Lesson 3: Memory and Extensions Memory

Lesson 3: Memory and Extensions

Some users new to computers have a very tough time with the concept of memory, so I wanted to write about it before I forgot. (Ha! I kill me!)

As I wrote back two issues ago (December 1999), adding memory is one of the most important upgrades you can do to your Mac. If you bought an iMac that came with 32MB of memory, you must buy at least another 32MB. No, in fact, you should buy as MUCH memory as you can.

Why is memory important? No, it does not help your computer remember anything, really. To keep it simple, memory is where you actually put your programs (including the Operating System itself) when you’re using them. For instance, if you want to launch a game such as Age of Empires, your Mac must have at least 31MB of FREE memory, memory not being used by any other program. Let’s take a look at the information for Age of Empires. To get this information, simply click the icon once to highlight it, then go to your File menu and select Get Info and Memory, like this:


The next window you will see is called, appropriately enough, the “Get Info” window. In our case, Age of Empires, this is what you see.


You have a lot of control over this program from this one window. Let’s continue talking about memory for a moment, though.

Suggested Size is the amount of memory the program really needs, though you can see there is also a Minimum Size and a Preferred Size. The Minimum is the least amount the program can have to actually work. The least amount, though, is never the best. You are asking for crashes and other problems when you only allow a program to have the Minimum amount.

Preferred Size is how much the program really wants, to perform at optimal and stability level. If your Mac has a lot of memory, therefore, your program will run much better, have less problems, and allow you to have more than one program open at one time (though with Age of Empires, that is not really something you would do anyway).

So, if you have extra memory in your Mac, and one program is giving you problems, simply go to this info screen, and increase the Minimum Size as much as you can. It will help, and will make many of those problems you’re having go away.

Does your Mac freeze up halfway through startup? Do you wonder what the heck is going on, and how to fix it? Well, chances are 99% that you have an Extension problem. But what are Extensions, what do they do, and how can you get rid of the problem?

First, lets talk about what an Extension is. Extensions are stored in the folder inside your System Folder called, of course, Extensions. Think of an Extension as a very small program that allows your Mac to do more things. For instance, in your Extensions folder is a Extension titled “Audio CD Access” and looks like this:


The only thing this Extension does is allow your Mac to recognize and play audio CDs. That’s all it does (to my knowledge) but without it, your Mac could not play your favorite music CD.

Extensions load (launch) when your Mac is starting up. This is what you see as it boots up, crawling across the bottom of your screen. Each Extension takes a little part of your computer memory to operate. Sometimes, though, Extensions can conflict with one another, which is why you keep freezing at startup.

You can get your Mac to start with no Extension on by simply holding down your Shift key and restarting. Hold it until a note pops up saying “Extensions Off.” Of course, with no Extensions on, your Mac is very limited. You cannot play CDs, connect to the Internet, launch some programs, use contextual menus, and a lot of other things. But this will at least allow you to boot up your Mac and try to fix the problem.

You have a control panel titled “Extension Manager” which will allow you to turn Extensions on and off. This is an easy way to figure out which one is giving you problems. And remember, when your Mac boots up, Extensions load in order of their name. No ATI Extension will load before Default Calibrator.

If this method does not work for you, randomly turning on and off Extensions, here is something that usually works for me. I watch during startup, looking closely at each extension as it loads. If I see one which takes longer than the rest, I try turning that one off first. If all else fails, I start playing the on-off game.

Next month, we will look more closely at the Extension Manager, and why this powerful control panel should be used more often.

And remember, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note!


Tim Robertson

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