New ThinkPads may be short on RAM

James Dyer

Students who received the new SL410 ThinkPad models this year may experience problems with operating speed due to the amount of random access memory (RAM) included in the computers.

RAM affects the speed in which computers execute programs and process information. Previous ThinkPad models ran off the Windows XP operating system, which required a minimum of 64 megabytes of RAM to operate according the Windows XP system requirements. The 2010 Think Pad model has upgraded students to the Windows 7 operating system, which requires a minimum of one gigabyte of RAM to function, the exact amount included in this year’s ThinkPads.

For $55, Micro Repair will be offering a two gigabyte RAM upgrade for students who are having difficulties with the operating speed on their computers.

The amount of RAM included in computers has not changed in five years, said Scott Krah, the director of Micro Repair Services. The problem is not so much with the RAM as much as it is with students having problems with the slow execution of programs, he said.

“Many applications, such as IM, Facebook, AOL, and others use part of this RAM, so the application doesn’t have the full amount to use.  It runs, but it seems to be slow because there is not enough left from the 1GB (included on the computer),” Krah said.

Students can make their computers operate more smoothly by shutting down extra programs while trying to run one that requires an extensive amount of RAM, he said. Krah also suggested that students run Spyware programs periodically to allow for the maximum amount of RAM to be available.

Without the RAM upgrade, some students are having problems using programs that are required for their classes. Students enrolled in the geographic information systems/science (GIS) programs at NMU specifically have had problems running the mapping software that is required for their classes, said Robert Legg,  assistant professor of geography. The GIS classes operate using a mapping software called ArcGIS that requires a significant amount of RAM to operate, Legg said.

“(Without the RAM upgrade) computers are operating really slow. Students are having difficulty following along in class if they don’t have the upgrade,” he said.

Without the upgrade, students can expect to spend a extra few hours on homework due to slow program speed, Legg said.

“It comes down to how much students value their time. As a student, I would definitely spend money on the upgrade,” he said.

According to Legg, approximately 20 percent of students in the GIS classes have already purchased the upgrade.

Computer science student Brian Zmek is one student who has purchased a RAM upgrade from Micro Repair.  Zmek said he purchased the upgrade upon finding out that his computer would be running Windows 7 with only one gigabyte of RAM.

“It’s much harder to have a web browser open and take notes on Microsoft Word at the same time. A sheer lack of RAM makes it difficult,” Zmek said.

The upgrade to Windows 7 was a good move for the new computers, he said, but operating Windows 7 with a low amount of RAM is not a good idea.

“There are students complaining because they can’t run more than two programs at once. The upgrade to Windows 7 necessitates a higher amount of RAM,” Zmek said.