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Basic Guide to Testing Memory in Ubuntu

Written on January 16, 2020 by Ben Bohnen

What is Memtest86+?

Functioning outside of the operating system is necessary because it frees up almost all of the memory that would have been in-use by the operating system; this enables the software to examine as much of the memory as possible. Memtest86+ is included by default in Ubuntu installations as well as other major distributions of Linux. If Memtest has not been included in your distribution of Linux, then you can use a USB thumbdrive to create a portable test drive to boot from and run the test.

To create a bootable drive, (Do this if you do not have access to the GRUB menu, or if your motherboard does not have legacy support).

How Do I Access Memtest on My Ubuntu System?

Running Memtest on a system that has Ubuntu installed is a relatively easy task to perform with only a couple of steps to take. Since Memtest86+ runs without an operating system, you will have to access the GRUB menu. You can do this by holding down the “Shift” key while the system is starting up. Memtest should appear in the list of options. Use the arrow keys on the keyboard to highlight the “Memtest86+” option and press the “Enter” key. Memtest should boot up right way and start running.

Okay, Memtest Is Running, Now What?

Now that we have successfully gotten Memtest up and running, we play the waiting game to see if any errors are detected or if the system restarts. Ideally, we would want to run Memtest for as many passes as time allows as these errors can be intermittent and an error might not appear until a second pass. Each pass can take anywhere from a couple of hours to several days depending on how much memory is installed in the system. This is why we recommend that our customers run the test at the end of the day and to allow it to run at least through the night. If your system has a lot of memory, and if the crashing is infrequent, it may be worthwhile to just run it over the weekend. If you have ECC (Error-correcting code) memory, then you can get by with doing only one pass if you are in a time crunch as it will generally correct errors on its own; however, if you have the time to perform a second pass then we would recommend that you do so.

The first step would be to reseat your memory and run the test again. This will often clear any errors and crashing that you were experiencing. If you run Memtest a second time and still receive errors, then it is likely that you have one or more memory sticks that are faulty and need to be replaced.

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Tags: Ubuntu, Mint, Memtest86+, Memory Diagnostics, Memory, Linux, Troubleshooting

You cannot run memtest86+ on a system that boots using UEFI. UEFI systems need memtest86. UEFI compatible of memtest86 are proprietary. The basic version of memtest86 is free of charge, but the others require payment.

Posted on 2020-01-16 18:18:47
Ben Bohnen

Hello Damon!

Thank you for the input, and you are entirely correct! Memtest86+ will only work on non-UEFI systems while Memtest86 v5 and higher will only boot in UEFI mode. For older non-UEFI systems, you will want to use v4 of Memtest86. For the purposes of this article, and troubleshooting, the free version of Memtest86 is more than adequate to determine if you have a faulty module. The Pro and Site editions have some nice features, but they are unlikely to be very useful for the average user.

Additionally, most modern motherboards have CSM compatibility settings that allow for compatibility for both legacy and UEFI which mitigates compatibility issues. Not all motherboards have this feature, and that is part of the reason why we have included instructions on how to create a bootable Memtest USB.

I have adjusted the article to better clarify the purpose for creating a Memtest86 USB.

Posted on 2020-01-17 19:06:25