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Originally published Friday, January 31, 2014 at 3:59 PM

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Virtual RAM still doable — if you don’t mind waiting

Use an extra hard drive as a substitute for additional RAM? It’s possible but could be inconveniently slow, Patrick Marshall advises a reader. Unless the drive would only infrequently come into play, better just to add RAM.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: I seem to remember an article you wrote on how to designate a hard drive as virtual memory as a substitute for RAM. I wish to add a small hard drive as a slave to my C: drive and use it as virtual memory. Is this possible? My system is XP Basic.

— Gillermo Moreno

A: Yes, it’s possible to add a hard drive to your computer, as long as your computer has an open bay for it and an appropriate connector to your motherboard. And once you’ve installed the drive, you’ll need to access your computer’s BIOS to tell the computer that drive is there.

But I’d recommend against going to all this trouble to add virtual memory. Here’s why:

Virtual memory is a poor substitute for system memory, or RAM. If there’s not enough system memory in your computer for the applications you have open, Windows will write some of the data to disc. This keeps you working.

The downside is that writing to disc, and retrieving from the disc, is much slower than writing to and from RAM. Accordingly, if your computer frequently resorts to virtual memory, you’ll notice a performance hit.

A far better solution than adding a drive is to add RAM.

Q: Google Earth worked well on my Sony Vaio laptop (2 years old) until we trundled on our way to Vienna in September. Now it will not work despite what I tried.

The most prevalent error message is something like: “Display Driver has stopped working and has recovered.” You might think that after that recovery, things should be working again. They are not.

I cleared or deleted the cache and data folders, I uninstalled and installed fresh copies, I updated the video driver — nothing has worked. Perhaps you have an idea?

— Klaus G.

A: Google Earth is, to say the least, demanding on graphics resources. And you did the right thing to first update your graphics driver. There are other steps, such as clearing cache, that might resolve problems.

Google has a list of detailed steps to try to resolve graphics issues with Google Earth. You can access it here:

Q: I recently purchased a Windows 8.1 touch-screen laptop. It runs the most recent versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Google Chrome Web browsers. I interchangeably use Gmail in both.

When I attempt to open a Word or PDF attachment using Gmail in Google Chrome, a Windows dialogue box comes up prompting me to save the file. The only way I can open the file is to first save it to the desktop and then open it. This does not happen when I seek to open a Word or PDF attachment using Internet Explorer or, for that matter, when I seek to open a Word or PDF attachment in my Android phone.

It did not happen in my previous Windows 7 laptop, either. I Googled this problem and found that many people are complaining about it. Your help in resolving it would be appreciated.

— Steve Cohen

A: Actually, I’ve found the same behavior using Gmail regardless of the browser. It’s simply the way attachments are handled in Gmail.

Google, however, recently changed the way it handles attachments. Now when you receive an email with an attached file, you will see a thumbnail of that attachment and you can click on it to see a larger preview. You can also click on provided icons to either download that file or save it to Google Drive.

But you still can’t open the attachment without saving it.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at


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