The Blue Screen of Worse Than Death

That'll learn me.

My current main computer has a couple of gigabytes of fancy Corsair "XMS3200" memory in it. The really fancy kind, with the almost useless dancing LED bar graphs on top.

RAM running

It would appear that the useful life of one of those two modules, in almost constant use, running within spec at unremarkable temperatures, is about one year.

Ending... now.

There I was, peacefully composing an e-mail, when I was confronted with a blue screen. But a much worse one than usual. This one was dark blue, in big-scanlines text mode, and there was nothing on it. Not a thing.

Just blue, on both monitors.

Restart computer, get long repeated beeps. Which my kung fu tells me means a memory error.

Remove fancy RAM (taking opportunity to Rocket-Air a chinchilla or three worth of dust out). Leave boring RAM. Computer boots again.

(The boring RAM is the Geil stuff from this old review. It hasn't been used for nearly as many hours as the Corsair modules were, though.)

I'm down to a gig now. A gig, man. Jeez, man, I'm hurting here.

Actually, the silly LED graphs may actually have a function in this situation. Perhaps it's the module that has one amber LED flickering on power-up that's died. I'll do a bit more module-shuffling to identify the dud one - dual channel mode still works with one 512Mb and one 1Gb module (identical modules are not necessary, just recommended).

[I've done that now, and so am back up to 1.5 lopsided gigabytes of dual channel RAM, with one 512Mb Geil module plus the one remaining Corsair. With only one Corsair module at a time, the LEDs didn't do anything different on the bad module.]

M'verygoodfriends at Aus PC Market have an instant swap lifetime super-warranty for Corsair RAM that's been purchased from... just about exactly when I purchased this RAM, as it happens... but they don't stock these exact modules any more, so I may be waiting a bit for a replacement. No donations should be needed, however.

[Regrettably, it turns out that you can't return just one module from one of these Corsair pair-packs for a warranty replacement - it has to be both. I suppose that makes sense for all of the overclocking kids who at least think they need perfectly matched RAM, but I still think it's kind of stupid to have to return a perfectly good memory module. I wonder if I'll get something faster back?]

Incidentally, if you find yourself in a similar situation, it's important to make sure your new module - whether you're getting it under warranty or not - is good old "standard density" RAM, not the newer off-brand "high density" stuff that's sneaked into the 1Gb-and-bigger DDR module market, at a considerably lower price.

High density is cheaper, essentially, because it's crap. It breaks JEDEC specs to save a few bucks, and it won't work with a long list of motherboards, including pretty much anything made by Asus or Dell.

(Hey! A Dell-incompatibility problem that isn't their fault! Call the papers!)

UPDATE: I found another couple of 512Mb modules kicking around the place which gave me a decent-enough 2Gb, and so I took ages to get around to sending the RAM in for a warranty replacement. And, technically, it was a couple of months too old to qualify for the warranty here in Australia. But I still got a replacement (and without any do-you-know-who-I-am review-site customer service enhancement, either).

The replacement RAM took a month to arrive, though, presumably because the Australian distributor bounced the RAM back to the States for replacement. Still, I can't complain.

My replacement RAM is the same as the old stuff - XMS3200-with-LEDs. So the packaging has lots of "Best RAM of 2003!" awards printed on the back of it.

Way to make me feel old, guys.

4 Responses to “The Blue Screen of Worse Than Death”

  1. qupada Says:

    Geez, unlucky. I have a 2x512MB pair of otherwise identical ram, which has been running next to my hot (89W TDP) Athlon64 for more than two years now without any issues (touch wood).
    To make life even better, in my not terribly well designed motherboard, dual-channel is achieved by having memory modules in adjacent sockets, so the heatsinks of the two modules are in fact touching.
    Maybe I should start getting worried.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Dual channel *DO* work with different sized ram? How?
    I tought dual channel was the Raid-0 of Ram.. stripining half of the bytes on the first ram module and the other half on the second. If size is different.. how can this be accomplished?

  3. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Dual channel is just... two memory channels. There's no interleaving or anything. In Motherboard Specifications Land, you can mix up pretty much anything you like as long as you've got an even number of modules, and the RAM will just run at the highest speed everything supports.

    In practice there can, of course, be compatibility issues, and I suppose you could lose out on the performance benefits if the smaller module's full and not doing much, but this setup's working A-OK for me right now.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    ..but at boot, my Asus P5B reports:
    "Memory: 2048 Mb, Dual Channel, Interleaved" (I can get a shot of it if you want) So this would let me to believe that the memory is indeed interleaved (a la "raid-0").. or not?

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