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Testing Your Mac’s Hardware & RAM

October 2, 2017
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Photo: Public Domain via Google Search.

Updated Oct. 3, 2017 to include Micromat’s Atomic software:

SILVER SPRING, Md. (Sept. 29) We’ve been looking at ways to test computer RAM from the Macs we get donated to MacRecycleClinic.

Most of the time, we turn on the machine to see if it works. If there’s a problem (and many times there are any number of issues), we pull the memory and plug it into a new Mac of the same vintage and hope it works. Sometimes the Mac will flash it’s “on-off” light on the front to say something was not quite right (sometimes you have to insert the same memory in pairs). But how can you actually test RAM? There are three basic ways to do that – the expensive way, the 3rd party software way and the inexpensive (Apple provided) way.

    1. You can go with a hardware solution – purchasing a RAM testbed that will check out the memory chips and provide a robust report. But the solution is expensive – and requires the purchase of additional plug-in “cards” that are designed to work with the machine – each plug-in is designed for a specific kind of long, or short RAM. The costs can run upwards of $1000.00! One example: See this YouTube video about the Ramcheck LX
    2. Micromat sells a software suite called Atomic – which they bill as “The most comprehensive memory tester for the Mac.” We haven’t been able to try it out yet – so if any of you have – please give us some comments below about the program. By the way – it works with OS X 10.9 or greater, including macOS 10.12 ‘Sierra’ (and we’ll assume 10.13 – High Sierra now). Cost is $29.99 unless you are a previous Micromat customer, in which case, the cost is $19.99. NOTE: TechTool Pro 9 also includes a memory test as part of it’s software offerings.
    3. Use the Mac’s built-in software Hardware Test Suite. Macs, going back to machines from 2000 or so, have built-in hardward diagnostics that offers a more cost-effective solution (as in, free!). We MRC volunteers approve of that! 🙂

    Using the Hardware Test Suite

    Unlike Disk Utility, the hardware test is not an app per se, but requires you to restart your machine and press the “D” key during startup. In some instances, I’ve seen tutorials call for Option + D – but just “D” may be enough in most instances.

      1. Restart your Mac and at the chime, press “D” or “Option + D” and wait for your computer to boot.
      2. You’ll be presented with a screen showing a turning globe and drop-down box to select your wireless network. Go ahead and choose the network and plug in the password on the next screen. Continue.
      3. Once that’s done, the “Apple Hardware Test” screen will open. Choose your language of choice (English is highlighted by default.
      4. Move to the next panel to get to the actual test screen. You’re almost there!IMG_5773 2
      5. To perform the hardware test all you have to do is click on the “Test” button or, as the instructions indicate, press the “T” key. Be ready to wait a bit while the tests are performed. Note the box under the progress screen where your results will be displayed. If you have any RAM issues (or other hardware problems) this is where you’ll find the results.IMG_5775 2
      6. If you do have an issue with the RAM, you’ll need to replace the memory since it is not something that’s “fixable.”

    There are a number of good places to purchase memory – but be sure to ask us first as we have a robust collection of RAM that we sell inexpensively. That said, if you want new, choices range from Amazon and Best Buy to Crucial, and many others. But we usually recommend memoryx.com to our MRC Clinic visitors (we’ll help you purchase the correct RAM).

    Remember that in some cases, your Mac will need not one but two memory cards (usually matched) to work correctly. You can get help from your MRC volunteers, on the memoryx website (by computer type and year it was built) or you can use the MacTracker app on you Mac or IOS device.

    • There are many more resources on the web to help you if you’re interested in learning more about the Hardware Test Suite:CNET: How to Test the RAM on Your Mac

      YouTube
      : There are a number of great videos – click on the link and you’ll be at a search screen with a number of choices.
    • Memoryx.com also has helpful videos that explain HOW to install RAM. But if you’re uncomfortable with doing that, bring it in to the MRC most Monday nights and we’ll be happy to help.
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