How to Tell if a RAM Stick Is Loose

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If a computer has a loose stick of RAM it either won't recognize the memory module or will be unable to correctly power on and boot to the operating system. Upgradable RAM modules for desktops, laptops and all-in-one computer systems feature locking or bracing mechanisms that secure the module in place when properly installed. If the RAM is loose and out of place it can create an electrical circuit problem that prevents the computer from powering on.

Locked Into Place

  • If you can physically jiggle an installed RAM module, it is loose and will likely cause problems with the computer. A properly installed RAM module will firmly lock into place and can't be budged unless it is removed from the locking mechanism. Desktop computers feature a perpendicular angle loading mechanism with two locking tabs on the sides of the slot. Laptop RAM slots feature an angular insertion mechanism with tabs that secure the RAM in position. The slot itself has a generational uniquely positioned notch to prevent incompatible modules from being installed. The RAM module will insert flat and all the way in to the slot in all connection styles.

Computer Won't Power

  • The computer will fail the power-on self test and stay powered down if the RAM module is loose and making a partial connection with the DIMM slot. If the RAM is a little loose, it can prevent the computer from being able to turn on: this is also a symptom related to a defective RAM module or motherboard DIMM slot. Excessive dust inside a computer can also get stuck between the RAM and the DIMM slot, making the module connection loose even though it's locked into place. If the computer won't power on, try removing the RAM, cleaning the slot with a compressed air spray and correctly installing the RAM again so it locks into place.

Black Screen

  • If all of the computer's RAM is very loose and not making a connection with the DIMM slot, the computer will pass the POST test and power on; however, it won't be able to do anything because there's no system memory. A very loose RAM module will cause the computer to power on and display a black screen only: it won't even load the boot splash screen. If you're getting a black screen, try to reconnect the RAM to the system. If the computer has more than one free RAM slot, try using another one to work around a faulty locking mechanism on the other slot.

RAM Not Recognized

  • The computer may not recognize loose RAM at all and carry on as if the module doesn't exist at all. The computer will load into the operating system correctly if one or more of the RAM modules is too loose to trip the POST test and there is still at least one correctly installed module. In this case, the BIOS display tests will not count the new RAM in the diagnostics and the operating system will not recognize the module in the system information.

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