKlahn :

Before starting, I would like to confirm that you know that JustAnswer is a Q&A service, and not the official company support site for Acer?

Customer:

Of course. I have a login on Jastanswer I think, but don't remember it as I sort most things out myself. It's also complicated because I am talking to you on an ipad, not the Acer in question...

DrKlahn :

OK. I will try to keep my comments terse.

DrKlahn :

DDR memory is downward compatible on speed.

Customer:

No problem...

DrKlahn :

There is a tiny serial RAM on board the memory stick which contains memory timings for all speeds that the memory will work at.

Customer:

Meaning I ca use slower or faster memory than that specified,?

DrKlahn :

When the system starts up, it reads the appropriate timing out and applies it to the hardware.

Customer:

Ok...

DrKlahn :

If you insert slower memory, it will run at the slower speed -- assuming that the chipset supports the lower speed. If DDR333 is installed in a system that only supports 500 and 667 MHz bus speeds, the DDR333 may not work.

DrKlahn :

If you insert higher speed memory, the system will slow it down to where it will work in the chipset.

DrKlahn :

The upshot is that if it works at all it is OK to use in that system.

DrKlahn :

There is one exception to this.

DrKlahn :

When "high density" memory is installed into a system that only accepts "low density" memory, one of two problems can occur:

DrKlahn :

a) It won't work at all

DrKlahn :

b) Only half the memory will show up

DrKlahn :

In this case the system is seeing all the memory so that is not an issue.

DrKlahn :

The easiest way to test memory is with Memtest-86+. This is a special purpose program that can be burned to CD or put on a USB stick. It will test the memory aggressively and repeatedly looking for problems.

DrKlahn :

If the system passes Memtest-86+ it's reasonable to say there is no memory problem.

DrKlahn :

One moment and I'll get a download link for that.

DrKlahn :

Regarding a possible disk problem, there are two ways to address the issue.

DrKlahn :

One is to trust the disk's on-board SMART error handling, install a program on the system to interrogate the drive's SMART status, and accept that as the situation. Normally this is sufficient.

DrKlahn :

The other one is to not trust the disk at all and test it using an aggressive disk tester such as MHDD. It is unusual to find a situation where this is required unless buying a used disk through the mail where it may have suffered damage during shipping.

DrKlahn :

The most commonly used SMART status program is Passmark's DiskCheckup.

DrKlahn :

MHDD is something of a steep learning curve but once it's learned it's simple to use. It can recertify aXXXXXin under 24 hours.

DrKlahn :

All of these programs are free.

DrKlahn :

At this point I imagine you have some questions, so fire away.

Customer:

Nope, you have been very helpful. The RAM stick is new and a reputable brand, but the machine has had a hard life(it was with my son in Afghanistan) so I'm suspecting more than a few bad sectors...

DrKlahn :

That's entirely possible, and in that case I would recommend testing it with MHDD. First back up the drive, as MHDD will destroy everything on it.

DrKlahn :

Then run one pass to erase the drive and get it up to operating temperature.

Customer:

Ah.... :/

DrKlahn :

Then start the repeated test with replacement of bad sectors. Figure on aXXXXXthere should be no more than 16 bad sectors, and adjust the expectations accordingly. If the drive has more than that, it's probably a good idea to replace the drive. When a drive shows any bad sectors at all, it is starting to fail -- this is because all drives have built-in error correction.

DrKlahn :

Therefore the SMART status that shows the number of bad block replacements is a key indicator of drive health.

DrKlahn :

Full Size Image

DrKlahn :

Above we see Disk Checkup reporting status for the system drive on my XP system.

DrKlahn :

Full Size Image

DrKlahn :

Above we see Disk Checkup reporting the SMART status for the system drive. There are no yellow-flag or red-flag errors, so this drive is OK.

DrKlahn :

(click anywhere on the above images to see them at full size)

Customer:

Ok, given what you have said about the ram, and your apparent agreement that the drive is most likely the problem, i will try to find a drive cloning program, and replace the drive with one I have lying around. Sound reasonable?

DrKlahn :

That's a reasonable approach. When the system blue-screens, also check the Event Viewer logs for the system to see if it was able to log anything before the crash. If the system is logging, for example, disk errors that's indicative of a problem.

DrKlahn :

The Event Viewer is available through the Administrative Tools section of the Control Panel.

