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Stocking up on Memory

204-pinSODIMMDDR3kit_2There’s a saying in the tech world that you can never be too rich or have too much memory. The second part of the truism becomes more and more enticing as memory chips continue their downward price slide. In fact, there’s never been a better time to stock up on memory.

 For many uses in Windows 7, 4GB is tolerable. The operating system, however, really wants to have 8GB of RAM and 16GB works best for computers that use several resource-heavy programs at once – not an unknown scenario for teachers.

To see for myself, I spent 20 minutes upgrading my ThinkPad W510 notebook. Although it’s coming up on its second birthday, it is a high-performance system that has the best of everything. I use it every day for roughly 10 hours for everything from writing and working spreadsheets to editing video and simulating classroom activities. It is my workhorse and it sometimes lags a little when I try to do three or four things at once.

Crucial aIn addition to a Core i7 X920 processor, the system has a 500GB hard drive and 8GB of system memory. To make sure I got the right chips that would work on the first try, I went to the Crucial Web site. The company sells memory and solid state storage devices for just about any notebook or desktop PC around.

 The best part is Crucial system scanner does all the work. The program interrogates the machine and determines the best memory to use. After downloading and installing the software, the scanner took less than a minute to show that my system has four RAM slots, of which two were full. The software recommended that I get two DDR3-8500 memory modules.

While the site offers modules with as little as 1GB, I opted for filling the system with 4GB for each of the empty slots to get it to 16GB; total cost, $38. For the typical school system, it can cost as little as $12 to add 2GB or $19 to add 4GB. This is roughly half the cost that notebook makers charge for extra memory when the system is purchased, making it a good buy.

Once the parts arrived, I turned off the machine and unplugged its AC adapter. After opening the system’s hatch underneath, I found the empty slots and snapped the new memory modules in place. If you’ve never done anything like this, adding memory can seem an intimidating process, but it is the easiest part of the operation.

Crucial installationBecause the contacts are not symmetrical, you can’t put them in backwards. Slide the part of the module with the gold contacts into the slot until it is snug and then snap it down so the spring loaded latches firmly hold it in place. I used the eraser end of a pencil to lock it down.

All told, it took longer to open and close the hatch than to actually install the memory. If you get confused or think you’re in over your head, Crucial has helpful videos on the site that show exactly what to do.

With the new memory in place, I plugged in and restarted the computer, making sure the system recognized the new memory chips by checking out the Control Panel’s summary page. After opening the Windows Explorer and giving the Computer a right click, all the basic system specs were in front of my eyes. All 16GB of RAM is present and accounted for.

DSC_0069They are there, but does the new memory help. That can only be answered with benchmarking software. I used Passmark’s Performance 7.0 before and after the upgrade. Its overall performance was boosted by slightly less than 10 percent, but its memory scores went through the roof. They increased nearly 50 percent from 943 to 1,386, a huge bonus. Over the course of the next month, the system performed well and never crashed or lagged.

At $38 Crucial memory and about 10 minutes of actual work, this was a lot easier than I expected and there’s no excuse not to do it. After all, it is a small price to pay for the system’s increased performance and reliability.


Crucial Memory

Price: $38 for 8GB


+ Inexpensive

+ Great software for configuration

+ Good performance upgrade

+ Easy and quick installation

+ How-to videos


- No excuse not to do it



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