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Mon, December 19, 2016

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Friday, December 24

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Friday, December 30

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How Much RAM Does Your PC Need? By Michael Crider, Digitial Trends

Tue, June 23, 2015

Random Access Memory, usually shortened to “RAM” or simply “memory,” is one of the most important parts of any computer. But how much do you need? Current new PCs and similar devices range from around the two gigabyte mark to 16GB or more.

How much memory you really require will depend on two factors — how much you want to do, and how much you’re willing to spend. This article will focus on computers running a desktop operating systems like Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, or Chrome OS.

An introduction to RAM

Memory capacity is often confused with the long-term storage offered by a solid state or mechanical hard drive. Sometimes even manufacturers or retailers will mix up these terms. A desk is a useful analogy to consider the difference between memory and storage. Think of RAM as the top of the desk. The bigger it is, the more papers you can spread out and read at once. Hard drives are more like the drawers underneath the desk, capable of storing papers you’re not using.

The more RAM your system has, the more programs it can handle simultaneously. RAM isn’t the only determining factor, and you can technically open dozens of programs at once even with a very small amount of RAM, but doing so will slow your system down. Think of the desk again. If you have far too many papers on it, it becomes cluttered, and your work will slow as you try to find whatever paper you need at a particular moment. You’ll be forced to frequently dig into the drawers to store what won’t fit on top of the desk and retrieve papers you need.

A computer with more RAM might feel like it’s performing faster, especially when you use many programs at once, but more memory doesn’t actually increase its processing speed. Only a faster CPU can do that. More RAM won’t increase the amount of files or programs your computer can hold, either. That’s what the desk drawers — the hard drive or solid state drive – are for.

Standard RAM shouldn’t be confused with video memory, a statistic associated with computer video cards. High-end 3D games rely on video RAM, usually expressed as “GDDR3” or similar, whereas standard memory will simply be referred to as memory, RAM or DDR3/4.

RAM-heavy applications

The biggest RAM-hogs on most home computers are the operating system itself and the web browser. There’s not much you can do to make Windows or OS X use less memory, but more RAM in your computer means that you can have more browser tabs open in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, et cetera. In addition, some websites will use more RAM than others. A simple text news story is relatively light on memory, while something like Gmail or Netflix uses quite a lot.

Other programs tend to use more RAM as they increase in complexity. A chat program or a game like Minesweeper will use almost no RAM, while a gigantic Excel spreadsheet or a huge Photoshop project might use more than a gigabyte all by itself. Modern 3D games also use quite a lot of RAM — often three or four gigabytes, and some use a bit more than that.

That means your need for RAM is entirely dependent on the programs you use. Let’s say you have two Windows computers, one with two gigabytes of RAM, and one with sixteen, that are otherwise identical. If you have no programs open they’ll operate similarily. Load a big Excel spreadsheet, though, and only the latter will still seem responsive.

Choosing RAM for PC tablets

Most Windows tablets will come with somewhere between two and four gigabytes of RAM. This is enough for basic tasks only. A few browser tabs, some email, and one video at a time is fine, but heavy multitasking will quickly become frustrating on most tablets. Because basic PC tablets are intended for these specific light-duty tasks, they’re usually fine (though not exactly quick) with two to four gigabytes.

A few more expensive Windows tablets (usually ones that use Core i3 processors or better) are more similar to laptops without the keyboard. In these machines, try to get as much RAM as your budget will allow. For example, Microsoft’s Surface Pro series comes with up to 8GB. If you intend to use your tablet for occasional work or intense web browsing sessions, it might be worth the upgrade.

Choosing RAM for laptops

New laptops start at two gigabytes of RAM (especially for budget machines and Chromebooks) and go up to eight gigabytes, with some very expensive models offering 12 or 16GB. Systems towards the bottom of this scale are suited only to general web browsing, email, video, and perhaps some casual gaming.

Four gigabytes is about as low as you want to go in Windows or OS X. This is an ideal combination of capability and price for most people. If you intend to run dozens of browser tabs at once, or you plan to do more intensive tasks like high-resolution photo editing, consider a bump up to eight gigs.

An upgrade from 4GB to 8GB usually costs about $100 from the manufacturer, but can be more expensive if it’s paired with a faster processor or bigger storage drive. 12GB or more is ideal for powerful laptops often referred to as “desktop replacements,” and is usually only available in the most expensive models.

Choosing RAM for desktops

Small desktop PCs and inexpensive all-in-one models actually have more in common with laptops than typical “tower” PCs, and might come with as little as two gigabytes of memory. Again, four gigabytes is about as low as you want to go for a traditional computer.

RAM for desktops is less expensive than RAM for tablets or laptops, so it’s often easier to find computers with more memory at lower prices. Eight gigabytes is a comfortable middle ground for desktops. If you’re planning on using it as your primary work machine, especially for intense programs or dozens of browser tabs, Office documents, and similar uses, consider upgrading to 12 or 16GB.

