General Question

nikipedia's avatar

Could bad RAM be causing this computer problem?

Asked by nikipedia (27481points) August 22nd, 2010

I have a 3 year old Macbook. Yesterday it randomly started freezing. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it except that opening new tabs in Firefox seems to set it off pretty consistently.

I booted in safe mode without event and ran fsck, and my hard drive is coming up okay, so I don’t think that’s the problem. A few weeks ago I had to replace one of the sticks of RAM. Is there any chance this is being caused by bad RAM?

Any other diagnostic help would be much appreciated. I really do not want to have to buy a new computer.

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18 Answers

missingbite's avatar

It could be but did you check to see if it is showing up as installed?

Austinlad's avatar

Bad ram is certainly a possibility, especially since the trouble started after you replaced one of the sticks. Or maybe the new stick is running at a different clock rate than the others. I think there’s freeware that lets you test ram.

nikipedia's avatar

@missingbite: Nah, but the difference is pretty apparent. Running at 512MB was noticeably slower.

missingbite's avatar

@nikipedia I guess I should have been more specific. The computer will tell you if the new stick was installed properly. I assume you have more than one stick of memory.

Go to the apple
then About this mac
then more info
then memory

At that point you should see both memory sticks and both should say OK

nikipedia's avatar

@missingbite: Yeah, I was just assuming that it was installed properly because the computer got noticeably faster immediately upon its being installed.

But I double-checked and they’re both there and system profiler says they’re okay.

jrpowell's avatar

I would bet you dinner that the new RAM is your problem.

It can report it and say that everything looks fine if the module is bad.

Are these just freezes or where it ask you to restart in a bunch of languages? How bad is the freeze. Force Quit the app bad or eventually recovers.

Can you try opening the Terminal and entering:
top -a

Leave that running for a while while you try to reproduce the error. Copy and paste the results.. It should look similar to this.

Processes: 68 total, 2 running, 1 stuck, 65 sleeping, 315 threads 0:02:16
Load Avg: 0.71, 0.65, 0.56 CPU usage: 14.91% user, 13.51% sys, 71.56% idle SharedLibs: 4316K resident, 7256K data, 0B linkedit.
MemRegions: 13973 total, 620M resident, 24M private, 406M shared. PhysMem: 235M wired, 1193M active, 350M inactive, 1778M used, 269M free.
VM: 149G vsize, 1040M framework vsize, 3474014(0) pageins, 149681(0) pageouts. Networks: packets: 16/32M in, 35/1186K out.
Disks: 233/9308K read, 606/50M written.

And how much RAM are you supposed to have?

nikipedia's avatar

@johnpowell: The freeze is pretty bad. I can still move the beachball cursor, but i can’t do anything with it, including force quit. I have to just hold the power button down and restart that way.

I assume I’m supposed to have either 1GB or 1.5GB? I have 1.5 at the moment.

jrpowell's avatar

Will command + option + esc bring up the Force Quit menu?

nikipedia's avatar

Now I can’t get it to break again. wtf.

nikipedia's avatar

Still no luck. Also, I want to run the hardware diagnostic that comes with the OS X install disk, right? But my optical drive is broken, so I’m trying to load it from an external optical drive. My computer is definitely reading it, but refuses to boot from it (when I hold D while booting it just boots normally). Any magic solutions to this one? (And I’m on aim/gchat if you want to move this over there.)

gorillapaws's avatar

Few questions: are your software updates current for OSX? Do any other apps crash other than firefox? Do you have other apps open? if you beachball can you switch to the other running app? If you put the machine to sleep, and then wake it up does it still beachball?

nikipedia's avatar

@gorillapaws: Yes, updates are current. Yes, other apps crash—the only ones that this has happened to so far are Safari and Firefox, but I assume that’s because I don’t spend as much time in, say, iTunes. If I beachball, It pretends to let me switch to another app (in the menu bar, the name changes) but nothing else on the screen switches. If I put it to sleep then wake it up, it still beachballs.

jrpowell's avatar

My money is still on the bad RAM..

A new 1GB stick is 24 bucks.

http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartspecs.aspx?mtbpoid=A96E1E24A5CA7304

It is very possible who did your upgrade used the wrong shit (macs are picky, voltage matters). What I linked to will work. Like I Said I have a 512 meg chip in a box that I will send you that is known to be good. But that requires me to do work and shipping will be ten bucks. Ordering a new one sounds easier and it keeps me out of old boxes.

It sounds like you already know how to install it. so I would just order it. Crucial ships crazy fast.

If new RAM doesn’t fix it I will buy you two dinners and a fancy haircut the next time you are in Portland.

nikipedia's avatar

I hope you’re right.

Here’s another symptom: a couple times now, when it has tried to boot up, I got a gray screen with a folder with an ambiguous question mark. I have not googled this yet, but my understanding is this = cannot find hard drive = busted motherboard. :(

I’ll pop the new RAM out at work tomorrow and see what happens.

gorillapaws's avatar

So what’s the latest?

nikipedia's avatar

I’m out of town so I had to give up on it. (Fortunately I was able to bring my work laptop, which is actually a bit nicer.) Taking the RAM out made no difference; my next plan is to find an appropriate OS X disk and run disk utility.

nikipedia's avatar

Back home and I tried booting from an install disk. Disk utility can’t even find the HD. Motherfucker.

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