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memory read error

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A memory read error is a malfunction that occurs when data is being accessed from memory for use by a program, or when a value read from RAM fails to match an expected value.

Memory read errors can cause miscalculations, program malfunctions, unresponsiveness, the blue screen of death (BSOD) and spontaneous restarts.

Memory corruption is often the cause of read errors. At some point during the time a value is stored in RAM, the data may become corrupt for one reason or another. The root causes of memory corruption and read errors may be soft errors, which consist of momentary changes that can be corrected, or hard errors, which result from hardware failures.

Memory timings that are set too tight can also cause both read and write errors. Timings can be an issue when a manufacturer’s specifications are not being met by the module or when they have been set too tight manually. When changing a setting in the BIOS or UEFI, it may be apparent that it pertains to reads but generally, research, experimentation and testing are required unless default settings are  the problem.

Attempts to read from protected memory space reserved by another program or the operating system can create errors that cause BSOD or a spontaneous reboot. This memory is guarded to protect intellectual property and privacy.

When troubleshooting memory read errors, it is often advisable to test with the system set at known good timings. Timings for RAM may be tried on default SPD timing settings for a particular model or settings advised by the manufacturer. There are many free memory testing programs available, such as memtest86+. Many operating systems from Windows to TailsOS also include memory tests that can be run before and after an installation. RAM that is known to be functioning, tested at its default timings can help detect hardware issues, after which RAM can be tested a stick at a time to find the faulty module.

Sometimes RAM affected by hardware degradation or just not performing to specification can be made to work at slower settings.  If the issue persists, however, it may be that the CPU or motherboard needs replacing or on the other hand, a BIOS/UEFI update may be required to better support the modules.

This was last updated in July 2015

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