The computer helper: More memory for Vista
By Jay Dougherty Jun 20, 2007, 11:25 GMT
Washington - Want to get the most out of Vista? Add memory and hard drive space - and lots of it.
But be warned: there are limits, in some cases, to how much memory and disk space Vista can use. No what you're up against, though, and you should be fine. Read on for the details.
Q: I bought a new Windows Vista computer with 4 gigabytes (GB) of memory, but Vista shows the PC as having only 3.3 GB of memory (RAM) installed. What happened to the rest of my memory?
A: The 32-bit version of Windows Vista - the one that most people will install - can 'see' a maximum of 4 GB of memory (RAM). That's it. If you add more than that, Vista cannot use it.
But as you've discovered, even if you add 4 GB of RAM, Vista will not make the full amount available to your applications. Checking the Control Panel under System and Maintenance will typically show that something in the neighbourhood of 3325 megabytes - or 3.3 GB - of memory is available.
That's because Vista maps a certain amount of system memory to various components in your computer - including the video card - and the result is that you end up with considerably less than the overall total amount of RAM you have installed.
The only way around this is to install the 64-bit version of Windows Vista, which comes by default with the standard full retail version of Vista (except the starter edition). Microsoft's license allows you to install either the 32- or the 64-bit version of Windows, but not both.
The 64-bit version of Vista significantly bumps up the maximum amount of RAM that can be used by the operating system. The Home Basic 64-bit edition can utilise up to 8 GB of RAM. Vista Home Premium can access 16 GB, while Ultimate and other high-end editions can handle a whopping 128 GB of RAM.
Before you run out and install the 64-bit version of Vista, however, do some research about whether your current hardware and software are compatible. You'll need special drivers and specific software support for the 64-bit version of Vista. That support is coming quickly from vendors, but it's not guaranteed.
What is (almost) guaranteed is that you'll experience some issues with transitioning to this cutting-edge version of Windows. Those who regularly make use of memory-intensive applications, including video editing and graphics work, may find that the move to 64-bit Vista makes a lot of sense. But it's a good idea to test it out on a computer that's not mission-critical, if possible.
Q: I have 800 gigabytes of digital photographs, and I want to store them all on one drive on my Vista computer so that they're easily accessible. What are my options?
A: If you want all of those photographs on one drive, you now have a couple of options. First, Hitachi has recently released the first widely-available 1 terabyte (TB) hard drive. This drive, which retails for about 400 dollars, should function as a drop-in upgrade to most recent-vintage personal computers, either replacing or working alongside an existing drive
Vista users have another option for creating very large disk volumes that exceed the capacity of any single drive. The feature is called disk spanning, and it allows you to create a single volume from two or more hard drives installed in a computer. After spanning, the single volume shows up in Windows Explorer as a single drive letter, and for all practical purposes it looks to your applications like one huge hard drive.
With Vista's disk spanning you could, for example, install two inexpensive 500-gigabyte hard drives in your computer, format them using disk spanning, and afterwards they would appear to the operating system as one drive of almost 1 terabyte in size.
There are a couple of important points to note about disk spanning. First, because you're virtually tying two hard drives together, if either of them fails, all of your data will be lost, so be sure to budget in a backup solution - preferably an external drive. Second, if you're using the 32-bit version of Vista, any single disk - spanned or not - will have not be able to be larger than 2 terabytes in size.
To use disk spanning, install the hard drives or have a technician do it for you. Start Vista, open the Control Panel, and click System and Maintenance. Then click Administrative Tools, and double-click Computer Management form the list of options. In the Computer Management console, click Disk Management from the left-hand pane, and a dialog box should appear asking what you wish to do with the new drives. Follow the steps to utilise disk spanning.
--- Have a computer question? Send it to the Computer Helper at firstname.lastname@example.org.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur