Q: My hardware is a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion a1410y system, with 1GB of memory, which, of course, is the problem. The a1410Y motherboard has...

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Q: My hardware is a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion a1410y system, with 1GB of memory, which, of course, is the problem. The a1410Y motherboard has two memory slots, one slot occupied. But the system supports only 1GB. Is there any way to modify the software or anything else so I can add one more GB of memory? HP does not sell another motherboard for this machine. Any thoughts?

— Ned Somerville

A: I’m afraid you’re running into the old leapfrog problem: Software leapfrogs hardware. So you buy new hardware that can handle the software. Then software leapfrogs the hardware again.

You can fight that trend a bit by buying a computer that can more than accommodate the operating system of the day. But that’ll cost you more money.

Understandably, vendors try to keep costs down by offering systems that get you into the current operating system at the lowest cost possible. So there’s kind of a built-in conflict going on there.

What it comes down to is we all want hardware that will accommodate not only software of today, but software of tomorrow … but we don’t want to pay for it.

As for what you do now, if the motherboard doesn’t support more memory, you’re pretty much stuck. In the old days, you could buy add-on cards with additional memory. But they provided little benefit because the connection between the motherboard and the card is relatively slow. I wouldn’t recommend that option even if it was available today.

Yes, you can replace the motherboard in your computer, though original equipment vendors don’t directly support this. You just need to find a motherboard that will fit into the box you have. The motherboard will have its own built-in software. But if you go this route you’ll need to completely set up your system from scratch. For example, if you’re expecting to use your existing microprocessor, you’ll need to make sure the motherboard is compatible. And, if not, you’ll need to buy a new microprocessor. Likewise with your memory modules.

What it comes down to is this: If you’re handy with a screwdriver and looking for a challenge, you may want to replace the motherboard. But if you’re not, it’s time to consider upgrading to a newer computer.

Q: I remember reading quite a bit about the coming of Vista Service Pack 1, including advice for most users to avoid the beta version and to wait until April for the release of the completed version. Since then I have been surprised that SP1 has not been offered among the frequent Vista upgrades that appear in my automatic notices from Microsoft. Also, I have seen and heard reports of problems caused by the installation of SP1. I have not been able to find what specifically SP1 would do for my particular Vista version and my installed third-party software. With previous experience in struggling through upgrade and software problems and a system that is currently running smoothly, I am quite hesitant to rock my boat. What do I risk in ignoring SP1, and what will a Vista Home Basic user gain from it?

— Elliott Brogren

A: Let’s put it this way: If you’re running any version of Vista, you’ll want to install SP1. The update addresses performance, compatibility and security issues. The numbers of specific enhancements and fixes are too numerous to list here, though you can find them detailed at: technet2.microsoft.com/WindowsVista/en/library/005f921e-f706-401e-abb5-eec42ea0a03e1033.mspx? mfr=true.

And yes, a number of users have encountered problems after installing SP1. But the great majority of those problems seem to result from drivers that simply need to be reinstalled after the update.

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.