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Memory Upgrade & Conflict with Windows98

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Seeker, Jun 16, 2004.

  1. Seeker

    Seeker Guest

    I have a PC running W98 with 256RAM memory. It has a 3 GIG Hd and AMD
    500MHZ processor. I want to improve speed and performance and want to
    put another 256MB of memory in it. An IT guy at work says that Windows
    98 will run slowly on 512MB of RAM as there is some sort of conflict.
    Is this the case? What would you recommned as the best way to improve
    speed and performance in my machine? Thanks!!
    Seeker, Jun 16, 2004
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  2. Seeker

    Rory Baker Guest

    Apparently, there's some sort of bug in Win98 that causes it to irk at
    http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;253912) has a
    workaround for this.

    I'd say you'd be better off getting a faster processor and a bigger hard
    drive. 256MB RAM is enough to do all the basics with swap completely
    turned off. And having a bigger hard drive... well, I'd have a hard time
    doing much with only 3 GB. :)
    Rory Baker, Jun 17, 2004
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  3. If your machine has a 3 gig hard drive then it is unlikely that it
    will support 512 mb of RAM. The best way to improve speed and
    performance on your machine is to go to www.internetishop.com and buy
    a new one.

    Carlos Alvarado, Jun 17, 2004
  4. Seeker

    Seeker Guest

    Thanks for the reply, that's cleared a few things up particularly on
    the memory issue. Regarding the HD, what exactly is s swap file? If I
    do decide to go down the route of changing the hard drive what do I
    need to do to ensure that the new HD I buy is compatible with my PC's
    motherborad? Is there any diagnostic freeware that you can recommend
    to help me do this or check on what type of motherboard I have? I am
    asking as the PC is about 4 years old so I am not sur eif the m/board
    is compatible with today's HD's. Thanks!
    Seeker, Jun 18, 2004
  5. Seeker

    Rory Baker Guest

    A swap file is basically "fake memory." Whenever your computer's RAM
    fills up, it writes the lesser-used data to the swap file. Then, when
    the data is needed again, it's recalled from the swap file. The reason
    this is a good thing is because RAM is expensive, so storing stuff on
    the hard drive is a cheap way to expand the capacity of how much your
    computer can do at once. The disadvantage is that swap is ten million
    billion (that's 10^16) times slower than RAM, and you'll see it when you
    start to use the swap file heavily.

    As far as getting a new hard drive... basically, get something in the
    40GB or more range. Make sure it's ATA, I don't think if it's ATA/66 or
    ATA/100 because if I recall correctly, the drive controllers are
    supposed to work that out without a problem. However there's this
    newfangled SATA technology that may or may not work,, and SCSI would be
    an outright wrong choice. By my estimates, you can find a 40 GB drive
    for about $60, and a 120GB drive for about $140.
    Rory Baker, Jun 18, 2004
  6. Seeker

    Seeker Guest

    Thanks for the great reply Rory! It's helped me out alot. I've got to
    say that hard drives are cheaper in the USA than here in London!
    Regarding changing the hard drive, what exactly is ATA and how can I
    ensure that it is compatible with my motherboard? If I do decide to go
    down this route, what is the procedure (summary) for installing a new
    hard drive. I can store my documents on a memory stick. I would also
    want to change the OS to Windows XP Home from W98. What are your
    thoughts on this and what are the pitfalls to look out for? I am
    thinking of issues like drivers for the soundcard, graphics, modem etc
    as I am not sure that I can find the original disks. How can I
    establish what drivers are on my system?
    Seeker, Jun 18, 2004
  7. Seeker

    Rory Baker Guest

    ATA is basically the mode of interface between a hard drive and the
    motherboard. I wouldn't worry about compatibility too much, like I said
    as long as you get an ATA-interface drive (it should say on the front of
    the box). Looking at pricewatch.com, these drives are also listed as
    EIDE. (Two names for the same thing, I guess?)
    http://www.pricewatch.com/1/26/2274-1.htm I think you could buy any of
    these hard drives (only 60GB are listed, but there's other sizes that
    you can pick/choose at your leisure) and I would be 99.9999% confident
    that they would work with your system.

