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I bought a pair of 8GB DDR3 RAM back in 2013. Recently I have been experiencing random bluescreen quite often, so I used Windows 10's memory diagnostic tool to check my RAM. Turns out there are some hardware errors with my RAM.

I wonder if my RAM became faulty because of age? In that case, would it be better if I purchase a new stick of RAM?

3 Answers 3

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The short answer is YES: RAM does indeed "age".

And some of the degradation is noticiable if you use it intensively (as servers do). However most non-server users won't notice it, which is why the usual answer is that RAM does not age. Which is incorrect.

The ageing mechanism(s) are quite complex, or at least are too involved to discuss here. And in any event, since you cannot really measure the degradation non-destructively, or even predict it very accurately, it doesn't help you very much to know the specific details.

So for the average user, if RAM failure is an issue, then about the only thing you copuld do is use new RAM, and replace it over time if you use it very heavily (as in a home server etc). After computer purchase, you normally don't get a choice of what RAM to use, in terms of type and ECC or not. Those are decided by the CPU/motherboard makers.

And as long as you recognise the signs of RAM failure, then replacing it is straightforward.

The ageing effects data retention time as well as other RAM aspects. And its a function of:

  • Number of erase cycles
  • Temperature history
  • Process size used to make RAM (as in the nm scale)
  • Inherent defects in the RAM

In general, it's been found that all else being equal, as RAM cell size decreases, degradation rate increases (Study of Scaling Effects on DRAM Reliability As well as here: Thermal degradation of DRAM retention time: Characterization and improving techniques.

This is very good too:DRAM Reliability Aging Analysis and Reliability Prediction Model M.C.R.Fieback

It's quite hot topic.

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  • Can confirm: I too was surprised to find out the RAM on my 2½ year old gaming rig was going bad, but after dealing with increasing instability over the course of several months, I tested the RAM and found multi-bit errors in many locations that were consistent across tests. I replaced all four sticks (4x16 GB, 3600 MHz) with a new set and voila! All problems went away. I should add that I always test new RAM when I receive it, so I know the previous, now-faulty set was working fine when I bought it. My conclusion is that, yes, RAM does degrade, either over time or (more likely) through use.
    – Kyle Rose
    Commented Jan 6, 2023 at 0:00
  • number of erase cycles - DRAM is 'erased' on every read cycle, the entire column. The cells are volatile, so even when they're not read, refresh cycles are required, reading each column and writing it back.
    – Zac67
    Commented Apr 19 at 21:07
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Yes. All things age. And I've recently encountered a number of YouTube videos proclaiming that there's been increasing amount of old retro video game systems that have just started to go bad. Granted, capacitors are probably more likely to be an issue. But even media like CDs have apparently shown some amount of rot over time.

For RAM in particular, though, I've been trained (in college) that there's another threat: oxidization/corrosion. The metal on the RAM chip may be experiencing some corrosion with the metal on the motherboard.

This can result in physically-caused errors when using good hardware (both RAM chips and motherboard are perfectly capable of working), after temporarily breaking a connection which has gone bad.

(So, I suppose this answer doesn't actually directly answer the actually-asked question as well as AlanJ's answer, but it does explain a situation where RAM seems to be bad, because it is acting bad, even when ever piece of equipment isn't actually physically broken.)

Fortunately, there may be a relatively easy and cheap/free fix. One action is to "reseat" the RAM. That is, take it out, and re-insert it. Even re-inserting it in the exact same memory slot may help create a newer connection that may help.

However, if you are going to go through that work, then once you have the RAM out, it may be good to see about cleaning the contacts where the RAM touches the motherboard. (And possibly cleaning the contacts where the motherboard touches the RAM.) I imagine this is rather analogous to some of the video game cartridge cleaning solutions people use to help ROM chips connect with cartridge slots.

Also, moving RAM chips to a different RAM slot has sometimes had an effect. (That could mean moving RAM to an empty slot, and/or swapping slots when you have multiple RAM chips.)

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Me to. It's VERY uncommon, I used an Atari 8-bit since before I was in grade school, the Ataris never got bad RAM (and, although it didn't run on bootup, these DID have a self-diagnostic mode you could boot into that would test the RAM along with everything else.) PCs? I've had many since the early 1990s (started running Linux around 1993), and had one instance of RAM that spontaneously went bad.

In my case, it corrupted a bunch of the software I'd updated (the bad bits were all too often within the memory area being used as a disk cache so it wrote out corrupted files.) I began to get occasional crashes and odd behavior; I knew for sure I had a problem when OpenOffice had a typo in the File menu! And even more trouble when I replaced the RAM and still had the same typo! That told me the package was corrupted on disk. LUCKILY my package manager still worked, and since I was running Linux I could tell it to reinstall EVERY package on the system (since I didn't know which were faulty.) That took a while, this was years ago so it took several hours. But it worked great! I had indications of corruption in one video (the video had a glitch in the middle) but no apparent other problems, it presumably didn't wreck any documents other than that one video.

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