When I install RAM, I usually like to test it with a program like Memtest86+ or its ancestor, Memtest86. Testing helps to ensure that the RAM is good quality and will perform reliably in your computer. If you don’t thoroughly test your RAM after you install it, you might learn much later that the RAM is faulty, perhaps when you are doing some serious multitasking and you are making full use of the RAM. Unfortunately, “much later” often comes after the RAM warranty has expired. When that happens, you’ve wasted your money (assuming you don’t want to keep using the unreliable RAM).
The other day I installed some new RAM on my Samsung NC10 netbook and I wanted to test it with Memtest86+. In the past, I have always burned the bootable ISO image of Memtest86+ to CD and booted my computer from the CD drive. That’s a very convenient way of running Memtest86+. Unfortunately, my netbook doesn’t have a CD drive or a DVD drive. Thus, I needed to find a way to run Memtest86+ from a bootable USB flash drive.
There are probably several ways to get Memtest86+ to run from a bootable USB flash drive but I wanted to find the easiest way for our loyal nerdboys.com readers.
I started my search by browsing the documentation at the Memtest86+ site. Memtest86+ appears to have a version aimed towards USB flash drives. The download link for that version says “Pre-Compiled EXE file for USB Key (Pure DOS)”. From what I can tell, it’s a DOS executable that must be run from DOS. To use it, I assume that have to make a bootable DOS USB flash drive. That’s certainly doable but a bit of a hassle.
Another alternative is to use Memtest86, which also has a flash-drive-targeted version. The download link for that one says “USB key image (Only installable from Linux)”. Well, that sounded better but it would still take some work to install that. Furthermore, it requires a working Linux installation. That’s no problem for me but for the readers who don’t run Linux, it’s an another obstacle.
“There must be an easier solution,” I thought. As it turns out, there is!
Most of the solution can be found at pendrivelinux.com in the how-to entitled Testing your system for USB boot compatibility. Simply follow those easy steps and you’ll have a bootable USB flash with Memtest86+ within a couple of minutes.
The only problem with that solution is that you’ll end up with an older version of Memtest86+ on your flash drive. Don’t worry though because you can easily update it.
First, download the latest version of Memtest86+ by going to the Memtest86+ site and clicking on the link that says “Download – Pre-Compiled Bootable Binary (.zip)”. At the time of writing this story, that link pointed to version 4.00.
Next, unzip that zip file to your USB flash drive. That will create a file called memtest86+-4.00.bin. You’ll need to delete the old file named memtest then rename memtest86+-4.00.bin to memtest.
After that, simply reboot your computer with the USB flash drive installed and Memtest86+ should run automatically.
As a final note, I will direct advanced users to the story Guide to Create a multi-boot rescue USB flash drive. Using that guide, you can create an all-in-one bootable flash drive featuring most of the popular free testing and rescue tools including Memtest86+, SystemRescueCD, Windows PE 2.0, Darik’s Boot and Nuke and ntpasswd. That one is on my to-do list because I currently run all of those tools on separate flash drives.