Monday, April 30, 2007

Computer: RAM Upgrade!

A while back I ordered 2GB worth of RAM from Crucial. I have been anxiously waiting and waiting to install it since I upgraded to Vista. Originally I was not even going to upgrade to Vista until the RAM upgrade, but I was suddenly struck with the urge to upgrade and did an awful job at resisting. I have been waiting to upgrade my RAM primarily because of my BestBuy extended warranty. I was afraid that if I upgraded my RAM it would void my warranty. My Toshiba manufacturer warranty is almost up and I really don't care about that now. I am just afraid in a year my tablet screen is going to wear out and break in some manner. Tablet screens (especially the convertibles) are notorious for that.

After my first try with BestBuy talking on the phone (about a week ago) they said it would void my warranty and transfered me to Geek Squad in a split second. I was told by Geek Squad it would cost about $40 for them to install the RAM and, although they don't like to, they will install the RAM i purchased form Crucial. Now, for a computer geek who has installed RAM literally hundreds of times on desktops, this was not good news. While I have never actually installed RAM in a laptop before, I have taken apart one for work a long time ago. In my frustration I called BestBuy again (today) and this time was more careful how I clicked the buttons was put through with someone to ask my question. It was roughly, "If I upgrade my RAM in a desktop or laptop will it void my BestBuy extended warranty?"

I was told that a supervisor needed to be consulted, and after about 5 or so minutes I was told that that would not affect the warranty in any way. This was a good thing! Suddenly I had motivation to upgrade my RAM. After I re-found a guide to take apart a Toshiba M400 I started my work. The M400 and M405 are basically the same computer and the guide disassembled the tablet all the way down to the mother board, and I only needed to access under the keyboard (where the RAM door is located).

Sadly, I did not document my upgrade with pictures. Maybe when I am more accustomed to blogging I will actually remember. After the upgrade I reassembled everything in just a few minutes and booted back up. The Toshiba BIOS are a little crazy and it didn't even ask me to confirm the change in hardware before I saw a wonderful sight: the plain black Vista loading screen!


After I booted back up I let the computer run for a while to make sure it wouldn't crash and then decided to run the benchmarks built into Vista. Below you can see my old scores.

My score is not that bad. I am not too happy about my gaming graphics score but it is a tablet, what should I expect. Now, below are the benchmark scores ran after the RAM upgrade.

Now, only two of my scores actually changed (I was hoping for three of them to improve). First, as expected, my RAM score jumped from a 4.5 to a 4.7 (the same as my CPU score). This is attributed to, not the increase in the amount of RAM, rather, the clock speed of my new RAM is higher than the RAM that shipped with my tablet. The other area of improvement was my graphics score. It jumped from a 3.1 to a 3.3! (This score is the Windows Aero score. Even with a 3.1 Aero was giving me no problems.) Again, since the RAM has a higher clock speed and it is used as shared RAM for the graphics card, this makes sense. The additional RAM probably did make a difference here. I did not see an improvement in my gaming graphics score. Now, this is still logical because the benchmark is testing my actual GPU, but since I now have faster RAM (and double the amount) I expect to see an improvement in gaming as well. Even though the only game I play is Second Life. I might even be able to multitask while I game, although Second Life has always had a tendency to crash constantly on me (under XP and Vista).

Some reactions to the additional RAM under Vista, it makes a huge difference! I went from having 70% of RAM used at boot to 35% of RAM used a boot. Additionally, I don't have as much hard drive access when the computer is "idle." Vista already has way more hard drive read writes than XP, and making the jump form 1GB to 2GB really helps cut down on that (just from my unscientific observations). I have been using ReadyBoost from the start, and it appears that it is not being used as much. I guess that can be attributed to the fact that Vista uses "free" RAM as a cache for the hard drive, thereby using all installed RAM, while other operating systems just leave it empty. I still want to get a larger SD card for ReadyBoost, I might just procrastinate though.

My next project will be putting my old RAM into Cassie's Tablet. She still runs XP and only has 512MB of RAM! She will be so happy after she upgrades. I also think she is going to reinstall XP here soon so she will be just zooming right along. That is with her last generation operating system. ;)

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