3 Easy Steps To Replace Your PC RAM


Fast Memory Upgrade

Assuming you have unplugged your pc already, just follow these simple steps to replace or upgrade the RAM in your computer. Remember to make sure the memory you have will work in your pc and, if adding more RAM, that it matches the memory you already have. In other words, if your pc came with DDR3 memory, or is “pc2-5300” or whatever, make sure that’s what you put in it or it may not work. Just because you want 2000Mhz RAM doesn’t mean your system can handle it. To be certain you’re running the fastest memory you can use, it’s best to just look up the specifications for your pc model online, usually at the manufacturer’s website.

1. Remove the side cover of your pc. Looking at the back of your pc, this is usually the right side, but some Gateway models and others have recently started using the left side. It should be obvious to you, as there will be some latch mechanism on the correct side. Once you’ve removed the cover, lay the pc on its side, so you can reach into it easier. Touch the metal case to put yourself at the same electrical potential as the case, eliminating static electricity.

2. Locate the RAM cards, located on the motherboard near the CPU. You will know what to look for if you look at the replacements you have bought. Remove the cards by releasing the latches on each end of the card and pulling the cards straight out. Make a mental note of the gap in the bottom of the card. It will be slightly off center, and you will need to remember this when you insert the new cards into place.

3. Noting the correct orientation, slide the new RAM cards into the slots on the motherboard. The cards should require very little pressure to seat properly into the slots. If the gap orientation is wrong, the card might seat on one side but not the other. If this happens, do not force it. Remove the card, recheck the gap and try it again. When the latches close on both sides, the card is seated properly. Remember, it should require very little force.

That’s all there is to it! But before replacing the case side panel, check out the fan and other things for too much dust or any debris that might cause heat inside the case. Then replace the cover and you’re good to go!

When you restart your computer, it might stop and report that the system memory has changed. If it doesn’t, you can check the available memory in Windows by right clicking on MyComputer and selecting “Properties”.

Catastrophe! Pt 4

Everything was going so well. The near-disasters had been avoided and the catastrophe was only minutes from being a memory when the worst happened, and finally the data really was lost and along with it, maybe this customer. Only one thing was left to do. Read on, for the final installment of… Catastrophe!

Data Loss? It’ll Cost!

As soon as I realized there might be some data loss, I decided to ship the original defective SCSI hard drive to Marlon Stone at ReWave Hard Drive Recovery in Concord, NC. They are the go-to guys when you have a crashed drive and bad backups. If you look online, you’ll find alot of data recovery places. My two reasons for choosing ReWave were simple:
1. They were less than 100 miles from me and if needed, I could drive there and
2. Of the four emails I sent out the night before, Marlon answered fastest and personally. (As a matter of fact, none of the others ever responded.)

Recovering data from a dead hard drive can be a tricky business. There are generally two kinds of faults, logical and mechanical. You hope for a logical fault, which is alot cheaper to recover. A mechanical fault is exactly what it says, mechanical. It requires parts, and a mechanical failure can be expensive to recover. Common estimates can run higher than $2400. The number I got back from Marlon was 1900 bucks.

Now, you might think that’s a bit high for just one file. If that’s what it was, I’d agree with you. But it wasn’t one file. It was much more than that. That one file represented my reputation, my business, my integrity. It’s one thing to lose data, a terrible thing. But to refuse to restore that data because of a price tag? That would be unethical. If I ever looked at it that way, I would not be myself.

Pay The Piper

So I sent the payment to ReWave and waited for the file. Once the recovery was complete, the file would be ftp’d for me and this ordeal would finally be over. That should have taken a couple of days. Several days went by and I was beginning to worry. There was only a 45% chance of recovery going in to it, and I was beginning to think they weren’t going to be successful. I know that it seldom helps to interrupt an IT worker, and in fact never gets the job done any faster, but I had to call.

And I got no answer. Just voicemail. So I sent an email. Late that afternoon, the phone rang and it was Marlon. He sounded beat. Everybody there had come down with a really nasty flu and nobody had been at the office for 2 days. The guy who normally set up their ftp was out and they were sending my files overnight. I should have them in the morning. About 30 minutes later I got a Fedex tracking number in my email. My file was on its way.

The next day, the file arrived and copied perfectly onto the server, finally ending the ordeal of the near catastrophe. In the end, after riding a roller coaster of successes and failures, there was no data lost at all. As far as the customer was concerned, all that was lost was some time. And from my point of view, I wasn’t out too much of anything. Just money. My good friends–my clients–were smiling. They were happy. That was what was most important.

What Can I Say?

I learned a couple of lessons from all this. One, and I’ve said to my customers over and over, Do Not Panic. When we panic we don’t think clearly. We forget things easily. We make more mistakes. I could have saved myself alot of emotional pain and quite a bit of time if I had not panicked at the beginning. I would’ve remembered my daily backups. As it was, I looked right at that file several times before I even realized what it was. Yes, that is embarrassing to admit, but I’m making a point. Don’t Panic.

Secondly, Dogged Determination will win out over almost any obstacle. As long as you’re not willing to give up, there may still be a chance. Honestly, I didn’t really have the couple-of-grand to pay for just one file, but I was not willing to let that determine the outcome. I found a way to make it happen if it had to, and then hoped it didn’t come to that. When it did, I bit the bullet and did what was needed.

The third thing to note here is that Sometimes We Can’t Do It Alone. We’ll need help. It’s wonderful if we’re the best at what we do. But there are times when being the best isn’t enough, especially when a catastrophe strikes. When the worst comes to pass, we can’t be so proud that we let the disaster defeat us. Asking for help from the right people and then trusting them to deliver should always be an option.

Finally, I learned that yes, even I can have a set of days or weeks or months when events seem destined to go against my wishes. And for certain, just when we think it cannot get any worse, it can and does. That’s just life’s way of telling us we’re not bottomed out yet, and there is more to come. We don’t know in advance whether tomorrow holds good or ill. All we can know is that whichever it is, it will be ours to deal with. And It Won’t Last Forever. Nothing does.

 Part 1          Part 2          Part 3


Catastrophe! Pt 3

The new day dawned. So far, this catastrophe seemed like it would go on forever, a cascading series of failures which, honestly, were starting to get on my nerves. I take alot of pride in certain numbers, particularly the number “0”. That’s how many times I have lost a customer’s data. This catastrophe was not going to change that number.


With a fresh outlook nurtured by a bit of sleep, I was able to quickly troubleshoot this latest problem. Installing this program requires a folder to be created and mapped as a network drive, which I had done each time. When reinstalling Windows, the original desktop, with all of its shortcuts, was retained. The old shortcut referred to the old mapped drive, which was eliminated when I reinstalled Windows. I remapped the drive, and the program worked fine.

I spent a little time making sure a few other things were correct, and went to test the program on the users’ machines. Everything connected and ran perfectly. Back in the server room, I restored the backup files to bring the program up to date. Then another round to make sure the remotes could see that. All the users were happy, and ready to catch up on the work that had been steadily accumulating. I asked them all to stay out of the program until I had ran the rebuild routine before I headed back to the server.

Now that the shortcuts all pointed to the right mapped drive, the rebuild ran fine. It takes awhile to run it. There’s decades of information that has to be sorted through. The best thing to do is just sit back and watch the file names change.

With about 2 minutes left, the routine halted. When the error appeared I knew immediately what must have happened. The program has 2 main functions, event co-ordination and accounting. By far, the event coordination side is the largest, and the most used. But the accounting program is there, and someone had logged into it while the files were rebuilding.

Sigh… So after a short talk to the users about staying out of the program while I’m rebuilding it, I reload the backups, check the remotes, remind the users, and rebuild the database for the, well, I forget how many times actually. This all took about another hour, and by now everybody was gone to lunch. I decided to skip a final test until they returned and moved on to the last program.

Data Loss!

The cd installed fine and this time, the backup copied right into the correct folder. But when I ran the program, the data was not there. I compared the backup file size to the “last loaded” file size on a remote machine, and the file sizes were different. My backup was considerably smaller than it should have been. It was my worse fear. Data was lost.

I checked the backup file, on the external drive. It showed the decreased size. I looked at the properties, and there I found an indication of what might have happened. The last time the file was changed was the day before, at about the time the server crashed. Somehow, and I do not even pretend to know how, when the server crashed, the file became corrupted.

I sat back and stared at the screen. In my mind I was going over the amount of information contained in that database. There were about 600 files. Each file would take about 30 minutes to key in from paper. So that was about 300 hours of work. Working 5 hours a day, 6 days a week, I could get it done in a few months, maybe.

Sigh… I surely was not looking forward to that. But even more, I was not looking forward to telling my customers that their data was gone. That data was my job. Though I keep my prices below industry standards, they still pay me well to protect that data, and I had failed. The data was gone, and soon I would be too, most likely.

That thought didn’t appeal to me either. These people were more than just customers to me. They were my friends. These guys were a source of great motivation and friendship when I was first getting started. They were one of the first to sign on for contractual services. They had stood by me since the very beginning.

I decided not to roll over. The thing that has always set me apart is my insanely steadfast determination not to fail. There was still one more thing I could do. The desperate act of nothing to lose. Though it had slightly less than a 50-50 chance of working, I had to go for it.

