Tag Archives: RAM

Mac Tip #1: Get RAM

Two years ago, I’ve said something similar about my XP machine (emachines H3070). But now that I’m getting Back in Mac, I’ll say it about Macs too: get more RAM!

I recently got this used Mac mini Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz (early 2006). It’s a low end machine but it’s much better than the Mac mini G4 I was buying from somebody else. One thing, though, is that with 1 GB of RAM, the G4 felt snappier than the Core Duo did with 512 MB of RAM. I just maxed the Core Duo’s RAM to 2 GB and it now feels snappier than the G4 did, for the brief amount of time I had it.

Of course, for casual uses, differences in speed aren’t that noticeable, which is the main point of my previous post on coming back to Mac. But, in this case, the difference between the same Mac mini Intel Core Duo with 512 MB of RAM and the same machine with 2 GB is quite noticeable, even in casual use.

I bought the RAM through NCIX, one of the better known online retailers of PC equipment in Canada. Two Kingston-branded 1 GB PC2-5300 SO-DIMMs for 48.17$, shipping included. It cost me as much for a single 1 GB PC-2700 DIMM (also Kingston-branded), locally (without shipping). This might have been one of the most trouble-free online buying experiences I’ve ever had.

For one thing, NCIX accepts Interac Online. Interac is the main system for debit cards in Canada and it’s accepted in almost any “brick and mortar” business. Despite having lived in the US where “flash cards” debit cards with credit card numbers are common, I still prefer Interac over flash cards.  It’s the first time I’ve used Interac Online and I wish all businesses accepted it.

Then, the whole order was well-documented, with a clear description of the step-by-step process. Too often, online retailers rely on the one confirmation message “we received your payment and we should ship your item soon.” One part of that documentation came from my bank, because I’ve used Interac Online. Contrary to Paypal, the operation happens directly.

The item was shipped rather promptly. It could have been faster but that wasn’t an issue. And it arrived quickly, over air, through Purolator. That part cost me about 3$, which is very good for prompt shipment of such a low-cost item (“super saver” shipping usually applies only to more costly orders). The items were properly packaged, with recycled paper.

All in all, I’ve had a very good experience with NCIX.

Then, there was the matter of installing the RAM. My experience with doing this on the Mac mini G4 was rather painless, in part because the box had already been opened. But the Mac mini Intel Core Duo is also much more difficult to upgrade because the SO-DIMMs are hidden under the chassis.

In both cases, I used the Method Shop tutorial on Mac mini RAM upgrade. These instructions are quite good overall. I wish there had been pictures of the four screws which need to be taken off, but it’s mostly a matter of making sure I had the right one. Contrary to  what this tutorial implies, I didn’t have any issue taking these screws out and in, even though my screwdriver (the same I’d use for glasses or sax screws) isn’t magnetized.

One thing I did find difficult, though, was plugging back the tiny black cable by the computer’s (PRAM?) battery. Sounds silly but it was actually pretty difficult.

Inserting the top SO-DIMM was also a bit difficult but it’s mostly because I wasn’t clear on how angled it had to be. At the same time, those SO-DIMMs were much easier to secure in than most DIMMs I’ve installed in the past, including the one on the Mac mini G4.

I had a short moment of panic when I tested the mini while it was still “naked.” When I powered it on, I got a screen with a missing folder. I turned the mini off, played with the chassis a bit, and heard a “click.” Turns out the connection to the hard drive hadn’t been made. Because of the episode with the infamous tiny black cable, I worried that it might have been an issue with a cable I hadn’t noticed.

Putting the computer back together was actually easier than with the G4. No idea why, but it worked right away.

So, for less than 50$, I have greatly improved performance on this Mac mini. And it’s such a neat machine (small, quiet, practical) that this RAM installation marks the end of a rather successful process of getting Back in Mac.

Before installing the RAM, I’ve transferred a number of things from a previous Mac OS X machine (had saved everything on an old iPod) and from my XP machine. That machine now sleeps under my desk. I can VNC to it if I need to, and it still holds my ca. 100 GB iTunes Music library. But once I buy a 1 TB 7200 RPM external hard drive, it probably won’t be that useful.

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PC Tip#1: Get RAM

I admit: I am a User. A Mac User.

Oh, not that I use a Mac right now. But I’ll probably remain a Mac User all my life.

“Hello, my name is Alex and I’m a Macaholic.”

One year after being forced to switch to an entry-level Windows XP desktop computer, I still have withdrawal symptoms from my days as a full-time Mac User. I get goosebumps while thinking of the possibilities afforded users of Mac OS X. I occasionally get my fix of Mac goodness by spending time on my wife’s 2001 iBook (Dual USB). And, basically, I think like someone who spent the last ten years on a variety of Macintosh models (Mac Plus, iBook, SE/30, Mac IIvx…).

With this addiction, it might be unsurprising that it took me so long to do what any Windows user would have done while buying a computer: getting more RAM.

I finally did exactly that, when I got my first paycheck for the semester. Got a 512MB DIMM a couple of weeks ago and it transformed my PC-using life from a nightmare into something comfortably dull and uninteresting. Not bad for an $80 purchase:

CompuSmart.com – Product Information – eXtreme Memory Upgrades DDR PC2700 512MB

What took me so long? Well, when I went from running Mac OS X 10.3 on a 2001 laptop with a G3 at 500MHz, 384MB, and very little free disk space to running XPSP2 on a 2006 desktop with a Sempron at 2GHz, 512MB, and quite a bit of free disk space, I assumed the new machine would run at least as fast as the old one. When it failed to do so (I would get unbelievably slow response with only Firefox and iTunes as the main apps opened), I started blaming myself more than the lack of RAM. I had noticed a similar lack of performance on some Windows machines in offices in which I had worked in the past. Though I did notice that my pagefile was growing frequently and that many issues I had seemed to be related to memory, I still thought that the fault was in my pattern of use. “Maybe running a browser and a media player at the same time isn’t a common thing to do, in the Windows world.” Oh, it wasn’t an actual reflection. But it’s a set of uneasy impressions I had.  And because I didn’t have much money for RAM (and the machine didn’t cost me much in the first place), I wasn’t particularly interested in buying a DIMM just to make sure the machine is working properly.

Then my friend Alain came over, right after I had installed Office 2007. For some reason, my machine was even slower than it had ever been in the past. Extremely frustrating. Alain, a former Mac User, tried to help me investigate the problem. We did talk about RAM but we focused on defragmentation and such. Nothing really made a difference, at the time, but I gained some hope in making the machine somewhat useable.

When I bought the DIMM, the difference was immediately noticeable. In every single process. My machine is no speed demon (that’s really not what I wanted anyway) but it’s not making me want to yell every time I use it. At this point, using a few apps at the same time is almost as efficient as using the same number and type of apps on my previous iBook.

So I now have a full 1GB of RAM on my emachine H3070 and it’s performing semi-appropriately when I have two or three apps open at the same time. My life improved drastically. 🙂