OMG! Stupid computers!
January 6, 2009 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Memory replacement on my laptop is driving me crazy.

I've got a Toshiba A215-7422. According to Toshiba it's got this memory installed "1024MB PC5300 DDR2 SDRAM." So, I ordered these memory modules, 2GB PC2-5300.

And that's where the trouble begins. I inserted the two new dimms, and the computer refused to boot. No problem, I thought, it must be bad memory sticks. So, I exchanged them for new ones. Still nothing. ( I did try testing both sticks individually and in different slots, with each set.)

Now, I can see four reasons for this.
1) I've got the wrong memory
2) The software doesn't like the amount of memory.
3) I somehow got a hold of four bad memory sticks.
4) I don't know how to install RAM.

I've tried to look up whether PC2-5300 is not the same as PC5300, but the limited info that I can find indicates that it's the same exact memory with just slightly different names. Also Crucial had this to say "Each memory slot can hold DDR2 PC2-6400,DDR2 PC2-5300 with a maximum of 2GB per slot."

I can see no reason for the bios or OS to be unhappy with the new RAM. It's only 4GB total. (I'm running Vista Home Premium).

The odds against getting four bad sticks must be astronomical.

Finally, I keep removing and re-installing the original sticks with no problems (I'm on the laptop now). So, if it's me, I'm somehow managing to install the new memory badly while installing the old memory correctly.

So, what the hell? Can anyone suggest what the problem might be? I'm not computer illiterate, but I'm no expert by any stretch. (Frankly it could be something super obvious.)

posted by HauteMama to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
You need to describe "refused to boot" in more detail. Did POST (power-on self-test) fail? Did you actually see a BIOS screen that halted with an error? Did the OS start to load and then fail?
posted by knave at 7:32 PM on January 6, 2009

It may be that the memory controller is incapable of addressing a 2GB module.
posted by Netzapper at 7:33 PM on January 6, 2009

Also Crucial had this to say "Each memory slot can hold DDR2 PC2-6400,DDR2 PC2-5300 with a maximum of 2GB per slot."

What does Toshiba say?

Also, knave's right... is it failing with a beeped code before you see anything (failed POST)? Or, is the BIOS loading but crashing out? I'm assuming that you're not getting as far as booting Microsoft Forced AbortionVista.
posted by Netzapper at 7:35 PM on January 6, 2009

Amusing that your laptop doesn't post, your laptop may just be picky about RAM. You have the right king of RAM, and as per Toshiba, it should handle 4 GB. Try to find out who made the original RAM and see if the new RAM has exactly the same specifications. If it does, you may be limited to buying the 2 GB version of the original sticks.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 7:40 PM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: knave:
On hitting the power there is a mild grinding sound (not unlike a HD access sound, or an optical disk being checked, it's hard to say exactly what is going on, but it's nothing that sounds alarming) and then the machine powers down. No boot screen, the screen is not given power at all, it seems to just not get to that point. Is this a POST fail?

The on/off light comes on, the computer does something for about 2-4 seconds (nothing on screen), then the light goes off. This "cycle" is repeated three times, and then nothing. Upon reinserting the original RAM everything seems normal. I don't even get the standard "Windows failed to start properly" messages.

If that's the case, and considering that the manufacturer claims that the computer can handle up to 4GB total with 2GB in each slot, would this be a defect in the machine?
From the Toshiba link (in the detailed specs tab):
- Configured with 1024MB PC5300 DDR2 SDRAM (both memory slots may be occupied). Maximum capacity 4096MB

- Memory Upgrade
PA3512U-1M1G Toshiba 1GB DDR2-667 Memory Module
PA3513U-1M2G Toshiba 2GB DDR2-667 Memory Module
posted by HauteMama at 7:45 PM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: The original sticks are made by Samsung, the new ones are PNY (which is a reasonably reputable brand, isn't it?).

Could the machine really be that picky?
posted by HauteMama at 7:48 PM on January 6, 2009

It is a possibility, but a slim one. I once had a laptop that wouldn't take any RAM but the stuff that was in it to start with. Granted, I didn't exactly try too hard to solve the problem.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 8:04 PM on January 6, 2009

PNY is considered a very reputable brand. One of the big three, IMO (along with Crucial and Corsair).

