July 06, 2006
Interesting article that discusses-and links to- some tools that will help you debug some common hardware problems. Excerpt:
Like all pieces of electronic equipment, computers have a tendency to malfunction and break; if you have never experienced kernel core dumps or unexpected crashes, consider yourself lucky. Many common hardware problems are caused by bad RAM modules, overheated or broken CPUs, or bad sectors or clusters on hard disks. In this article we will introduce you to some open source tools you can use to trace these problems, and thus save time, money, and headaches.
A GNU/Linux live CD distribution can come handy for hardware diagnostics. For this purpose, my favorite live CD distribution is GRML, which bundles the tools we're about to discuss, along with some other useful programs for both home users and veteran system administrators. Other distributions also include some or all of these tools.
Who's afraid of the big bad memory?
Bad memory can cause crashes that lead to system hard locks or even data corruption. Next time you try to compile a program and the compilation fails, check your memory before sending any bug reports to the program's authors. Memtest86+ is an excellent utility for testing RAM. It is based on memtest86, but supports most modern hardware, including the AMD64 architecture, whereas memtest86 is strictly x86-based. Memtest86+ is a boot image and thus is independent of an operating system.
To run the program, boot your system with the GRML CD and enter memtest on the boot prompt. The program is simple to use, since it starts testing memory by itself immediately. Pressing c shows the configuration menu, which you can use to select the test method, enter ECC mode (if your system uses that kind of RAM), restart the test, or refresh the screen; however, most people should be fine with the defaults.
Memory problems are usually tough to spot, so in order to be sure it's better to leave memtest86+ running for a long period of time and complete at least 10 passes of the test. If you want to quit memtest86+ and restart your computer, just press Esc.
And here's a link to the distro, should you desire to make a live CD for yourself.
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