Friday, February 15, 2008

Memory Upgrades for Vista Operating Systems

Now that Vista is officially out, many of you are dying to run out and buy it. I know that many will upgrade without first checking system requirements or system compatibility. This article is for you. When you try to install Vista, you may quickly find out that something will need to be upgraded. Most likely it will be RAM, video or both.

First we will look at memory. I am talking about system memory or RAM. Before we go further, my associate says I need to write about something more important. That is the peripherals, things like mice, cameras, scanners, printers. For most of these, you will find that there are no Vista compatible drivers available. The chain stores are going to be pushing Vista systems, but be patient and wait for the hardware to catch up. Here is where you will do better talking with your small neighborhood tech shops to find out if your computer will work with Vista.

For those who want to upgrade for Vista, additional memory may have to be installed. RAM (Random Access Memory) is used by the system to run applications. You can never have enough RAM. The current standard has been 512megs. But as the software becomes larger, system resources really become an issue. This is true with the new security suites like Norton or McAfee. Today, I would not consider a system with less then 1gig of RAM. You can run Vista on 512megs, but you would not be able to enjoy all the features and your system may perform very poorly.

To speed up your system and upgrade your RAM, you need to know a few details. You need to find out how much RAM you have, what type/speed, and how much your system will support. To find out how much, go to your START button, right click on My Computer, then select Properties. After the dialog box opens, look down to the bottom right. You will see information for the type and speed of the processor. There will also be a number indicating the amount of RAM installed. It will read 265, 512 or 1024 gigs.

On many of the mass produced machines, there may be an odd number like 448. That is because system memory is shared with the video. To find out the type and how much the system will support, check the system documentation. Check the specs in either the printed materials or check online. Sometimes there are stickers on the front. Look for something that reads like DDR XXX, (DDR400 for example), or PCXXX (PC3200 as another example).

If you have never done this, or are not comfortable opening your computer, you may want to get a service technician to install the RAM. They will still need all the above information. Now we can open the computer and install the memory.

1) Unplug the power on the computer. Most motherboards still are powered, even with the power switch off. So remove the plug completely. Ok, pull the power and unplug everything that is attached to the tower. Mark them if you need to, so you can put them back.

2) Lay the tower on the right side and remove the left side cover. Inside you will see many colored wires and cables. Carefully part these until you can get to the memory slots. They are called DIMM slots. There can be two or more depending on the motherboard. They will be located close to the processor (big metal fins with the fan motor). You will also see the existing memory stick.

3) On each end of the DIMM slots there is a white clip. Make sure they are pushed back to the opened position. Look at your new stick of RAM. You will see 1 or 2 notches. These will match up with dimples in the memory slot. Carefully line up the stick and firmly press it into the slot until you hear it snap into place. Now, secure the two locking clips and you are done.

4) Stand the system back up (leaving the cover off at this point). Plug in the mouse, keyboard and monitor. Plug in the power and fire the system up. One of 2 things will happen. If everything is alright, the system will boot like normal and you can watch the new amount of RAM count up on the screen. If this happens, then you are finished installing the RAM.

The second thing that could happen is the machine starts beeping and will not boot. Do not panic, all this means is that the RAM is not seated correctly. Simply shut it down and unplug the power. Remove the new stick of RAM and reseat it again making sure it snaps firmly into place. You may need to press a little harder than you think. Test the system again by rebooting. Once you are done, replace the cover, put the tower back, and attach all the accessories.

Let me just say again, if you are not comfortable opening and working on your computer then you will be better off letting a technician help you.

By: Chris Kaminski

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