    As far as moving to XP goes, I'd definitley reccomend the bigger hard
    drive, more RAM (note: XP doesn't have the 512MB issue that Win98 has,
    so don't worry about how much you put in, I'd reccomend at least 512), a
    faster processor (at least 800mhz) and a video card that can handle the
    somewhat excessive graphics of XP. (I, for example, have a nVidia
    Geforce2, which will easily cover XP graphics and the graphics of most
    games. Only $50!).

    As far as installing a new hard drive goes... basically it goes like this:
    1. Remove existing hard drive (the 3GB) and put in the new HD
    2. Using a boot CD/disk, partition the drive to your liking (I'd
    reccomend creating two partitions, if the drive is larger than 40GB)
    3. Reinstall the 3GB drive - you can have more than one HD at the same
    time. Copy -all- the files from the 3GB to the new HD. Personally, I'd
    use a linux boot disk for this, simply because it handles the transition
    4. Take out the 3GB drive - or leave it in, your call.
    5. Boot up!

    There's probably a more detailed guide on the internet (regarding jumper
    settings, cable usage, etc) but those are the basic steps to "move" a
    system to another drive.
    Rory Baker, Jun 19, 2004
  8. Seeker

    Seeker Guest

    Hi Rory, the information that you have given me is great. Just a
    couple of things:
    1. What is a boot disc? You mentioned this as step 2 or 3 after the
    new drive has been installed?
    2. If I bought a new HD and Win XP, would it be a problem to install
    the O/S on the new HD and also transfer the existing data across, if I
    do not have the original cd's for the current O/S?
    3. How can I find out what memory is compatible with my system and
    motherboard? I think that curently there is one RAM stick in 1 slot
    with 3 free. My worry is if I bought another RAM stick it may clash or
    be incompatible with (a) the existing memory abd (b) the motherboard

    Thanks for all the help.
    Seeker, Jun 19, 2004
  9. Seeker

    Rory Baker Guest

    1. A boot disk is basically anything you boot from other than the hard
    drive :) You could get a really minimalist boot disk by doing the
    following at the DOS prompt:

    format a: /S
    copy c:\windows\command\format.com a:
    copy c:\windows\command\fdisk.exe a:
    copy c:\windows\command\xcopy.exe a:

    This would give you everything you need to partition and format the new
    drive, as well as copy everything from the old drive. Or, if you want a
    graphical interface to work with, you could get a bootable distrobution
    of linux, for example, Knoppix
    (http://www.knopper.net/knoppix-info/index-en.html) would allow you to
    do all of the above, as well as other things you might be interested in.

    2. Copying the data is easy, just have both drives in at the same time,
    and the OS will assign them drive letters. Then, you can copy everything
    like you would to a floppy disk. I'd reccomend copying everything from
    the 3GB to the new drive first, then installing WinXP.

    3. It depends. I'm not too sure what the exact specs are, but I think
    the rule of thumb is, if you have a Pentium II or III, you should buy
    SDRAM, and if you have a Pentium IV, you'll want DDR ram. Judging from
    the speed of your processor, I'd say you fall in that first category, so
    the next trick is speed. Memory is less forgiving than hard drives as
    far as speed goes, so perhaps it would be best to take the existing
    stick of ram with you to the store (or write down the markings) and have
    one of the sales personnel help you find what you need.
    Rory Baker, Jun 20, 2004
  10. Seeker

    Seeker Guest

    Thanks Rory, you've been very helpful. I'll give that a go and get in
    touch if I have any problems.
    Seeker, Jun 21, 2004
  11. You can download a Win98 boot disk from boot disk.com, or create your
    own (text copied from the Microsoft site). One advantage of doing
    these (rather than a minimalist DOS boot disk mentioned by Rory) is
    that you will get generic CDROM drivers and additional DOS functions:
    -Click Start
    -Point to Settings and click Control Panel
    -Click Add/Remove Programs
    -Click the Startup Disk tab
    -Click the Create Disk button
    -When finished, click OK to exit the Add/Remove Programs Properties
    dialog box

    -Note: Whether or not you insert a disk before you start this
    procedure, you will receive an Insert Disk prompt. Insert a disk if
    you have not done so already and click OK to continue.

