The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

11 July 2006

Thanks for the memory

Whether Service Pack 2 actually slows down a PC running Windows XP is a matter of debate; however, I'm quite certain that no one is arguing that SP2 speeds up a machine.

My notebook, a five-year-old Toshiba Satellite, seemed to be a bit draggy of late, though I wasn't sure whether this might be simply a question of perspective, inasmuch as it's no longer competitive wth contemporary hardware: an 1100-MHz Celeron, it was about as fast as my AMD Duron 850 desktop, acquired about the same time, but it's a snail compared to the new 'puter. And while I suppose I could dig myself deeper into debt and snag a nice Pentium 4 dual-core luggable, I reasoned that the path of least resistance lay in boosting the Toshiba's RAM beyond 256 MB, and by 256 I mean 240: sixteen megs are sucked away by the integrated video subsystem.

Fortunately, Toshiba considers this a simple process. From the manual:

If the computer is on, begin at step 1, otherwise, skip to step 3.
  1. If the computer is on, click Start, Turn Off Computer. The Turn off computer window appears.
  2. Click Turn off. The operating system turns off the computer.
  3. Unplug and remove any cables connected to the computer.

And so forth. These guys would write instructions for toothpaste beginning "1. Remove cap."

There are, in fact, 16 steps, the last three of which involve opening Control Panel/System to verify the amount of RAM installed, which is now 512 496 MB.

Yes, the machine does run faster. Is it fast enough to override my desire for a new machine? Ask me in a couple of weeks.

Posted at 6:09 AM to PEBKAC

Whatever MS says is the "minimum" hardware requirements, ignore it. Look for their "recommended" or "optimal" requirements. Multiply by your shoe size. Add your age. This is close to the amount of RAM you need for XP SP2.

Running with less than 512MB is painful. Anything less than a 1GHz processor, forget it. And if it ain't a P4 or PM (mobile) or PD (dual core) you're stuck in the slow lane. I may sound like an ad for the chip companies, but I've been in this insane biz for 17 years and have been burned and seen too many people get burned by going the cheapie route. I just don't have that level of tolerance myself...

Posted by: Winston at 6:27 AM on 11 July 2006

Hmmm... got an internal server and a 404 when posting that comment, but it made it home safely anyway.

Final (maybe) thought on this is that for a desktop system using on-board video, get a temendous boost in performance by adding in a PCI or AGP video card with at least 32 MB (128 MB) if you can hack it. Giving back that little bit of system RAM doesn't make that much difference. The faster video processing speed does. The apparent speed of a system, any system, is only as fast as the video sub-system will handle the screen painting. These days, the cards are pretty cheap ... er, uh, inexpensive.

Posted by: Winston at 6:35 AM on 11 July 2006

Well, my needs on this box are fairly modest: it's the on-the-road blogging tool, and it has an actual modem in case I'm forced to result to a dialup. It's not like I'm trying to run Photoshop on it. (Photoshop Elements, incidentally, doesn't exactly fly on my new desktop, which is indeed one of those dual-core jobs at 2.66 GHz, with 1 GB of RAM and 256 MB on one of those nVidia GeForce cards.)

Time from power up to actual availability of the cursor has been cut by a third, which surely will help.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:17 AM on 11 July 2006