My best development PC has been plagued by rare data corruption problems that occur most often when updating or handling large files. They were so rare (half a dozen times a year) that I lived with them - until some substantial overnight file processing started hitting issues almost every time I tried it.
Examination of the files showed very infrequent but catastrophic 1 bit errors (for example an 'L' turning to an 'M' in an ascii file).
Disk checks and standard memtests reported no errors. I reinstalled the entire system twice but the gremlins clung on.
Eventually, in desperation I left Ubuntu's memtest86+
running over the weekend. Thankfully it found the error. I confirmed it by removing the memory stick and rerunning the test for another 24 hours to see it pass.
Finally its all good.
The moral of this tale? Machines never spontaneously reboot and files are never spontaneously corrupted. If you get such errors, something is broken.
Running a test like memtest86+ is easy even if you are stuck with Microsoft Windows or some other operating system - just download Ubuntu's installation disk
and run the test from its start up menu (you don't need to install anything). Leave it overnight or even over the weekend. After your memory is sorted you can even try out Ubuntu - its free, openoffice comes with it (free), its virus free and its a great relief after working with Microsoft Windows.
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