Upgrading RAM on an older computer

Published: Monday, January 16, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 10:51 p.m.
The new year has seen plenty of action so far in Cyberville. Here is a sampling of the questions being asked by readers.
Q:I have a Dell computer that uses a memory called RAMBUS that doesn't seem to be available at any local stores, and even Dell doesn't seem to offer memory for the computer. My computer is a Pentium IV and only 4 years old. How can I upgrade the memory, and is it worth it?
A: RAMBUS memory was used by a number of major computer manufacturers when the Pentium IV processor was first introduced in attempting to take advantage of the processor's higher speed. It was more expensive to manufacture and ran hotter than other RAM, requiring the use of a heat shield built onto the actual memory chips.
A number of smaller vendors still offer RAMBUS memory, and it can be worth the upgrade to at least 512MB of RAM if you're considering an upgrade to Windows XP. Microsoft may be expected to discount Windows XP more often in 2006 prior to release of its new Vista operating system set for late in the year.
Q:I think my computer uses Non-ECC memory, but I understand ECC memory might be better. Can I use the two together?
A:Yes, you can, but you will not gain any performance advantage. When the two memories are mixed, the error correcting function of the ECC memory is disabled. For ECC memory to be utilized, you must have only ECC modules installed. You also need to be sure your computer's motherboard is not designed solely for ECC memory, as in a few cases non-ECC memory will not work.
Q:My digital camera uses flash card memory, but my computer doesn't have a built-in flash card slot. I'd also like to use the memory as a portable flash drive and carry it to multiple computers. What are my options for this?
A:A number of companies make small USB adapters that allow you to insert a flash card and carry it with you. These cards then also double as a portable flash memory drive.
Adapters are available for most flash media formats, and the size of the cards continues to shrink, which may add to the popularity of these adapters. Some adapters are available with USB 2.0, meaning faster transfer speeds of images than downloading them directly from the camera.
Be careful about formatting this memory on your computer, however, as flash memory usually must be formatted as FAT 12 or FAT 16, not the FAT 32 found on most computers.
Q:I have AOL 9.0 Security Edition and use the virus and spyware programs included. Are those sufficient to give me full protection, or do I need more?
A:While AOL's protection is better than nothing, and seems to be improving every month as time passes, your computer is still safest with anti-virus and spyware programs offered by individual vendors. My personal choices include Avast! Anti-Virus (www.avast.com), and AVG Free Edition (www.grisoft.com).
For spyware it's a good idea to download the free Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta (For Windows XP only), Lavasoft Ad-Aware, and Spybot. The latter two can be found at www.download.com at no charge. It's worth noting that you can run multiple anti-adware programs at once, but you should generally only run one anti-virus program. In most cases however, you can add an extra anti-virus program to a computer that already has AOL 9.0 SE without issue.
Tom Meek is a computer and media consultant whose column appears on Mondays in WorkLife. He can be reached at webgator@bellsouth.net or via www.tvccs.com. His columns also are available at www.gainesvillesun.com.

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