The Windows Memory Diagnostic tool checks the computer’s memory (RAM) for failures. If you have recurring error messages or computer crashes and can’t figure out what causes them, it might be time to check the memory.
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Many free memory diagnostic tools are available, but if you are running Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 (R2) a memory diagnostic tool is already included. You just have to execute the command mdsched and choose to restart the computer. If you still use Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, you can download the tool here. In this version you have to run the .exe file and create a startup disk or save a CD image. Then you have to insert the media and boot from it. It is a lot less hassle in the newer versions of Windows, because there you just tell the tool to restart Windows and it takes care of everything. No matter which version of the tool you use, the tool starts to check your computer’s memory after your computer reboots.
The tool does three different memory checks and two passes. After both passes are completed, the computer restarts and Windows will boot again.
This so-called basic test mix is the default setting. If you want to thoroughly check your computer’s memory, I recommend running the standard or extended test. The standard diagnostic includes 8 different memory tests; the extended one includes 17. To choose one of the more intensive diagnostic checks, you have to press F1 when the Memory Diagnostic Tool is running. If you do this you encounter two more options: You can enable or disable the cache, and you can set the number of diagnostic runs. When you are finished with your customizations, you start the memory check by pressing F10.
If the Memory Diagnostic Tool does find a problem during a diagnostic check, you are informed in the status display area. If everything runs smoothly, the tool just reboots the computer after all diagnostic passes are done.
Update: Also check out the review of the memory diagnostic tool Memtest86.