Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Comp - 101 Epi-issue 1

Welcome to Always thinking – the blog that puts its feet up on your mom’s new couch. For this entry, I think I’ll do something a little different – I’m going to answer most, if not all of the questions that I get pertaining to system memory or RAM as most of us know it. This entry was originally intended to be a Revision3 type episode but then I realized that none of you bastards reading this are worth that kind of effort (actually, my camera batteries died so I couldn’t do the video :( )

So what is RAM? Why is it so necessary? What are the benefits of adding more? Those are just a few of the questions we are going to answer on today’s entry. I’m going to take you on an in-depth tutorial where I will show you all the steps involved in upgrading your system’s memory.
Let’s get started:

What is RAM?

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. For simplicity sake, we’re going to say that RAM is a temporary storage space utilized by programs and processes that are running in Windows.
What are the benefits of RAM?

Basically, the more you have the better. It gives you, the user more headroom for maneuverability when using the machine. Having more means that you can have more programs running without enduring a sluggish and non-responsive windows session. For example, if you have 512MB of memory, this means that you can have programs like your media player and word processor running while surfing the internet or chatting and barely sense a lag in the response time of the browser or any of the other programs; as opposed to having, say, 128MB – then you might want to take it easy on the application launching. Using one app at a time would be your limit as opposed to three or four simultaneously.
Why is this? This is because every program you use takes up a certain amount of your computer’s total memory; some programs use more than others.

There is a way to detect how much system memory you have though. It’s a tool built right into windows (since Windows 95, I believe) that a lot of people seldom know how to use or use to its fullest potential, that is – the Windows Task Manager. We’re going to take a look at it right now.
Task Manager

Video 1 - Determining System RAM

Video 2 - Installing RAM

The Test

OK now that our new RAM is installed let’s see how our system’s performance compares. Here is a speed chart where I tested the start times of The System Startup Process, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer and just to push it to the limit, Photoshop CS3. As you can see, our system bears much better with the new headroom.

Graph showing system performance

System Startup: Not heavily affected by how much RAM you have, but the state of your registry, hard drive and prefetch folder.

Windows Media Player: This program used to take forever to launch when I had less RAM. Now it takes 3 seconds.

Internet Explorer: No big improvements, mainly becausee I don’t have any tool bars installed in IE. Now takes 4 seconds.

Photoshop CS3: The big wait as I used to refer to it. This is where having more memory shines: it takes 3 seconds to launch as opposed to a previous 15.

Knowing Your Type

Purchasing RAM is a pain in the ass. There are so many specifications that the module has to meet if it is to ever work in your system. If the gap in a module you buy is off by 2 millimeters, it simply won’t work. So before you go shopping there are a few things you should know about the type of RAM that you’re using.

Firstly, extract one of the RAM chips that your computer is currently using, there should be a label on it that looks similar to this:

My 256MB RAM Module

Pay attention to the brand, size, order and speed.

Place the chip back into the machine and go into the computers BIOS setup. You should see a prompt at startup similar to this “Press F2 to enter setup”. Once you’re in, navigate to the System Memory branch and write down the information there. Pay close attention to the Type (DDR1,2… SD/DRAM). When calling around to find our prices, the RAM type inquisition should follow this format “Do you have any PC(speed) DDR(1,2…) (size) memory modules?” In my case, the question was “Do you pricks have any PC3200 SD DDR2 512MB memory modules?”
Important! For Dell machines, tell the sales rep. that you do, in fact have a Dell and give the model number. Dell PCs don’t accept any old memory modules for some apparent reason. It’s best to go with a Kingston brand, which sadly is more expensive.

I’ve compiled a price list for those interested in bulking up on memory.

ECC Tech: $345
F1 Connect $700 (Fuck them!)
Circuit Zone $450 – ($550 for Dell Machines)
InterPC ltd: $600
The Wizz Computers:$400 ($650 for Dell machines)

Take it from me, KNOW YOUR RAM TYPE. It’s very frustrating to (1) Spend all day walking around the place looking (2) Buy memory, reach home then realize it’s the wrong type so you have to return to the store, which at this point might tell you that they don’t have the type you need. This can make you cry more so because most stores aren’t as friendly as Circuit Zone. Other stores (the Wizz) will tell you “hard luck”, take your money, leave you RAM-less and give you a shitty credit note for the money that they stole from you. As we all know, nothing that you need in a computer store is less expensive than RAM… aside from CDs… which you could buy 100 for $89.

I beg of you, take out your RAM chip, inspect the label, refer to this guide and get the memory that’s right for you. It’ll save you a lot of time and money in the process.

Well that’s all for this edition of Comp101. Any question or episode suggestions can be sent to kshep92@hotmail.com. Remember, this is not just a hardware show questions on software are welcomed as well. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next time.
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