My Mac Keeps Freezing, Is It Bad RAM?

| MGG Answers

Question:

Steven writes: I just bought a MacBook off eBay. I got the MacBook yesterday and powered it on. It came on and took me to the intro screen.

While the video was running, the computer froze and a screen telling me that I needed to restart my computer popped up. I tried to reset the SMC and the PRAM .

This error then happened twice while trying to install Snow Leopard. The computer just locks up and I can do nothing but turn it off. I did some research and it sounds like this is a kernel panic, which means the cause could be anything. What can I do next?

Answer:

Sorry to hear about this, Steven. To me, it definitely sounds like a hardware issue. If you have the original startup disc that shipped with the MacBook you can try the (mostly useless but occasionally telling) Apple Hardware Diagnostics. That’s a good first step.

My gut says your issue is RAM, but it’s certainly possible it’s the CPU. Try using Rember to test your RAM, too. It’s a wrapper for the cross-platform (terminal- based) “memtest” app, and is something I’ve found to be *very* reliable over the years.

If either test does indicate bad RAM, try removing one of the memory chips and testing again. Then swap with the other. At some point you should be able to narrow down which chip is bad (hopefully only one!) and replace it. Note that many (most?) third-party RAM vendors warranty their memory for life, so you may even be able to get it replaced for free if you know who originally sold it.

This question was originally answered on MGG 252: Word Processor Defaults, Drive Formatting Differences, Audio Streaming

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Comments

Tiger

Make sure also that the RAM modules are fully seated and not able to come partially loose.

Check the MB temperature too. If it’s got a fault and overheating, it could spell disaster.

Apple Jedi

Ahh…not sure why you’re automatically jumping to the conclusion this is a hardware issue. Sounds like a kernel panic to me. To determine if this is hardware or software related, I would run the computer from an external FW HD that I know has a good OS on it or even the system DVD. If it doesn’t lock up while running either, then I’d wipe the drive and restore the OS. If it does lock up, then I’d concur that it is a HW issue.

geoduck

IMO start by booting to the OS-X install disk.
If it starts and runs without freezing then your hardware is OK and it’s in the HD. Nuke and Pave with a fresh installation of OS-X.
If that doesn’t solve it then the HD may be bad.
If the system freezes when booted on then DVD then it’s most likely the RAM.

Dave Hamilton

Ahh?not sure why you?re automatically jumping to the conclusion this is a hardware issue. Sounds like a kernel panic to me.

That’s always a good sanity check. On this one, the reason I presumed hardware (which, if I remember correctly, Stephen confirmed once he swapped out the RAM) is because he saw crashes/panics both when starting up from the hard drive and when starting up/installing Snow Leopard from the SL DVD. Given that, I assumed hardware/RAM.

My litmus test for situations like this is: does it ONLY happen when you do [x], or does it happen randomly and in multiple Applications? If the former, likely a software/driver/system error; if the latter, hardware.

Apple Jedi

he saw crashes/panics both when starting up from the hard drive and when starting up/installing Snow Leopard from the SL DVD. Given that, I assumed hardware/RAM.

You may have wanted to mention that in the article then. If I were new to the Mac and read your article, I wouldn’t have known to do that first step.

Dave Hamilton

You may have wanted to mention that in the article then.

Re-read his question. He says, “This error then happened twice while trying to install Snow Leopard.” That’s what led me down this path.

That said, this comment trail is valuable, because it fully explores the thought process, which is what someone coming here months from now might just need. So thank you!

Apple Jedi

Dave, I’ll admit I missed that in the third paragraph, but apparently I wasn’t the only one as geoduck made the same suggestion as I did. You’re right about the thought process in the thread though. Good to have.

geoduck

He says, ?This error then happened twice while trying to install Snow Leopard.? That?s what led me down this path.

Speaking as someone who has done desktop support for ~15 years now.

Don’t assume that’s what it means. To install SL you start by booting the system, putting in the SL DVD and clicking Install. That reboots the machine onto the DVD. It was not clear where in the process the error was happening. The freezes may have been happening while the system was booted to the internal drive not the DVD. I’ve lost many man hours assuming that the user means X when they weren’t being precise. I find it best to take what they say but start with the basics. Once you know for certain that it freezes when booting to the SL disk then that points toward a hardware issue.

An old time computer guy once told me “Users lie. They don’t mean to but they do. Don’t trust what the user says 100%”.

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