DrKlahn :

One additional note regarding DDR memory. It works better in pairs, though it will work as single sticks. Two 512MB sticks will be faster than one 1 GB stick because the memory controller can "interleave" access across both sticks and get a small but definite improvement.

Customer:

Ok, i never knew that. Unfortunately I only have one, but once applications are running, they seem snappy enough. So I'll leave it as is for now.

DrKlahn :

If you run Memtest for, say, four to six hours and it comes up error-free you can be reasonably confident that the problem is either not in the memory, or it's extremely intermittent.

Customer:

Ok, I'll find Memtest and use that, then act accordingly. You have been very helpful, thank you.

DrKlahn :

It's my pleasure and you are very welcome.

DrKlahn :

Is there anything I've overlooked, or anything that you would like discussed in more detail, or possibly some other question I might be able to help with? Don't hesitate to ask - my time is yours for as long as you need it.

DrKlahn :

I also have instructions for how to save this session to a text file for later reference offline. If that would be useful, please let me know.

DrKlahn :

Since you are on a portable unit you may not be able to save to your system at this time. I can transcribe for download if you like.

Customer:

it would be useful to save, but I have no idea how to on an ipad, and have written a few things down on paper, so should be ok. I wonder if there is a free or cheap disk cloner available that you know of?

Customer:

if you could transcribe for download or email I would be grateful. :)

DrKlahn :

I use Paragon Disk Manager free edition for cloning drives. There are so many disk cloning programs out there that finding one is not the problem; it's sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

DrKlahn :

When looking for a drive cloning program look for one that can not only clone a drive, but clone it to a larger or smaller drive. If you have aXXXXXthat is failing but only anXXXXXto replace it, being able to clone to a larger drive is not helpful.

DrKlahn :

I'll be glad to transcribe the session, and I will do that just before we close so that you get the whole thing.

Customer:

ok, i have Paragon HDM 12, (paid) but it's installed on another machine, so will have to figure something out. I think my replacement drive is larger, si that shouldn't be an issue. Thanks once again for very useful information

Customer:

and thanks if you can transcribe... Best regards, Mike

DrKlahn :

When cloning drives from another system it's useful to have one, or preferably two, "universal" drive interface kits.

Customer:

I have just one, unfortunately. But I'll sort something out... :)

DrKlahn :

A "universal" drive interface kit consists of a power supply, USB to IDE / SATA / laptop IDE adapter, and the necessary cables to hook up anything to the adapter and power supply. They sell for about $US 10 on ebay.

Customer:

may even buy another. But the only time i use windows is when I'm helping out friends. I use Macs myself, but keep a windows laptop for "helping"... :)

DrKlahn :

OK. If you're ready to close this session, I'll do the transcription and get you a download link. Ready to do that?

Customer:

Yep. Thanks again, and best regards, Mike...

DrKlahn :

Here's a link where you can download the transcript:

DrKlahn :

You will need to wait the 60 second countdown out to make sure that you have seen the ads. Then the download link will appear about halfway down the page at the left.

DrKlahn :

Shall I wait while you download that to confirm that you have a good copy?

Customer:

No, it'll be fine, thanks...

DrKlahn :

OK. Would you like to close the question at this time?

Customer:

Yep.

DrKlahn :

Then I'll bring in some information that I'm sure you have seen before, but it never hurts to drag it in one more time.

DrKlahn :

If anything in this answer is unclear, or if you would like something explained in more detail, do not hesitate to ask.

Customer:

Ok...

DrKlahn :

If this answer is unsatisfactory for any reason, do not rate or accept it. A bad rating does not refund your deposit. If you want a refund, ask me - I'll help you get one immediately.

DrKlahn :

Closing a question does not mean support has ended. You can return to this session later and post comments or ask related questions, until the session eventually expires and is archived.

DrKlahn :

If this answer is satisfactory, please close this question using the Rating panel / Accept button. This will credit me for an answer. Thank you for using JustAnswer; it's been my pleasure to serve you today. We'll hope to see you again in the future; between now and then, I wish you a pleasant day and a quick solution to this problem.

DrKlahn :

I'll hold online in case there is a last-minute issue or a problem closing the question. If you encounter a problem during closing, let me know so I can help.

DrKlahn :

The Rating panel is now unlocked and you can close when you're ready.

DrKlahn, Hardware Engineer
Category: Computer
Satisfied Customers: 1854
Experience: BSci: Electrical Engr., Industrial Engr, and Computer Sci.
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