Q: I've added memory to my three desktop units to try to speed them up. The two newest machines (one with 1 gigabyte of memory and running...

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Q: I’ve added memory to my three desktop units to try to speed them up. The two newest machines (one with 1 gigabyte of memory and running Windows 2000, and the other with 512 megabytes of memory and running Windows ME) see all of the memory installed, but the oldest (Windows 98SE) doesn’t see the second DIMM memory slot and only shows the 256MB DIMM in the first slot, plus about 20MB of SIMM memory. It is rated for 512MB DIMM max. How can I get that machine to see all of the RAM (another 128 megabytes) memory installed? It’s all PC100 speed. Also, the machines didn’t pick up as much speed as I’d hoped. Is there some other method of installation beyond sticking the memory in the slot and turning the machine back on?

Cary Wakeley

A: Adding memory can often boost the performance of your computer, but it has to be the right memory. Just because the memory module fits in the slot on the motherboard doesn’t mean it is the right memory. Check your computer’s manual — or the manufacturer’s Web site — to determine the specific type and speed of memory that is appropriate for your computer.

Also, while most computers these days automatically detect the installed memory — assuming it is the correct type of memory — some computers require you to install memory only in certain banks or in certain sizes, and you may need to tell the computer about the additional memory by accessing the BIOS. Again, you’ll need to consult your computer’s documentation.

As for how much performance improvement you can expect from adding memory, that depends upon several things. First, of course, if you already have quite a lot of memory for the operating system you’re using — say, 4 gigabytes for Windows Vista — you shouldn’t expect much of a speed boost at all, especially if you’re not using applications that hog memory.

On the other hand, if you currently have only 1 gigabyte, you’ll find a big improvement by adding another gigabyte. The machine you’re running with only 256 megabytes of memory would likely show great improvement if you can add 512 megabytes or more of compatible memory.

There are, of course, several other major potential performance bottlenecks. You’ll want to make sure your hard drive isn’t overly fragmented. A slow graphics adapter can also bog things down. So can a virus.

In short, you’re aiming at a moving target when you try to boost your performance. If you improve one part of the system, another part becomes the weak link that is holding you back from even better performance. Ideally, you want to tune everything so that it is performing up the maximum allowed by your processor.

Q: I have a Hewlett-Packard Officejet 4215 all-in-one printer that has decided to no longer print the color yellow, using either the print function on the computer, calling for a printer test strip, or making a copy of a color original. I initially thought it was in need of a new color cartridge. However, a refilled cartridge was tested at the refill facility and printed yellow on the test strip.

I spent an hour online with the HP support people, who went through all the expected fixes with me, i.e. clean the contacts, clean the guide rod, replace the cartridges, etc. Still no yellow. And I don’t feel like taking the printer apart without some idea of what I’m doing or why. If your answer bag doesn’t have an answer, I guess I’ll have to break my piggy bank for a new printer. And, yes, I need an all-in-one.

Norm Dalke

A: If this wasn’t about an HP printer, I’d suggest that you may have a clogged printer jet. As it happens, however, with your printer the jet is part of the cartridge.

Do I understand correctly that you’re using a refilled cartridge, and that you’re taking the word of the refill vendor that the cartridge is OK? My first suspicion would be that something is wrong with the cartridge. I’d try a new cartridge and if it works properly I’d ask for a refund on the old cartridge.

Which raises another issue: I won’t tell anyone they shouldn’t use refilled cartridges, but I haven’t had good luck with them. At the same time, I know other people who regularly use refills on their printers with no problem.

If you’re able to confirm that the cartridge isn’t the problem, the next thing I’d check is the printer cable. Make sure it is fully seated at both ends and, if that doesn’t resolve the issue, try a replacement cable.

If the problem remains, the finger of suspicion points to the printer itself.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.