- How to Access the Memory Diagnostic Tool and the chkdsk and SFC Commands
- Ways to Open the Command Prompt as an Administrator
Data is stored in two fixed locations within a computer: RAM and the hard disk drive. This article focuses on those two components because they can be the most devastating when it comes to data errors.
Although errors can occur on removable media (CDs, DVDs, USB flash drives, and so on), they are less critical and are not covered in this article.
Failures can occur within the operating system and within any other files that are stored in RAM and the hard drive. These failures could cause a file not to open, applications to crash, or[md]worse yet[md]the entire operating system could stop.
However, there are many tools we can use to troubleshoot these failures. This article focuses on Windows Vista’s built-in Memory Diagnostic Tool for testing RAM, and the chkdsk and SFC commands for checking the hard drive.
The Memory Diagnostic Tool is a utility that is built-in to Windows Vista. It allows a user to test the RAM modules within a computer, and verify whether or not there are any memory errors. If only there were a tool like this for a human’s memory, we could achieve total recall!
chkdsk and SFC are utilities that are run from within the command prompt. Be sure to run the command prompt as an administrator; for ways to do this, see the end of this article.
The following screencast demonstrates how to access and run the Memory Diagnostics Tool, as well as how to utilize the chkdsk and SFC commands.
How to Access the Memory Diagnostic Tool and the chkdsk and SFC Commands
There are two ways to access the Memory Diagnostic Tool:
- Click Start, and then type memory in the Search field. Then click Restart now and check for problems (recommended), as shown in Figure 1. This will restart the computer and run the memory test before rebooting.
- Boot to the Advanced Boot Options menu (press F8 when the computer boots) and press Esc. This will bring up a separate text screen called Windows Boot Manager. Pressing the tab key once will highlight Windows Memory Diagnostic, which can then be selected by pressing Enter.
Figure 1 Selecting Restart now and check for problems within the Memory Diagnostic Tool
The test may take up to several minutes. Windows reboots automatically and displays the results of the memory tests after the user logs on. This is shown within the notification area (System Tray).
To test the hard drive with chkdsk and SFC, open the Run Prompt by pressing Windows+R and then type cmd to open the command prompt.
- To test whether or not there are hard drive errors, type chkdsk. To test and fix errors, type chkdsk /F.
- A common usage of the SFC utility is SFC /scannow, which tests all protected files right away. Another common usage is SFC /scanonce, which tests the same files, but at the next reboot.