(Picture courtesy of The Brothers Root Blog)
Recently I noticed, when returning home after a long day, or waking up in the morning, that the display on my Dell Dimension 8400 desktop was black. I tried changing the display type, changing between DVI and VGA cable, powering the monitor off and back on. Northing worked. I had to turn the computer off completely, then back on. Even that was problematic. Being impatient, I turned the computer back on within seconds of it turning off. The computer would go into an infinite loop of reboots. I learned that I had to keep the computer off for about 30 seconds before turning it back on. That at least worked to get back to Windows … until the next crash.
Eventually I witnessed a crash rather than discovering it after the fact. There was a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). However, the BSOD only appeared briefly. Then back to the Black Screen of Death. Black and Blue about summed up how I felt.
I googled the symptoms. The results pointed to the video card. This confirmed my suspicions. Often a BSOD is caused by a bad video driver. Additionally, I told you in Improving My Vista Experience that I “upgraded” my video card to ATI/AMD’s Radeon HD 2600 XT. Good ideas, like good deeds, are duly punished. Additionally, ATI/AMD’s Vista (the OS of my desktop) drivers are infamous for being as stable as Charles Manson on crack.
But it turns out the culprit wasn’t the video card. Instead, I had some bad RAM. Actually, my RAM hasn’t changed since I upgraded my RAM about 7 months ago as reported in Improving My Vista Experience. So I guess my RAM went bad.
How did I discover this? I went through the Event Viewer and examined the errors. There were a lot of them. Some led me down false trails. But one consistent one was: “The hardware has reported an uncorrectable memory error. Event ID 1801.” Googling that, the two principal culprits were the BIOS and the RAM. I quickly eliminated the BIOS as the culprit. That left testing my RAM.
RAM, unlike time, is cheap, so I just replaced all of the RAM with “genuine” Dell RAM. Problem solved. Though not before many hours of troubleshooting. What do “normal” people without tech skills do?