It is possible for the machine to be that picky, especially if Toshiba intentionally made it so. It's entirely possible that their mobo is set up to fail with any RAM module not providing the proper identifier.

Maybe call up Toshiba up and ask them why it might not be working?
posted by Netzapper at 8:08 PM on January 6, 2009

Different voltage? Don't even know if that's relevant. Also, some computers don't like certain memory on-chip configurations. Look for a spec that looks like 128mbx32 or something like that. See if your pc has requirements along those lines.
posted by gjc at 8:29 PM on January 6, 2009

I have the same laptop and had to update the BIOS before I could boot with 2 x 2GB modules, although the failure description doesn't seem to match my experience. Toshiba list 1.8 as the latest revision although offhand I can't remember what version I upgraded from/to
posted by TwoWordReview at 9:10 PM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: gjc, I'm not following the 128x32 comment. Is that related to the voltage?

twowordreview, thanks for the BIOS tip. I upgraded, but no effect.

One more data point for you all. On a whim I tried booting the computer with no RAM installed at all. That behavior is exactly what happens when I try to boot with the new RAM. So, would it make sense to assume that, somehow, the machine doesn't even recognize the new sticks?
posted by HauteMama at 10:17 PM on January 6, 2009

gjc is referring to the configuration of the ICs on the modules, effectively how the memory banks are arranged. So a 2GB module will typically have 16 chips, each of which is 1Gigabit, most commonly organized as 128Megabitsx8. Doubtful if this is the issue though, but I don't suppose there are any part numbers on the chips themselves?
posted by TwoWordReview at 11:20 PM on January 6, 2009

- Memory Upgrade
PA3512U-1M1G Toshiba 1GB DDR2-667 Memory Module
PA3513U-1M2G Toshiba 2GB DDR2-667 Memory Module

The '667' means the speed of memory, 667Mhz. If you shop for memory, you will see that in many cases they will list this speed, e.g. 667Mhz, 800Mhz, etc. I'm not really an expert on this, but from what I understand laptops are more picky about ram than regular PCs, so if I was buying ram for a laptop I'd try to find one with same speed. Also, if you buy through, for example, many (or at least some) sellers will have memory configurators, they'll ask you for your laptop brand, model and show matching memory, so if you go through such configurator, and it shows you all matches with 667Mhz only, that'd be a clue. Or it may show you all matches that all have something else in common.

If your new ram is of higher speed than your laptop can handle, I'd imagine you would get exactly the result you're getting.
posted by rainy at 4:09 AM on January 7, 2009

Response by poster: rainy, the memory that I bought is listed as "2GB DDR2 667 MHz PC2-5300 Notebook / Laptop SODIMM."

So, it seems to be the correct speed.

Side note, I do appreciate all of the help so far. Thanks, and keep those thinking caps on.
posted by HauteMama at 5:09 AM on January 7, 2009

I wouldnt worry about speed. Normally the BIOS just uses whatever speed it can handle. Its never forced to use the highest speed or anything.

The mb may not like this brand of memory. There is a BIOS update for your machine which fixes some RAM issues. Install the old ram, boot up, install the bios update, and then try the new ram.

If that doesnt do it, you should just return the ram and order the Toshiba branded ram for you machine. If that doesnt work, you can at least call Toshiba support and they wont tell you the ram is incompatible because its their own brand. If its too expensive then Id try another major brand like Kingston.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:16 AM on January 7, 2009

gjc, I'm not following the 128x32 comment. Is that related to the voltage?

I think he is saying that larger ram modules like 2 or 4gigs are either single or dual banked. Some motherboards dont like one or the other. Regardless, try my suggestions above before worrying about banking and chip configs.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:18 AM on January 7, 2009

Response by poster: DDA, I did upgrade the BIOS, nothing different. I do notice that the picture of the Toshiba branded memory is singled banked (right?) and the sticks I have are double banked (i.e. there are two rows of smaller squares. hmmmm....

A friend suggested that it might be a voltage issue. Is there an easy way to see what voltage a RAM DIMM is?
posted by HauteMama at 11:26 AM on January 7, 2009

You really should never have a need to change the voltage on ram. The mb selects voltage, speed, etc automatically. Messing with the wrong values is a good way to fry the ram or even the mb. Regardless, if the BIOS is not even loading then you wont have the option too. Id just RMA the ram at this point and try the Toshiba ram.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:26 PM on January 7, 2009

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