10 baht to Upgrade i-Mac Memory to 384 Mb

By Graham K. Rogers

Ten baht for a memory upgrade? In reality, buying the memory is more expensive; but the ten baht coin is all I used to open up thei-Mac and put the memory in. And the odd figure? I simply added a 256 Mb card to the 128 Mb the i-Mac came with.

This may have many PC users scratching their heads as it is normal in that platform to update in tandem: 128 with 128; 256 with 256. As one so-called computer expert said to me, "It can't be done." When I insisted, he grudgingly concluded that "The Mac must be different".

Depending on which i-Mac you have, memory may not be enough for optimum running of OS X. Apple suggest a minimum of 128 Mb and most of the time, this is adequate. On occasions (depending on programs and set-up) you could find yourself with what Apple discussion forums call, "The spinning beach ball of death," as OS X tries housekeeping tricks with memory allocation.

I found this worst with AppleWorks; and with the on-disk Help (which really is helpful) after I updated to 10.1.3. You can circumvent this waste of time by clicking on the desktop and playing with something else or by upgrading memory.

A recent check shows that memory prices vary with type of i-Mac: it is less expensive for the last of the CRT i-Macs. The bottom of this range, currently available in Phantip Plaza (at more than one outlet), comes with 64 Mb which is inadequate. The next in the current range has 256 Mb. My own had 128 Mb.

As I was unable to find 128 Mb cards, I went for the 256 card (from Hitachi) which cost about 4,500 baht. I saw an upgrade of 512 Mb (Kingston) priced at 9,500 baht. Prices of memory fluctuate. (Since writing this, the 256Kb card has been seen at under 4,000 baht.)

I put off the upgrade for several days as I was terrified of doing something wrong. I am usually the kiss-of-death for any machinery. I should have listened to the man in Phantip. He sucked his teeth and said, "Very technical. Very hard. I should get paid lots for showing you this." Then he reached into his pocket and out came the ten baht coin.

Before starting, it is advisable to back up data. Everyone says this, but from bitter experience I know that it is possible to lose everything, especially when delving inside the case. I did it to a PC once. It does not go bang, it goes "click".

This is what I did.

I powered down (for the first time in a week) and pulled all the cables: power, telephone line, USB (peripherals and keyboard/mouse). I had already cleared the decks so lifted the i-Mac up and turned it face-down onto a cushion (a towel would have done as well) to protect the screen. The slot for memory is then exposed with its large plastic screw. The coin is to turn the screw.

Once this is open, with the computer upside down and the screen facing away, current memory can be seen in the slot closest to you. It is about 12 cms long and is secured by two small, white plastic locks. A couple of centimetres away from your body is the spare slot.

This is the time to take the memory card out of its antistatic case. It is also a good time time to earth the i-Mac. As long as it is not connected to a power source, touch the heat shielding. As one source suggests wearing an earthing strap which has you connected to the computer while you are working, this does not seem to be likely to cause mortal danger.

It must be disconnected from any power source while you are working on it.

If you look carefully at the slot, you can see three tiny bumps in the base. These correspond with grooves in the memory card. I can confirm that if you try to install the memory the wrong way round, it will not go in. Insert the card at an angle and push it down gently. When properly seated, you can close the locks at each end. Put the door back and turn the screw. Keep the ten baht.

I turned the i-Mac over carefully and replaced all the cables. I was already sweating but this doubled as I was about to restart the computer. It was all an anticlimax. Like bringing it home for the first time, it ran right out of the box. No questions, no resetting, no changing the BIOS. I booted up, logged in and was ready to run.

I checked the memory using the "About this Mac" item in the Apple menu and the upgrade was confirmed. I later also checked in Apple System Profiler (another valuable program found in the Utilities folder), which reports that in DIMMO/J13 I have 128 Mb of SDRAM and in DIMMO/J14 I have 256 Mb of SDRAM.

All well and good. But the question all of us would-be boy-racers want to know is "What'll she do?" Much better thank you. As AppleWorks and the Help files were the two slowest, I tried these first. The former was up and running in an instant and accesses the beach ball rarely. Help is much faster too. This is exactly as predicted and nothing more than I expected.

(Note: Updating the G4 is even easier as the side of the computer opens like a door, exposing all the works, including the three memory slots. After turning off and disconnecting the cables, open, install and shut takes about 30 seconds.)

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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