Question Memory errors - do RAM modules degrade themselves over time?

gonuclear5

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Jun 17, 2018
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Hello,

my Dad has a problem with his PC. It's an old gaming PC (bought at the end of 2014) with an Asus motherboard (Z97 chipset), an Intel i7 processor and 32GB of RAM (4 identical modules with 8GB each). Sorry, I don't have the exact motherboard name and RAM manufacturer at the moment. The graphics card is removed, the onboard graphics is being used instead.

The PC is running Linux and worked just fine for about 4 years. Then it started crashing now and then, with the frequency of crashes slowly increasing. Crashes happened under load (backups over the network, compiling programs etc.). He also noticed some corruption in files recently written (CRC errors in some archives). There is no corruption in older files written before the problems started. Towards the end, the PC became nearly unusable, because it crashed on nearly each task.

We believe the problem must be caused by one or more of the following components: the power supply unit, motherboard, CPU or memory modules. Is this correct?

We tried removing memory modules pairwise (hoping to identify the faulty module), but it didn't help - crashes continued with half the RAM amount regardless of which modules were left inside.

Then we replaced the power supply (because it is the cheapest part to replace and because I successfully fixed similar issues on my PC this way), to no effect.

Now my Dad managed to buy a new motherboard of exactly the same model. We installed it and now it shows quite a weird behavior: with all 4 memory modules present, we get crashes (and memory test shows lots of bit errors). But if we only leave 3 memory modules inside (doesn't matter which ones), it seems to run just fine.

With 4 modules, we tried increasing the DRAM voltage from 1.50V to 1.55V, to no effect. Actual DRAM voltage in BIOS was shown as 1.488V with the 1.50V setting, and as 1.55V with the 1.55V setting, so it seems the power supply is providing the correct voltage. So here is where we stand today.

What can be the cause of the problem, and how should we proceed? I think he cannot have an incompatible RAM/motherboard combination, because exactly the same combination worked perfectly earlier. Is it possible that RAM modules somehow degrade themselves over time and no longer work as well as they used to?

Can we be reasonably sure that the CPU is okay and doesn't need to be replaced, because it works correctly with 3 RAM modules?

If we fail to make it work with BIOS settings etc., is buying new RAM a reasonable next step? He doesn't want to buy a completely new PC, since he is quite happy with this one's computing power.

Thanks :)
 

Major_Trouble

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Jun 25, 2007
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Crashes happened under load (backups over the network, compiling programs etc.). He also noticed some corruption in files recently written (CRC errors in some archives). There is no corruption in older files written before the problems started. Towards the end, the PC became nearly unusable, because it crashed on nearly each task.
Have you not consider a failing HDD? It's a fairly old computer by the sounds of it.
 

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