The Gift of Memory – How to Tell What Kind You Need

It is coming on the holiday season and one gift that everyone would love is more memory for their computer. Nothing will revive an older computer better than adding memory and nothing will speed up a good computer better than more memory.

If you are like me, you have at least one computer that seems slow now, although when you bought it you thought you had gotten ample CPU size and memory. A lot of people blame their CPU when really they just need to add memory. I have a Dell Dimension 4400 desktop computer with (believe it or not) 256 meg of memory and my Dell Inspiron 8600 notebook has 512 meg. At the time I bought each of these, that was considered ample memory, but nowadays 1 gig is about the minimum you would want and if your computer can accept more, so much the better.

My desktop can only handle a maximum of 1 gig (two 512 memory modules) and my laptop can handle 2 gig (two 1 gig modules). I plan to upgrade both of them to their max and as a matter of fact, have already ordered it and we are waiting for it to come in. It is my Christmas present and I can’t think of a better present than that.

But when I asked for memory, I realized that I did not know what I needed to get. There is a lot of different kinds of memory and it is very confusing. The first thing I did since I have Dell computers is to go to the Dell website and look up each of my computers by their service tag. The service tag is on each Dell computer. If you haven’t done it yet and you own a Dell computer, sign in to the Dell website and go to My Systems and Peripherals. Then locate your service tag on your computer. If you can’t find it, there is a Find My Service Tag link right below the where you would enter it. Be aware though that it requires Internet Explorer 5.5 or greater. It doesn’t work with Netscape or what I use, Firefox.

dell-support.pngWhen you enter the service tag (and a description, like “Susie’s Laptop”), you will see a wealth of information about your computer. It will give you a complete summary of the configuration of your computer when you bought it. And on the left will be a list of a whole bunch of support and documentation for your computer.

If I click on Manuals, it takes me to the manuals for my specific computer with a “Tell Me How”, “Service Manual”, “Owner’s Manual” and “Setup Diagram”. All very useful, no? In the Owner’s Manual, it has a whole section with pictures on exactly how to add memory (in this case, to my laptop). And it listed the type of memory to get in the Appendix.

It pretty much spells it out for me. Once I had this information, I could go anywhere and look for two 1 Gig 333-MHz DDR SODIMM SDRAM (PC2700) memory modules. And as it states, my laptop comes standard with 256 meg (I have 512) and can go up to 2 gig (1 gig each slot).

But what if I didn’t have a Dell?


Well, thank goodness, there is a very easy way to tell what memory you need for your computer, thanks to Crucial, makers of very fine computer memory. Crucial provides a system memory scanning tool for your computer that tells you exactly what memory you have and what you need. You do have to either be using Internet Explorer (why does everywhere require that?) or to download their system scanning tool which takes a second and pops the scan results up in your regular (in my case, Firefox) browser just like you ran it from there. It identified my exact computer type, the type of memory I needed and how much I had and what I could use. Here are the results of my scan.




Pretty easy to figure out what I need now, that is for sure. Of course, I would not necessarily recommend buying through their website, it is generally cheaper to go somewhere else. I ended up buying mine from Newegg because they were selling the 1 Gig modules for $70 with a $16 rebate for each module. They don’t have the rebate now (and the price is now $80) but looking up PC2700 on Dealcatcher, I see that now has the same 1 gig Crucial memory for $58 with no S&H.

Crucial memory is considered very good and reliable and it guarantees that it is compatible with your computer when you run the scan to determine what kind to get. That is especially important with Dell computers since they are known to be somewhat picky.

I ended up getting Kingston memory for my desktop. They were sold out of that particular Crucial memory and the Kingston memory got good reviews. That is one thing nice about Newegg, they list reviews for each of their products. And Kingston has a list on their website of what computers their memory is compatible with and what type of memory to get. It is good for a double-check, but doesn’t actually scan your system the way the crucial website does.

Kingston also provides some Memory Installation Guides. They are pretty generic though. Better to go to the website for your particular computer and see what online manuals or help they have. Or you can always look in the manual that came with your computer ūüôā I hardly even think of that, I am so used to looking it up online.

So if you are thinking about what you might want for Christmas (or holiday of your choice) or what you might get someone else, think of the gift of memory! It isn’t as hard as you think and it really will make a big difference to how well your computer will run.

~Susan Mellott

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