How to test memory on Linux when you think you have a problem:

  • Remove the memory module you suspect and start the system up.
  • # mount -t tmpfs /tmp /tmp
  • Start X.
  • Start Emacs and open a large file.
  • Start Xemacs and open a large file.
  • Play Tuxracer
  • Start Evolution and open your largest mailbox.
  • Start Nautilus.
  • Compile a kernel.
  • Play Tuxracer, ’cause this might take a while.

If you’ve removed the faulty memory module, then this should all work (and your system should start swapping like crazy.) I’ve got 2 DDR SIMMS for a total of 512MB, so removing one gives me 256MB. It takes a bit to fill all that up. If the faulty module is still in the system, your compile will surely fail and other programs may have a hard time starting up or may crash (because, if nothing else, they create temp files).

Put the memory module back in to verify the eratic behavior and positively identify the faulty memory.

In my case, it seems that the SIMMS weren’t seated properly. This particular motherboard seems to have that problem a lot.

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