Add More Memory To Your Computer!

If your computer seems slow, now's the time for additional RAM.

Adding More Ram To Your Computer!

If the hard drive is the filing cabinet in which you store your documents, then memory, or RAM (random access memory), is the table you work on. The easiest way to get more space is to add extra leaves.

There comes a time when there's just not enough RAM. Everything is working fine, then you add photo-editing software, surf to a graphically intense Web site, install a game, and suddenly your computer can't keep up.

If the drive light is flickering like crazy, then it's probably time to install more memory. But before you unplug the cables, lug the machine to the car, drive to the computer store, wait to have RAM installed, and pay a minimum of $50 for the service, consider installing RAM yourself.


Determine how much RAM you have and how much you need

Before you make any purchases, you need to know how much memory you have and what type of memory to buy.

To see how much RAM is in your PC, go to the Start menu, click Settings, and then click Control Panel. Click System and then select the General tab. At the bottom of the page you should see the amount of RAM.

Most games will specify the minimum amount of RAM you need to install them and play. For example, Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban requires 256 MB. This amount includes RAM that the computer needs to do its own background work as well as to run the game.

The amount of RAM you need depends on the operating system you are using. For Windows 98, 128 MB to 256 MB is more than enough. For Windows XP, "the more the merrier—depending on what you're doing," he says. If you're just surfing the Internet and writing letters, you need 256 MB to 512 MB. "If you're gaming, the sky's the limit," says Gary, which means anywhere from 512 MB to 1 GB RAM (extreme gamers will need even more). You'll also need more RAM if you're using a lot of applications at the same time, such as desktop publishing and video rendering.

RAM modules can be purchased in 128 MB, 256 MB, 512 MB, and 1 Gig sizes.

Figure out what type of RAM you require

To determine the maximum amount of RAM your computer can handle as well as the speed, consult your PC's owner's manual, which should show you the number of slots (the place where you insert the RAM), how much each can take, and the maximum your system can use.

Contact the manufacturer or use an online memory advisor, such as the one from Crucial Technology or Kingston Technology, that will tell you which products work with your system.

To find out what kind of module you will need, you can also open up your computer.

1. First, turn off the computer, but leave it plugged in, because then it's automatically grounded, explains Gary. (Computers that should not remain plugged in will be clearly marked.)
2. Place the computer on a clean workspace and remove the cover carefully (you may need to use a screwdriver).
3. Touch the case to ground yourself. "If you've got a static charge then you won't once you've touched the case," says Gary. (Although some manuals recommend anti-static wrist straps, Gary says that this is not necessary for home users.)
4. Locate the RAM modules, which are green with black tubes, on the motherboard.
5. Now determine the type of module you have. "It's all in the look of the slot," explains Gary.
RDRAM is paired up (you have to put in two at a time) and has metal casing on one side;
DDR SDRAM is the most popular and looks like regular RAM, but has one notch;
SDRAM (which is being phased out) has two notches.
6. Also note your RAM speed, which is usually written on the side of the existing chip (either 266 or 333).
7. If you don't have a free slot, remove one of the memory cards to check the number of notches on it. You'll be replacing the smaller of the two RAM modules.

Install your new RAM

1. Turn off the computer and touch the metal casing.
2. Locate the RAM modules. Find the empty one you plan to replace, or remove the RAM module you will replace.
3. Line up the notches of the new RAM module and apply firm pressure to attach.
4. Once you're sure the RAM module is snugly in place, close the latch at either end. If you have clips, they should snap back in place.
5. Reconnect all the cables, but leave the casing open until you're sure everything is working right.
6. Turn your computer back on. If the machine starts to beep, the memory is either incompatible or not in correctly, says Gary. If you've installed everything correctly, the system will detect the new RAM.
7. Check the system properties to see how much RAM you now have. If you replaced a 128 MB with a 512 MB module, then you should have 512 minus 128 equals 384 MB more RAM than you did previously. If you added the RAM but didn't remove any, then you'd have 512 MB more RAM.
8. Try one of your programs that wasn't working up to speed. If it still isn't working, unplug everything again and get back into the computer to check that the RAM modules are firmly secured.

Quick facts about RAM

RAM = random access memory. According to Encarta, it is the primary working memory in a computer used for the temporary storage of programs and data and in which the data can be accessed directly and modified.

Shopping checklist

Amount of memory/RAM you have: _____________ MB

Amount of memory/RAM you require: ____________MB

Amount of memory/RAM on each module: __________and ____________

Maximum amount of RAM your computer can handle: _____________ MB

Amount of memory/RAM you will buy: ________________ MB

RAM speed for your computer: ______________________


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