Clickback next time for the exciting conclusion of ….. Catastrophe!

 Part 1           Part 2

Catastrophe! Pt 2

The unthinkable had happened, and I found myself in the middle of a catastrophe. The server had crashed and my precious backups were useless. It seemed that if not for a stroke of luck, all the data would have been lost. But that still left months of data missing…

 Mom Always Said To Dress In Layers

The reason I do manual backups is that I just have a gut reaction that if I don’t see the job done, it might not be. I’ve worked with electronics in one form or the other since the late 70s, and I don’t trust the stuff. Granted, reliability has improved over the years, but still, old habits are hard to break. I’d rather do it myself than trust a machine to get it done for me.

But as it turns out, I do ask the machine to back up this program for me–every day. You see, even though I don’t trust them, I do use them, just in case I am the one screwing up. Which, in this case, for whatever reason, I was.

Redundancy is the guardian angel of IT. When it comes to my work I believe one thing: eventually everything’s going to fail. No matter what I do, I’m gonna miss something. I do very good, very precise work, at breakneck speed, deliberately and meticulously. I know that I am working a bit faster than normal, and I know that means I am statistically more prone to make mistakes(maybe). So instead of slowing down too much, I always add little safeguards against my own blundering as I go.

It’s the layers principle. Try to get as many layers of security between you and whatever it is that you need to be protected from. In this case, loss of data. Once I recovered from my initial panic and remembered the automatic backups, I was able to restore the data files right up to the night of the crash. It would be no exaggeration at all to say it was an emotional moment to see the program working as if nothing had ever happened.

She Also Said There’d Be Days Like These

I was on top of the world, almost giddy. The program was happy, I was happy, my customer was happy–there were probably cartoon birds flying around somewhere singing just for us. Triumphant, I returned to the server room ready to install the last program, restore its backups and still get done in time to eat supper. I placed the disk in the tray and gently tapped it in. There was no documentation with this cd. I had been told that the company which released it hadn’t been heard from in about 5 years. But it had always been a straightforward program, so I wasn’t worried in the least.

There was no autorun on this cd, so I told the machine to display the contents. There was one file, an executable installer, so I ran it. It wasn’t a large installer, only about 20 megabytes, but it seemed to be taking a very long time to install. It finally showed the Finished screen, and I clicked Ok. The backup file for that program was a single database file, so I grabbed it from the backup drive and copied it into the folder. This file was pretty large, about 22 meg, so I sat back to wait the 3 or 4 minutes I figured it would take.

A couple of minutes went by. I noticed that the “Time Remaining” count wasn’t changing. Well, sometimes it doesn’t. I gave it a few more minutes, then hit the keys to bring up the task manager. And… nothing. The machine was locked up in some loop somewhere and I wasn’t invited. So I held the power switch in for 4 seconds and restarted the machine. Sometimes these things happen, I’ve seen it a hundred times. No problem, just do it again.

Only, this time… well, I don’t know if it was my mom, but somebody said there’d be days like these.

The Crash… Again?

Yep, again. On the reboot, Windows wanted to scan the disk, and I thought that was a good idea, seeing as how it had just locked up. So it scanned, found and repaired the offending area of the disk, and rebooted. As the desktop was coming up, it detoured and decided I wanted to see that beautiful Blue Screen of Death again. I tried restarting several ways, but each time Windows would get almost to the desktop and then shut down with an error code that could mean lots of things.

First I tried repairing the master boot record, but that wasn’t it. Then I tried repairing the Windows installation itself. No help there either. After a couple of hours I was still getting blue screened on every startup. There were several things I could have tried at that point. Since it wasn’t repaired by repairing Windows, I could look for it, maybe get lucky and find it in another hour or so. More likely was that I would spend many hours and never find it.

So I decided to just reinstall Windows, replacing the existing installation. It would mean that I had to reinstall all the updates and programs again, but that might actually be faster than trying to find the source of this latest crash. So far, the hardware seemed to be working just fine. All the installing and repairing indicated that the components were in good shape. So it was almost certainly software.

Never Underestimate The Value Of Coffee

I did a replacement install of Windows, and soon was back up on the Windows Update site grabbing the 94 updates I knew I would need. A few hours later and I was back to installing that monster management program. The install was going great, until I restored the backed up files. Sometimes, when dealing with databases, after restoring backups, a little routine has to be run that rebuilds the database structure, optimizing your files and your settings. Every time I tried rebuilding the database, I would get a multitude of errors from the program about missing files.

From the pinnacle of victory I found myself cast into the depths of despair once again. I’d spent too many hours not to see any results. Outside, it was dark. It was cold, the January wind moaning low between the buildings and the trees. I was tired. It was late. I was hungry. I wanted a cup of coffee. Yeah, a cup of coffee and about 7 hours of sleep. I knew it was time for decisive action. I shut it all down and left the building, heading for food, a good cup of coffee, and a night of fitful sleep.