    Personally, I would not recommend buying WinXP. It's prettier, and
    more stable, but takes up substantially more resources - so you may
    not see any speed increase. By the way, you haven't mentioned what you
    use the computer for - which is the very first question that should be
    asked. Also, what are the areas/occassions/tasks that your computer
    is displaying slowness?

    99% sure you will want PC100 SDRAM (Assuming you have a 500MHz AMD
    K6-2 processor). You can probably use older, low-density PC133 SDRAM
    also. If you know the make and model, you can try out the various
    memory configuratores (kahlon.com, crucial.com, etc)

    BTW, you can tell for sure how many sticks of RAM and open slots you
    have by downloading and running free tools (Belarc.com, Aida32, etc)

    Sounds like an odd set up (combination of parts you have). Did
    someone home-build this system, or is it a brand name (IBM, Dell etc)
    that was upgraded? I would expect to see a 10~20 GB HD and a single
    stick of 64 RAM or 128mb RAM in a store-brought 500 MHz computer.
    Possibly someone replaced the HD with a smaller one when selling, or
    took an older computer and upgraded the RAM and Processor?
    Anonymous Jack, Jun 21, 2004
  12. 2. If I bought a new HD and Win XP, would it be a problem to install
    Personally, I would not recommend buying WinXP.

    D'Oh! I meant to add that it might not be cost effective. You're
    looking at $40~$60 US for a 40GB HD, $50~$80 or so for 256mb SDRAM,
    and an extra $90~$180 for WinXP (depending on if you are getting XP
    Home upgrade or XP Pro full version).

    So, best case scenario is $180, worst-case $320. You can buy new
    computers here in the US for $400~$500 with all the goodies you've
    mentioned, plus a new 17" monitor, faster processor, CD-RW and more.
    If you can sell off your old computer for $100~150, you may be ahead
    buying new.
    Anonymous Jack, Jun 21, 2004
  13. Seeker

    Seeker Guest

    Hi Anonymous Jack, thanks for the fantastic advice, I have learnt alot
    from it. I agree with you about the PC being cobbled together. I
    bought it from a friend who runs a secretarial colege and it was one
    of the PC's they were replacing. I suspect that it is fairly old as
    the HD was only 3GIG and had a processor and memory upgrade. I will
    have a look at the sites you mentioned.

    1. The Belarc download told me that there are 3 slots for memory as
    follows: Slot '0' has 256 MB, Slot '1' is Empty and Slot '2' is Empty.
    Can I simply buy another 256mb stick and put it in slot 1?

    2. The BIOS is: BIOS: Award Software International, Inc. 4.51 PG
    02/21/00 - is it possible to upgrade this and is there any advantage
    in doing so?

    3. What does the following info mean from the Belarc output?:- 500
    megahertz AMD K6-2 w/3DNow!, 64 kilobyte primary memory cache, 512
    kilobyte secondary memory cache Board: SiS530-6801 and Bus Clock: 100

    4. What would you recommend as the best upgrade for the system?

    Seeker, Jun 22, 2004
  14. You could, but it might not work :)
    It probably will work - many motherboards from that approximate era
    (roughly 1995~1996) supported 3 sticks of 256mb RAM. The only way to
    tell for sure is to identify your motherboard (mobo), then look for
    the motherboard specs. Try mobo ID tools at:
    It might be possible - again, the only way to tell for sure is to ID
    your mobo, then check the manufacturer's site or various
    hardware/motherboard forums.

    For BIOS updates, a good rule of thumb is: if it ain't broke, don't
    fix it. If a BIOS update fails (e.g., corrupted BIOS download file,
    loss of power during update, etc.), it will kill your mobo.

