BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 1998

  

 

BOOT CAMP 022

MEMORY UPGRADE Part 2

Last week in we looked at how to work out the type and amount of RAM modules you need to upgrade the memory in your PC. That was the difficult bit, actually fitting the modules only takes a few minutes. If you have been following this short series you should have in front of you a small plastic bag or box containing the new SIMM or DIMM modules. Don’t take them out of their packaging until they're actually needed; the plastic has been specially treated to protect the modules from static electricity. Memory chips can be destroyed by static discharged; in practice the risk is quite small but it's not worth taking any chances.

The risk increases if you work in a dry, air-conditioned atmosphere and you frequently receive small shocks or notice tiny sparks whenever you touch metal objects. In that case it's a good idea to leave your PC plugged into the mains when carrying out the upgrade, but you must switch off the supply at the socket, so there are no live connections inside the box. The metal casing will still be connected to earth however, and will safely dissipate any charge that has built up on your body or clothing.

If you're ultra cautious it's worth using an earth wrist strap. It's basically a wire that connects your body to earth, via the case. The company where you purchased your memory modules from should be able to supply you with one, or they can be brought from Maplin Electonics (telephone 01702 55400) for about £3.00. You could even make up one yourself from a short length of wire and a pair of crocodile clips. One end clips to the case metalwork or a nearby radiator, the other end can be attached to a metal watch strap.

Before you start make sure the PC is working properly, shut it down and remove the case or lid from the system box.  Ensure there's plenty of light, so you can see what you are doing. Frequently touch or hold the case metalwork when you're working inside the case to get rid of any static build-up. Sometimes wires and cables can obscure the memory sockets, if so ease them out of the way and use an elastic band to stop them springing back. If you have to unplug any of them make a note of where they go, and any alignment indicators. That's especially important on the ribbon cables that connect the motherboard or expansion cards to the disc drives. One edge of the ribbon cable usually has a red marker or line. Most of the rest of the plugs have notches or lugs, so they only fit one way around.

You will probably have to remove one or more of the incumbent modules, so do that first. Socket designs vary but usually there's a small plastic or metal clip at either end. Using your fingers or the tip of a screwdriver, prise the clips outwards -- only a little pressure should be needed -- the module should then tip back at an angle and it can be lifted out. You may find that an adjacent module gets in the way, if so unclip those first. Avoid touching the contacts and place the module(s) on the anti static bag or box containing your new modules, don't get them mixed up.

Touch the case metalwork again and remove the new modules from their packaging, again try not to touch any of the contacts. Inserting the new modules is a reversal of the removal procedure; note the position of any small notches on the contact strip and the socket, so that they line up. The modules have to go in at an angle, they should seat easily, if not re-check the alignment and notches. Now tip the modules up to the vertical position one by one -- ensure any pegs on the outside edges of the socket line up with the holes on the board -- and you will hear a satisfying click as the clips engage. Check to make sure they're all seated properly, if not go back and do it again. Reconnect any cables, and double check any other plugs and sockets you may have disturbed.  

You can now replace the lid. Reconnect or switch the mains back on and switch the PC on. The new memory should be automatically recognised by the motherboard BIOS, the first indication that everything has gone according to plan is a new, bigger number on the POST 'Memory Test' message (see Jargon Filter) that appears when the machine first boots up. Some machines may hang at this point and ask you to press a key -- usually F1 -- to confirm the new settings, others will continue as normal.

In the unlikely event that the PC won't boot up or one of the disc drives doesn't work the most likely explanation is that one of the ribbon cables has become unseated.

If you heard a series of bleeps when the machine booted up that usually indicates that one of the memory modules faulty, or you have fitted the wrong type. In the former case it may be possible to re-configure the BIOS. The safest thing to do however is contact your supplier, they may be able to talk you through it or determine the correct type of modules from the numbers or markings on your original memory boards.

Assuming everything is okay you should find that the Windows 95 opening screens appear much quicker, that's another good sign. When Windows has finished loading confirm that the machine recognises the new memory by clicking on System in My Computer, and selecting the Performance tab, where the new RAM capacity will be displayed. Give yourself a pat on the back and see what your newly turbocharged PC can do.

 

JARGON FILTER

BIOS

Basic input output system. A set of instructions that tells your PC what it is connected to, and how to communicate with devices like hard disc drive and memory chips

DIMM

Dual in-line memory module, usually with 168 connecting pins

POST

Power on self test. A small diagnostic program that operates every time you switch your PC on, to make sure everything is working correctly

SIMM

Single in-line memory module, with 30 or 72 connecting pins

 

TOP TIP

Windows Explorer is one of the most useful and important Windows 95 utilities. You probably already have it on your Start menu, (Start, Settings, Taskbar, Start Menu, Add, etc) but there's an even faster way to get to it, and that's to right click on the Start button, and select Explore. There are several Explorer keyboard shortcuts worth remembering. Each time you press the Backspace key Explorer steps back one level up the directory tree. The F2 key allows you to rename a highlighted folder and Shift plus F10 brings up the context based pop-up menu. Clicking once or twice on the Size and Modified headings in the right hand 'Contents' window will sort the files in descending (i.e. largest files or most recently modified first) or ascending orders.

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