BOOT CAMP 410 (07/02/06)
Upgrading your PCs memory, part 2
on from last week’s introduction to PC Random Access Memory or RAM in part 2 we
are going to be looking at how to work out how much and what sort of memory
your PC uses, which you will need to know in order to carry out an upgrade.
if this is all starting to sound a bit complicated don’t worry, it’s actually
very easy, but at some point you will have to remove the lid of your computer
and poke around inside so if you don’t fancy the idea your PC’s manufacturer or
your local computer engineer will be only to happy to do the job for you.
want to save some money and have a go at doing it yourself but prefer to keep
things as simple as possible then go straight to this week’s Top Tip.
you are still with us then I am guessing that your PC was not on the list or
you are feeling confident in your ability to wield a screwdriver, so now the
first job is to gather a few pieces of information and when it comes to
upgrading computer memory the three most important things are type, size and
looked at the common types of memory module last week and on most Windows XP
desktop PCs made within the last 3 or 4 years it’s likely to be in the form of
DDR SDRAM DIMMs (see part 1 or the Jargon Filter below for a translation…).
in this instance is the amount of extra memory you need for the upgrade. For
example, if you currently have 512 megabytes (512Mb) of RAM and you want to
make XP run more smoothly by increasing this to 1 gigabyte (1Gb) then obviously
you need an additional 512Mb, but it’s not quite as straightforward as it
seems. If your existing 512Mb RAM is made up of two 256Mb modules, and you only
have two memory sockets on your motherboard then you will have to discard the
current modules (better still, sell them on ebay) and replace them with two
512Mb modules, or one 1Gb module. In fact most recent desktop PC motherboards
have a ‘bank’ of four memory sockets but it’s important to check.
speed has become horribly convoluted in the last few years but it all comes
down to matching the 3 or 4-digit ‘PC’ number on the memory module with the
requirements of your motherboard. Current DDR SDRAM speed ratings are typically
PC1600, PC2100, PC2700, PC3200 or PC4000. Normally you should use the fastest
memory that your motherboard supports but if you are adding a module then it
must be the same speed as the existing memory modules.
quick and dirty summary of your PC’s current ‘physical’ memory status press
Winkey + Break and this will bring up the System Properties menu. At the
bottom, on the right hand side (on the General tab) it should show how much
memory your PC has, in megabytes of RAM.
may be slightly less than you expect. For example if you are fairly sure that
your PC has 512Mb RAM System Properties may report only 448Mb, which suggests
that 64Mb has somehow gone missing. Don’t worry, Windows hasn’t got its sums
wrong and there’s nothing wrong with your memory module; the wayward 64Mb has
almost certainly been commandeered by your PC’s video adaptor, which is
integrated into the motherboard.
System Properties doesn’t tell you anything about memory type, speed, how many
memory modules you are using or how many empty memory sockets there are on the
motherboard. For that kind of detailed information you’ll have to open up your
PC and make a visual check and possibly remove a module to verify the speed
rating, though you may find the latter listed on your PC’s original order form;
sometimes PC makers put it, along with other useful information, on a sticker
on the back of the case or on the chassis. Hopefully it won’t be necessary to
remove a module but if that’s the only way you can check the speed see part 3,
which deals with RAM module removal and insertion.
you know the speed and only need to check how many modules are installed and
how many vacant sockets there are the only precautions you need to take are to
switch off and disconnect the PC’s mains plug. Once you have removed the lid --
and try to do this in a well it area, or use a torch -- locate the banks of
memory sockets and make a note of how many modules have been installed.
check your motherboard or owner’s manual, which will have details of memory
type and speed, maximum capacity and the number of sockets. You should also
read the section concerning memory configuration, which sets out the various
speed and size permutations. You should now have enough information to be able
to order your new memory module and in part 3 we’ll look at how to fit them and
check everything is working properly.
NEXT WEEK - Upgrading
your PC’s memory, part 3
A group of identical
sockets intended for a single purpose -- i.e. for holding PC memory
Double Data Rate
Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory
Dual In-Line Memory
your PC is a fairly recent model and was made by one of the major manufacturers
simply pop along to a major memory vendor’s website, like Crucial or Kingston, and use their memory
Advisor and Search tools to locate your model. This will then tell you how much
and what sort of memory you need, a few clicks later and the necessary modules
will be winging their way to you. Don’t forget there are hundreds of simple
tweaks in the Top Tips Archive.
© R. Maybury 2006, 0102
Part 1 3