For the tip top of the desktop world, the sky’s the limit. The most expensive desktops can handle huge amounts of RAM, up to 64GB or more. Most users won’t be able to effectively use more than 16GB even if they try, but high-end programs like 3D modeling or 4K video editing may benefit from these pricey upgrades.


In summary, two gigabytes should be considered the bare minimum, and is only suited for entry-level specialty tablets and laptops, like Chromebooks. Four gigabytes is the comfortable minimum for a Windows or OS X machine, and eight gigabytes provides room to grow. Anything beyond that is only of interest to enthusiasts and power users.

Common Printer Problems

Tue, September 23, 2014
  • A computer printer is one of the most complex devices you can attach to a computer, despite the fact that you can commonly find one brand new for less than a hundred dollars. Getting your computer to simply recognize the device can be a problem, and sometimes dust gets in and gunks things up. While some problems are specific to each printer manufacturer, there are some common obstacles you can troubleshoot without opening up a manual or going to a website.

    Checking the Cables

    • First of all, make sure everything is plugged in correctly. Ideally, you will want your printer plugged into a power strip, rather than directly into an AC outlet, to protect against power surges. In this case, make sure the power strip is on and plugged in. You will also need a data cable connected from the printer to the computer; a data cable alone cannot carry enough electricity to power a printer.

    Almost all printers these days use a USB cable, so you will want that hooked up to an active USB 2.0 port on your computer---preferably an available port on the back of the computer case, rather than one on a monitor or keyboard. Plugging it directly into the computer eliminates potential problem areas. Sometimes the keyboard or monitor ports are faulty or otherwise nonoperational.

    Checking Drivers

    • Sometimes you can simply plug in the printer's data cable, and Windows will automatically recognize it, as long as the printer is powered on. But to be safe, you will probably want to install the drivers that come on the included CD. These drivers often include extended functionality not available in the default Windows printer setup. A further step is to go to the printer manufacturer's website to verify that you have the latest drivers available.

    Mechanical Issues

    • If your printer is recognized, you may still have mechanical problems. Even if you don't use your printer very often, its ink can gradually evaporate over time, so the amount of use is not always indicative of how much ink you should have left. Most printer software has diagnostic tools to keep track of your ink and notify you when it needs to be replaced. This software can also test the print head for problems.

    Here, dust can become a significant problem over time, so you will want to keep the printer internals covered when not in use. Some printers fold down into a "clam shell," while others require a hood to be placed over them when not in use. When a printer head breaks down, it can be repaired with some difficulty, according to instructions specific to the manufacturer, or you may need to get it fixed by a technician. Similarly, you will want to keep your paper dust-free; a stack left out in the open will collect dust on the top page, which goes into the printer when you print something on that page.


    If you are still experiencing issues, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.  Our Service Technicians can help fix the issues!  Call us at 972-226-3400.

  • Should You Turn Your Printer Off when You aren’t Using It?

    Mon, October 14, 2013

    You’re not planning to print for the rest of the day. Should you power your printer off or leave it on? What about overnight? Over the weekend? When you leave for vacation? What are the implications for leaving it on vs. turning it off?

    First, let’s talk about what it means to power off the printer. Most printers have a low-power mode (standby mode) that they automatically initiate it you haven’t printed for awhile. In this state, the printer will print if you send it a print job. Printers normally have a power button, which is typically lit when on. Push the button, and the printer shuts down…mostly. Printers typically do not respond to print jobs in this state, but are using a very small amount of power. Finally, you can pull the cord or shut off the power strip. Now it’s really totally off, no power is consumed, and the printer will definitely not respond if you send it a print job.

    There are primarily 3 areas of interest affected by this decision. They are:

    · Power consumption
    · Printhead health
    · Ink usage

    Power Consumption:

    Your printer definitely uses more power on than off. How much more power? It depends on your printer, of course. For example, HP’s Deskjet D4160 in standby mode (also sometimes called Energy Star mode in printers like the D4160 that meet that standard) consumes about 3 watts of power. That’s less than half the electricity consumed by a typical nightlight. Costs for electricity vary widely, but the US average is close to $0.10 per Kwh. At that rate, it costs about $2.50 a year for your D4160 printer to operate in stand-by mode continuously. In power-off mode (the power light is off), it consumes less than 1 watt, which would cost about $0.85 a year. Pull the plug…well, I’ll let you do the math.

    Printhead Health:

    All inkjet printers have semiconductor printheads. Some have an integrated printhead (IPH), while others are separate from the cartridge (as in IIC or Individual Ink Cartridge architectures). Regardless of the architecture, the printhead needs to be kept healthy to allow you to print high quality documents.

    HP inkjet printers have shut-down routines, where the printer “parks” the printhead and “caps” the cartridge. There are a couple of triggers that cause this. One is if the “Off” button is pushed on the printer. The other is when the printer has been idle for a while, and it puts itself into power save mode. The printer moves the printhead to what our engineers call a “service station” where the printhead is covered, with very limited flow of air to the printhead. The printer can sit for an extended time without drying out the ink in the printhead and without harming the printer.

