These days computers use easy-to-install SIMMs, and no special
configuration is needed - you simply plug the SIMM into its slot and use
it. That is, if you picked the correct type of memory.
The easiest part about choosing SIMM's is the physical size. There
are only two to choose from - 72-pin and 30-pin. Some memory cards may
not be designated as such, and only show the number of bits wide they are.
If this is the case, remember that 30-pin SIMM's have 9 bits or less, and
72-pin SIMM's have 32 or 36 bits (more on this later).
Next, you need to know what memory sizes the computer is capable of
recognizing. Every motherboard is different; some will let you mix different
memory sizes in any combination, some will only work in one or two ways,
and others are somewhere in between. Do SIMM's have to be installed in
pairs? Do they all have to be the same size? What are the different amounts
of memory you can put into each slot? Check the documentation for your
computer to find out.
SIMM sizes are measured not by the number of bytes, but the number
of bits. And it's not just a plain number either, but a dimension, which
can be confusing to some people. Just remember your multiplication tables
from grade school. For example, a 1Mx8 SIMM is 8 megabits. Then,
remember to divide the product by 8 (because there are 8 bits in a byte)
- thus, 8 megabits divided by 8 is 1 Megabyte. Now try this on a 4Mx32
4 x 32 / 8 = 16
There's a glitch to the size: parity. Memory that uses parity will have
9 bits per byte instead of 8. So, a 1Mx36 SIMM is 1 x 36 / 9 = 4MB. The
number after the 'x' tells you whether the SIMM uses parity: 9 and 36 have
parity, 8 and 32 do not. So now you need to know, does the computer require
parity or no parity, or does it care? Can you mix parity memory with non-parity
Lastly, check the speed of your memory. Speed is measured much the
same way as a hundred-yard dash - a lower finishing time means the memory
is faster. The difference is that memory finishes in terms of nanoseconds
(abbreviated ns). If the memory is too slow, the computer may end up slowing
down until the memory is ready, or it may not read the memory at all. Faster
memory is usually better, although it won't help. For example, if the computer
reads memory after 80 nanoseconds but the memory is ready after only 70,
those extra 10 nanoseconds are just wasted time.