    A BIOS update might be necessary if the later BIOS patches hardware
    issues, or for compatibility with larger hard drives, faster
    processors, etc. Given the probable age of the motherboard and your
    BIOS date, I'm guessing there has already been a BIOS upgrade at least
    The first part is your processor: 500MHz AMD K6-2, 64k L1 cache, 512k
    L2 cache. It would be roughly equivalent to a Pentium II of the same
    speed. I believe the AMD Super Socket 7 processors maxed out at
    550MHz, so your processor is near the end of its upgradability.

    Sis is a chipset maker - Belarc is trying to identify your motherboard
    and found a chip that it can identify. The mobo ID tools can narrow it
    down more, though. If your full BIOS string is:
    SiS-530-6801-2A5IMZ19C-00, then it was made by Zida (zida.com) and is
    also known as the Tomato T530B (Chinese mfr, what can I say? though
    they do have a US number) - and you have (as far as I know) the latest

    The Bus clock (aka Front Side Bus or FSB) is the frequency at which
    the processor and RAM communicate - 100MHz. This confirms that you
    would want PC100 SDRAM; and PC133 that says PC100 compatible should
    also work. Generally speaking, you need to know the FSB when matching
    RAM and processors to a motherboard (exceptions are motherboards that
    will run at several FSB speeds, ie 66/100/133MHz)
    Depends on the programs you generally use or want to use, and your

    You mentioned slowness: Is it the slowness during bootup that is a
    problem, or when it is actually running a program? If the latter,
    what program(s)?

    Firstly, Windows 98 tends to accumulate a lot of junk - particularly
    if you add in 3rd party software, utilities, downloads, etc. and files
    get defragmented. Run DiskCleanup and Disk Defrag (Start -> Programs
    -> Accessories -> System Tools) and see if that helps.

    I think you mentioned you don't have restore CDs for Win98. Better
    than defragging is to see if you can borrow a CD from a friend and use
    that to reinstall Win98 from scratch (using the CD key from your
    current install, of course, which you can find - and write down - in
    your Windows registry)

    Use MSconfig to remove things that start up by themselves when you
    boot your PC. Most of these things are useless (you may see them as
    icons in the tray, in the lower right hand of the the taskbar near the
    clock). Here's a good site with instructions for using MSconfig:

    http://www.litepc.com/98lite.html is a utility I've heard good things
    about (no first hand experience) for removing some of the Windows

    The above are free - so will be the best return on your investment!
    You may find that the slowness is primarily not a hardware issue.

    Assuming you are staying with Win98, don't use heavy duty games,
    spreadsheets, or video processing, 256mb RAM is fine. I would go for
    a faster HD first - in the US, you can buy them for around $1 per GB
    (on sale with rebates for $0.50 per GB!). No telling how slow that
    3gb HD is - some of those drives were running in the 4200~5400 RPM

    Some of your slowness may be reading data from the old drive during
    bootup, or the occassional swap file usage.

    Look for a hard drive with these features: 7200 RBM, 2 or 8mb cache (8
    is better, 2 is acceptable), ATA100 (ATA133 is ok but will transfer at
    ATA100 on your machine)

    If you can find another 128~256 mb RAM cheaply, it can't hurt to
    install that, too. Though (as mentioned, I think, previously) you may
    need to manually set your vcache if you run into problems.

    Another general rule of thumb is: upgrading one major part is fine, at
    two major parts, consider buying/building new, and at three major
    parts, you're probably ahead buying new.

    Whew! HTH!
    Anonymous Jack, Jun 22, 2004
  15. Seeker

    Seeker Guest

    Thanks for that awesome reply Anonymous Jack!! I have to say that I
    have read alot of the posts in comp:hardware and your replies are
    incredible. There is so much detail there, and some excellent links. I
    really appreciate the time you must have taken out for this and will
    be reading through your material carefully. I will definitely get back
    to you once I have digested the info. Once again, many thanks.
    Seeker, Jun 23, 2004
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