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An A.T.E. Solutions, Inc. Internet Publication
Volume 8 Number 16 August 16, 2004


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This Issue's Feature Article 

How to Select a Memory Tester

By: Scott LaRoche, Sales & Marketing Director, Innoventions, Inc.

What's New in Test
  8/4/2004 NVIDIA selects Agilent Technologies 93000 SOC Series for testing PCI Express-based graphics processors
  8/3/2004 NVIDIA Selects Agilent Technologies 93000 SOC Series for Testing PCI Express-Based Graphics Processors
  8/2/2004 The Marvin Group Awarded Contract With Westland Helicopters
FREE Giveaways
  8/6/2004 Free Boundary Scan demo CD
Humor and Words of Wisdom
  8/1/2004 Book on Failures
Interviews and Forums
  8/6/2004 Advantest Moves Into Non-Memory Markets
Magazine Article
  8/1/2004 Designing for excellence
Press Release
  8/16/2004 Extended Simulation and Monitoring per PXI
  8/3/2004 Acterna makes VoIP test, management solution available
  8/3/2004 New measurement solution from Agilent Technologies
  8/3/2004 Pendulum counter, analyzer unit uses USB, GPIB
  8/1/2004 Electronic Business' annual ranking of the top 300 electronics
How to Select a Memory Tester
Testing computer memory for faults is a highly complex process. Of course it’s a necessity in the manufacturing stage, but it’s also a necessity for many other companies and institutions. Even with the decline in prices for computer equipment, a “stick” of computer memory is still a valuable component. Mismarked memory remains a problem. Tossing away suspect modules without determining where the fault lies is simply not smart business sense for an organization. Fortunately, relatively low-cost memory test equipment is available to help the technician. So what to look for?

First, decide if you have sufficient volume to justify the cost of a dedicated memory tester. If you only have a few sticks of memory that you need to test, try one of the numerous shareware programs that allow you to test directly on your PC’s motherboard. The drawback: Testing on a motherboard can take hours, depending upon the size of the module. Also, motherboard sockets are not meant for repeated insertion-removal of memory modules. Since those fragile sockets are soldered directly onto the motherboard, repeated use may damage the computer!  

If you find yourself needing to test memory more than once or twice a week, a dedicated standalone tester can easily be justified based on the time savings alone. When selecting a memory tester, check for the following:

Test sockets: Good memory test equipment uses test sockets manufactured specifically for repeated insertion-removal cycles. These sockets should be rated for at least 10,000 cycles. Also, check to see if the socket is soldered to the tester or test head. If it is, the socket could be very expensive to replace once it wears out.

Speed: It was common to see 100 MHz SDRAM modules in Windows 98 computers just a few years ago. Now, Windows XP computers are typically shipping with memory modules operating at 333 MHz or faster. Since you will most likely need to test the memory at true operational speed, the tester should be capable of running tests at the same or higher frequency.

Upgradeability: There is a continual evolution in memory technology, and these changes make it necessary to frequently update the tester’s firmware. Does the tester allow you to quickly and easily download firmware updates via the Internet? Check with the manufacturer. The memory tester manufacturer should have a proven track record of regular firmware upgrades. Also, can the unit be upgraded with new processing capabilities to test the faster modules as they are released, or does the manufacturer require you to purchase a whole new expensive test system? Try to avoid a tester that will become obsolete. Instead, look for one that can be upgraded.

Expandability: There are two common memory formats used in desktop computers today, 184-pin DDR and 168-pin SDRAM. Laptop computers use either 144-pin SO-DIMM or 200-pin DDR SO-DIMM modules. What about other formats? You may want to test SIMMs, 200-pin DIMMs, or chips. Make sure the tester accepts a wide variety of formats.

Ease of Use: Can a bench tech use the tester right out of the box, or is there a lengthy learning curve? Ask the manufacturer for a copy of the manual before purchasing. Most technical manuals include a “quick start” section. Your tech staff should be able to figure out how to run a diagnostic test on a module within just a few minutes, with minimal setup.

Display: A lot of information will be displayed during the test, including identification of the module’s size, speed and structure. You will also want to see results of the various test phases. Be sure the display is backlit and large enough for you to see all of the information clearly. The tester should also give you clear audio signals during the test cycle.

PC Interface: Does it include a software package that allows you to connect the tester to a PC? You may wish to view and print test logs.

SPD Management: Does the memory tester allow you to view, manage and edit SPD files?

Support for Older Technology: Is the tester backwards-compatible with older memory formats? You may run across a batch of older modules that you need to identify and test.

Reputation: Since the technology bust, a number of memory tester manufacturers have either folded or gone on to other product lines. This has stranded their customers with test equipment that is doomed to obsolescence. With no future upgrades available, these obsolete systems cannot test modern memory, including DDR. It pays to check the company’s longevity in the business. Search Google and Usenet newsgroups for comments others have made about the company’s products. Check the company’s web site for announcements regarding future enhancements.

Finally, ask around. Check with your clients and business partners. If they work in the computer field, chances are they own a memory tester.
Scott LaRoche, Sales & Marketing Director
Product/Service Focus
This issue's focus is Automatic Test Equipment/Memory. You can view or add to our existing list of these Products.
Next Issue's Product/Service Focus
In our next issue of Product/Service Focus we will cover EMC Testing/Electromagnetic Compatibility/Interf (EMC/EMI). You can add or upgrade a listing before the next issue comes out.

If you would like to include an exclusive article on how to best select EMC Testing/Electromagnetic Compatibility/Interf (EMC/EMI), please contact

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This month:
8/16 - 8/19
   COMDEX Korea 2004
8/17 - 8/19
   Embedded Software Development Conference
8/18 - 8/20
   NI Week 2004
   The Impact of Low-Voltage Devices on Test and Inspection
9/6 - 9/9
   International Optoelectronic Exposition
9/12 - 9/16
   National Fiber Optic Engineering Conference
9/12 - 9/14
   Board Test Workshop 2004
9/13 - 9/15
9/14 - 9/16
   Nanofair 2004
9/19 - 9/23
   EOS/ESD Symposium and Exhibits
9/20 - 9/24
   New 93000 RF maintenance training class set for engineers and technicians
9/20 - 9/24
   AutoTestCon 2004
9/20 - 9/23
   Broadband World Forum Europe
9/21 - 9/23
   NANOWorld 2004
9/21 - 9/22
   Inspection Days
9/21 - 9/23
   Wescon 2004
9/26 - 9/30
   SMTA International
9/27 - 9/30
   Global Signal Processing Expo & Conference
9/28 - 9/30
   MeasComp Sensor
10/4 - 10/8
   PCB Design Conference East
   The Data Show
10/6 - 10/7
   Antenna Systems 2004
10/10 - 10/12
   Wafer-Level Conference and Exhibition
10/11 - 10/14
10/11 - 10/13
   International Symposium on Defect and Fault Tolerance in VLSI Systems (DFT'04)
10/11 - 10/14
   Euro Design Con
10/18 - 10/21
   International Telemetering Conference
10/19 - 10/21
10/19 - 10/20
   IEEE Lightwave Technologies in Instrumentation & Measurement Conference
10/19 - 10/21
   Nepcon Texas 2004
10/24 - 10/29
   Internactional Test Conference (ITC) 2004
10/27 - 10/29
   Automotive Testing Expo 2004
New Definitions
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Local Interconnect Network
Media Oriented System Transport
Time-Triggered Protocol
We now have 1658 test terms in our Test Definition section.

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