    How long? As with so many such questions, the answer depends upon many variables, and it’s hard to give a definite answer. But it would be reasonably safe to assume that a month or so is ok, and that if you don’t print for a year or so, you risk having difficulty getting clean, streak-free prints without significant maintenance/servicing or repair/replacement of the printhead.

    If you remove power (pull the plug) to the printer while it is in the middle of printing or shortly after it has finished a print job, without using the power off button, you could leave the printer in a much less desirable state. In this case, the ink would have a higher likelihood of drying in the printhead, and clogging up nozzles. Ink can no longer flow through those nozzles, and you will get streaky output. To keep the nozzles working properly, inkjet printers routinely maintain the printhead nozzles. Many inkjet printers also have user-initiated cleaning cycles. In many situations, your printer can recover from clogging with one or more cleaning cycles. If it can’t, you will need a new printhead. For an IPH product, replace the cartridge and you get a brand new printhead. For an IIC printer, your choices are to send the printer for service or to replace the printer (though some office-type IIC printers have user- replaceable printheads).

    Ink Usage:

    Maintaining the printhead in your printer is kind of like changing the oil in your car. If you don’t do it regularly, not only will it not function optimally, but eventually it may not function at all. And the cost of the maintenance is negligible compared to the cost of the repair if you don’t do the maintenance - in the case of your printer, it uses a small amount of ink to flow through the printhead and keep it clear.

    Unlike your car, you don’t have to bring your printer in to get it maintained. HP has designed the printer to do the job for you, with minimum impact on your ability to print the documents you want when you want them. Some inkjet printers will periodically run maintenance cycles that use small amounts of ink to flush the nozzles and keep them clear if the printer has not been used for some time. This is because our engineers have determined that extended periods of time without printing could harm the printhead. If you have a printer that does this, you can stop these cycles by removing power, but your printhead may become clogged and cease to print the beautiful documents you expect from it.

    Some inkjet printers run a maintenance cycle when the printer is powered on, while others know when they were last used at all times and only run maintenance cycles if it’s been a long time since the last print. The deciding factor here is whether the printer contains a “real time clock”, which is kept alive by a battery. Typically mid-range and high-end printers contain such a clock. These printers know when they last printed, and may not run a maintenance cycle at all, or may wait until the next print job and perform the maintenance routines at that time. Printers without battery backed real time clocks do not know if power was off for a few minutes or a few months or something in between.

    Unless the printer recycles the ink used for maintenance, ink will be consumed from all of the cartridges in your printer. If you are having streaky output and start a user-initiated cleaning cycle, that will typically use more ink than a routine maintenance cycle initiated by the printer. If you have to do multiple cleaning cycles or a “deep cleaning” cycle offered by some printers to get your printhead working properly again, those cycles will likely consume even more ink. If you have to replace the cartridge in an IPH printer, of course you lose all of the ink that was in the cartridge at the time.

    So what should you do? If you have a relatively modern inkjet printer, your printer has been designed to shut down to very low power usage if it hasn’t been used for a while. It does consume some energy to keep the printer running, but a very modest amount. It won’t hurt your printer if you power it down every night when you power down your computer, as long as the printhead is parked either by entering power save mode or by pushing the power button on the printer. Our recommendation would be that you leave your printer powered on in normal usage conditions, and power it down if you will not use it for an extended period of time, on the order of a month or more. What you should not do is finish work on a project, print it out, and then immediately shut the printer down by killing the power to the printer. If you need to shut down right away, push the power button on the printer and it will prepare itself to shut down usually in less time than it takes for your PC to shut down.


     Article written by David Bufford, HP Inkjet Printing Efficiency.


    How Often Should You Clean Your Laser Printer?

    Wed, September 25, 2013

    How Often Should You Clean Your Laser Printer?

    Keep electronics clean to keep them in the best working order possible. In the case of laser printers, dust and paper lint are common reasons that printers stop working properly. Cleaning the outside of the printer regularly cuts down on dust and other debris that can cause your printer to malfunction.


    1. Wipe the outside of the printer approximately once a week to keep it free from dust. Use a soft rag dampened with plain water. Wipe the printer with a little rubbing alcohol to remove any stains.
    2. Look for smearing when you print out your pages to indicate when it is time to clean the inside of the printer. Watch for things to be out of line or ink that is not printing as darkly as it should. Clean the inside of the printer, especially the connections around the toner cartridges, when you notice any one of these issues.

    3. Clean the rollers with cotton balls or swabs dipped in alcohol when you notice black marks running down the length of the printed pages.
    4. Clean your laser printer after a certain number of pages printed. Check the manufacturer's guidelines as to how many copies you can make before cleaning is suggested.
    5. Use high quality paper. This requires less frequent cleaning than when using lesser quality paper that contains a lot of lint or dust.
    6. Keep your laser printer in good working order by giving it a good cleaning once a month, especially if it gets a lot of use in an office setting.