Thursday, October 30, 2008

Add memory and Vista's good looks - Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008

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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008

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Add memory and Vista's good looks

QI bought a computer two months ago. It has Windows Vista. But it doesn't have the same snazzy look that I see on my friend's computer. Her computer is faster, too. A guy at school said I needed a bigger hard drive. Are hard drives hard to install?
—Anne in Lima, OH, listening on WIMA 1150 AM

A I'm glad you sent me this question, Anne. I think I can help you avoid a big mistake. You probably don't need a new hard drive. Even if you do, it has nothing to do with your problems.

It sounds like you need more memory. Microsoft lists 512 megabytes as the minimum required for Vista. But Vista is a memory hog. At minimum, you need 1 gigabyte of memory.

How-to ThursdayYou could also have Windows Vista Home Basic. This is a truncated system that does not offer Vista's glassy look. About the only reason to buy Vista is that look. Otherwise, we might as well have stayed with Windows XP.

So, first thing, let's see what you've got in your machine. Click Start>>Control Panel. In the left panel, the dot should be next to Classic View. If it isn't, click Classic View. Next, double-click System.

The window that opens will have your information. At the top, you'll see "Windows edition."  It will say Windows Vista, plus the edition. So you'll see Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium  or Ultimate. (There are two other editions, Enterprise and Business. I doubt you have either of these.)

My guess is that you bought the least expensive machine possible. I understand, believe me. I hate to part with money unnecessarily. But sometimes you have no choice.

Buy more memory

In this case, you'll have to spend some money. To speed things up, you need to add at least 512MB of random access memory. If you're editing videos, go to 2GB. I see no need to go higher, unless you're playing cutting edge games.

You can get memory at a computer store. However, you might do better online. There are plenty of memory sellers there. Three are Crucial, Kingston and OCZ Technology. Crucial is one of my advertisers.

I think you'll find they're all reasonably priced and helpful. All use configurators. Basically, you enter information about your computer. The configurator tells you what memory will work.

Crucial goes a little farther. It will scan your computer and offer up the correct memory.

Before you start, please heed this warning. Static electricity could wreck your computer. So, always touch the computer frame before reaching in. That will ground you.

This job is not difficult

This job is about a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Nonetheless, if you've never opened your computer, installation could be intimidating. All of the memory retailers offer help.

I especially like Crucial's site. It offers detailed instructions, complete with many pictures. Most people will find what they need there.

You don't have to worry about installing the memory incorrectly. You'll notice one or more notches in the gold edge. They have to be aligned with ridges in the memory slot.

Computers count from 0. The manufacturer will have inserted one stick of memory, probably. It will be in the 0 bank. If the manufacturer used two sticks, they will be in the 0 and 1 banks. Just put your new stick of memory next to the ones already there.

You'll have to press hard. Assuming the notches are aligned properly, the stick will go in. There are plastic clips at each end of the banks. They'll snap up when the memory is inserted correctly.

Double-check your work

When you finish, check the System page again. It will show the additional memory, assuming it is installed correctly.

If the memory doesn't show up, try again. You probably haven't pressed the module in completely.

So, what about that drab look? If you have Vista Home Basic, that is the reason. Basic doesn't offer the glassy Aero look. (According to Microsoft, Aero means authentic, energetic, reflective and open. Whatever.) If you really want that look, you'll have to upgrade.

Microsoft charges $79 to upgrade to Home Premium. If you want the Ultimate edition, you'll have to put out $199. There is also a handling and shipping charge for either.

Aero also could be turned off. If you already have Home Premium or Ultimate, you probably need to enable Aero.

On the desktop, right-click an empty area. Click Personalize>>Window Color and Appearance. Select a color and check "Enable transparency." Click OK.

Here are more tips from my site that you'll find helpful:
Adding more memory 
Test your memory
What's in each version of Vista?

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