Q&A: Flash failing memory?

Q Early last year I had my first malfunction in my iMac, in that after I had been exploring Adobe applications, it emitted a loud beeping alarm when I next tried to start it up. This turned out to be a memory failure, and was repaired successfully. However the problem occurred a second time, again when I had been active in Adobe’s suite, and although it has been repaired again I have become scared to shut it down, and worried that a Flash application is conflicting with OS X and causing this recurrent failure. Am I just being paranoid?

A Trust your cerebrum rather than your intestines: it is not possible for software such as Flash to cause memory to fail.

Alarm beeps such as those your iMac made indicate a physical failure of the memory installed in it. This is very unusual, and generally results from defective electronic components. It is even more unlikely to occur twice, and it is possible that this has been the result of a problem in the motherboard or power supply.

You should use your iMac in the way that you wish to, without fear of running any particular software, least of all Adobe products or Flash (for all its other issues!). If you do not have AppleCare protection, then that would be a wise investment in ensuring free repair for the first three years. That said, replacing memory is not particularly expensive, but an exchange motherboard would be. Flash’s risks are almost entirely in security, not hardware damage.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 27 issue 5, 2011.