Clickback again tomorrow, for the continuing saga of… Catastrophe!


Catastrophe! Pt 1

Catastrophic events don’t happen very often with safeguards in place to mitigate against them. But even if the odds are always approaching zero, there is the very real chance that every safeguard will fail, or that a situation arises you didn’t plan for.

 In my business, which is a bizarre combination of hardware, software, systems and user support, I need to be ready for just about anything. There are software packages out there that are incredibly complex. These applications usually come with a great support system already in place. I don’t even try any more to learn how most of them work. Nowadays all I really have to do is to back them up…

The Crash

There’s a server. It’s located in a big room somewhere, with dedicated APS and all the accoutrements. Recently there was a blackout in the building. Although I wasn’t there, I assume the APS did its job, and that the server shut down gracefully. When I arrived to restart the machine, everything functioned fine up to the login screen. I typed in the password, hit enter, and the desktop began to load. And then, without a warning, the Blue Screen of Death.

I don’t mean the dark, heavy blue one with all those big ugly letters. I mean the really pretty light blue one, with the perfectly sized, professional little message telling you that everything basically just went to hell, and to go and contact yourself (the administrator) if the problem persists. There’s only one message I wouldn’t want to see more right then, and that’s the Black Screen of Doom.

So I do a shutdown and a clean boot from nothing. And the controller reports the horrible news. No available devices present. The catastrophe had occurred, but I didn’t know it yet. What I did know was that this machine was going to the shop with me. At the least it probably needed a new hard drive, and I was better equipped to do that and all the software rebuild than the customer.

Just Another (Sun)day at the Office

I took this as an opportunity to change some things I had never liked on that machine. The only reason that SCSI drive was in there was to be striped in a “RAID” array. My opinion is this: without at least 2 drives, RAID is useless. So I replaced it with a fast SATA drive and reinstalled the OS and basic programs. Several hours later, after getting all the updates and extras from Microsoft installed, I went through and cleaned out all the leftover temporary files, service pack uninstall files, you know, the usual suspects.

Once I was satisfied with that, I proceeded to install that huge, complex management program I alluded to earlier. The previous incarnation had been started off as a 16 bit application and upgraded over the years to its current form. Wanting this install to mirror that one, I went through the process of installing the earlier versions and then upgrading them. The history of paperwork was a bit confusing, stating contradictory things in different places, and the whole thing was a mess. For an entire Sunday I worked on this, well into the night. I quit about 2am, too tired to think.

Next morning, I tried loading the latest version of the program and trying it again. Everything seemed fine until I loaded in my backup data. Then the whole thing fell apart and nothing worked. When 9am rolled around, I called their customer support. The wonderful woman I talked to listened carefully to my story, asked a couple of questions and then informed me that the data I was trying to change was dynamic in nature and I simply couldn’t do that and expect it to work.

All The Data Was Lost

Now, on the third day into the mouth of devastation, I finally realized the extent of the catastrophe. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t get that program to work. The problem was, that even if I did, All The Data Was Lost. To top it all off, someone at this same company had told me which data to back up when I’d called and asked them which files are required to be backed up to save the company’s data. Thanks to this misinformation all my backups were of files that couldn’t be copied over, and none of them had my customer’s data.

This is a catastrophe. This is the thing you never plan for, the thing you couldn’t see coming.

Most huge management programs have menu options to create backups. Some even remind you every so often. On those, backups are easy. Most people don’t even bother with someone like me to do that, they do it themselves. But this program, though it stores all the data required to run a busy business in a specialized and growing sector of the economy, doesn’t have such a function.

When I’d talked to one of their guys about backups in the past, he told me I needed to preserve the contents a particular folder, and that’s what I had been doing. The email I received from the woman this day showed four folders and several files that contained the data. None of which were included in my regular backup files. But the game was not over yet.

Luck, A Plan and Hope

Back in October I had done some unscheduled maintenance to this machine, and had made a larger backup of the drive contents, outside the context of the regular schedule. When I looked in there, I found the files I wanted. I grabbed them and used them as the backups. This time when I ran the program, the company files were found, and after another 30 minutes of rebuilding and optimizing, the program gave me the correct login screen. A decade of business data had been recovered, but that left almost 4 months of data missing.

It was an important victory, a master stroke of luck. But it wasn’t enough. I needed to find some way of getting that missing data back. A plan began to form in my mind. And with it, a hope that this might all just work out fine. I’ll continue with the story tomorrow. Maybe you’ll drop by and see how it plays out.