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Windows 7: WARNING: Hardware noob! What does this odd thing actually do!

19 Dec 2010   #1

Vista Home Premium x86 SP2
WARNING: Hardware noob! What does this odd thing actually do!

Hello all!

I must tell you that I honestly have no clue about hardware! Absolutely no clue! And I have two questions! I can deal with software, but I needed help from one of the VF gurus to help me with plugging in my PCI-E card! That sort of noob! System Specs set up in my profile, just have a look.

I have a motherboard! Good start! On it is a CPU with a heatsink! Great! It is nice and cool to touch! Good! Next to it is a small heatsink, without a fan, and it is hot enough to put lines on your fingers if you touch it. It is just a small heat sink (about half the size of the CPU - linear, one quarter the size - area) right next to the CPU. Do you want a photo? Any ideas what it is? Do I need to worry about it being so hot? The system works fine, everything else is cool, so I would be tempted to just ignore it. I just became curious, and for someone with my absolute lack of skill, curiosity is dangerous!

I found this out while looking at my RAM. Although my Specs say 32bit, I am about to reinstall with Vista 64bit. Please think along the lines of 64bit OSs. I currently have 4GB of RAM. I use my computer very heavily. Firefox is currently using 523MB of RAM. I sometimes push it up to over a GB of RAM (Internet additct! lol) I use my system for a lot of heavy programming tasks. At the moment, it is early morning. I am currently using 73% available memory. At the middle of the day, that will be 95-100%.

Will I get a noticeable performance increase with 6GB of RAM? I do the occasional game. Low spec games. Old games. Very occasionally, they all run just fine. Or would Windows just continue to fill up my memory, but no noticeable increase in speed for me. I know the increase will never be massive, but I am just wondering whether it would be nothing?

If I do get more RAM, any particular brand? I have seen adverts for Crucial. They have a nice RAM tool. Are they the best?

I also know I need to look up speeds. Do I just look up my CPU and Motherboard speeds, and buy RAM for the lowest, or do I need to multiply things up. It all seems very complicated! What do I need to look up? I would be looking to put in a single matching pair. Would this be alright?

Could I then put my two old 1GB sticks into another computer? It is a fairly modern computer, so I don't think I need to worry about 0, 1, or 2 notch RAM, in a pair.

Are heatsink RAM sticks worth it? Looking at my system, I would say no.

Thank you so much for all your help, and patience with a noob!


P.S. I never overclock things!

P.P.S: Is there some other upgrade that really stands out. I can't really afford an expensive processor or anything like that, but maybe something stands out to your trained eyes!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #2

win 7 ultimate32bit, Win8.1pro wmc 32bit

At a guess that would be the Northbridge chipset next to the cpu , as to the ram a 64bit system can make better use of ram over 4GB here is a link to an article about ramdefinitions which may help you understand the timings better Memory Timings Explained :)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #3
Joan Archer

Windows 10 64bit/Windows 10 64bit/Windows 10 64bit

I'm not technical either Richard but putting more RAM into the machine is always going to make a difference but make sure you check what your motherboard can take with regards speed and make.

Also RAM is there to be used and Windows will always find a use for it otherwise it's just a waste.

Just my thoughts for you.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

19 Dec 2010   #4

Vista Home Premium x86 SP2


Thank you both so much for your answers! Sorry for the delay! I wanted time to think! Northbridge was not something I had actually heard of before, but I have now, and it certainly seems to be the right thing. It has probably been hot for years. I shall just ignore it, and you have quenched my curiosity! Thanks Pebbly! Topic one resolved!

Again, thanks Pebbly for the excellent link! I read it, and learned a lot! And thank you, Joan, for your excellent contributions!

I have got another question now! *worry all around* I ran the crutial memory scanner: Memory upgrades from - Determine My Memory Needs

It offers memory at 1.8V and 2.0V. This thread says very definitely that 1.8V on 2.0V is fine: will running 1.8V ram at 2.0 kill it? - -

But I don't know what I have! I assume that 2.0V will not work on 1.8V. I looked in the Dell manual, but couldn't find anything about it. I assume that I am on 1.8V, but not for any particular reason.

If I need 1.8V, that gives me this: 4GB kit (2GBx2), 240-pin DIMM, DDR2 PC2-6400 upgrades for Dell XPS 420 Desktop/PC, CT1167040 from as I don't want to go for the slower speed. £10 for not losing memory speed is money well spent - it is only £10.

However, if I can use 2.0V, I have far more options, and even some faster memory like this one: 4GB kit (2GBx2), Ballistix 240-pin DIMM, DDR2 PC2-8500 upgrades for Dell XPS 420 Desktop/PC, CT1198084 from

I shall contact Crucial to see if their scanner actually accurately gauges speed properly, and I shall hunt around for a motherboard manual.

Thanks again!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #5

Windows 7 Profesional x86, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

Rule two: earth yourself before touching system components.

Now for some advice.

All modern PCs have thermometers in them to prevent catastrophic failure and to regulate temperature.

They have cut off points which when hit causes an emergency shut down (like pulling the plug)

For most computers this is 100ºC.

This is to stop your PC from damaging itself.

If this hasn't happened to you you will be fine for the most part.

As for RAM. I made a little picture which isn't terribly useful or accurate but is quite fun.

WARNING: Hardware noob! What does this odd thing actually do!-ram.jpg


My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #6
Hopalong X

Windows7 Pro 64bit SP-1; Windows XP Pro 32bit

Memory upgrades from - About Crucial:Media Toolbox

Did you happen to find this at Crucial?

It will scan to see what is installed and give you suggestions.
I realize you got options at Crucial just checking if you used the scanner or entered the Brand/Model option.

Scanner is more accurate and specific to actual installed.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #7

Vista Home Premium x86 SP2

Yes, I used the tool. That scan I showed you was the result of the tool. However, I cannot believe that this old system is is good for 2.0V and 8500 frequency. I shall probably try contacting Crucial, just to confirm that their tool cannot scan for this, rather than my computer is better than I thought, and I shall also try to find my motherboard manual, unless anybody has any knowledge?


P.S. Oli, your picture has single handedly resolved all questions relating to voltage, temperatures, frequencies, motherboards and everything else!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #8
Hopalong X

Windows7 Pro 64bit SP-1; Windows XP Pro 32bit

PassMark RAMMon - Identify RAM type, speed & memory timings

This is what you need. Pick the 32 or 64bit.

Extreme amount of details on your RAM.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #9
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by niemiro View Post
But I don't know what I have! I assume that 2.0V will not work on 1.8V. I looked in the Dell manual, but couldn't find anything about it. I assume that I am on 1.8V, but not for any particular reason.
Hi Richard,

Note sure if this helps you, but...

Speccy (if you don't have it) will allow you to find out the voltage of your current RAM for a starting point. Get it here Speccy - System Information - Free Download

This is a screenshot of mine from Speccy

Attached Thumbnails
WARNING: Hardware noob! What does this odd thing actually do!-capture1.png  
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #10
A Guy

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium x64 SP1

Just for future reference, here is the Dell XPS 420 Owner's Manual


A Guy
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 WARNING: Hardware noob! What does this odd thing actually do!

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