Ask Leo! #509 – RAM Upgrades, Closing Accounts, Storing Scans, Dying Applicatons and more…


How should I store scans of old photographs?

I'm in charge of scanning old family photo albums (dating back to the 1800s), and an saving them on CDs. After reading many articles, I am confused as to what I should use to save them on. CDs, USBs, external hard drives…. Do you have a suggestion? I don't want a future generation to go to look or print from them, and find that they no longer are accessible.

Well, the short answer is that I would wave you off of CDs right away. For something that important I think other solutions are called for.

As I've discussed before, the continual progress of storage technologies is an ongoing issue. What we choose today might not be appropriate in a few years or a few decades.

Rather than tell you what you should do, let me tell you what I do in case my photographs are ever of interest to future generations.

Continue Reading: How should I store scans of old photographs?

What happens when applications die?

While I am not particularly concerned about my privacy (all that stuff on the internet was out there before the internet, it was just a little harder to find), I am not particularly trusting. I realize that TrueCrypt was open source and Lastpass etc are all paid services but what happens if they go belly up? What happens if they hire some idiot and all of their saving software goes up in smoke? I have a hard time trusting these services or any others for that matter and these are things that I want under my control.

Actually, what you describe happens more often than one might think.

Typically, it's nothing as attention-grabbing as the TrueCrypt shutdown, but I do regularly hear from people who have been using an application of some sort for some time and suddenly find that the company's no longer in business and there's no way to get an update. In some cases, that means they can't migrate to current versions of their operating system if they want to keep running that now-unsupported software.

It's something I consider when using important software. Depending on exactly what software it is we're talking about, there are often approaches that you can use to protect yourself from potential obsolescence or disappearance.

I'll give you one hint: it's one of the reasons I moved from Roboform to Lastpass.

Continue Reading: What happens when applications die?

Do I need a computer memory upgrade?

Do I need to install additional memory? My machine has 1GB of RAM. I have a HP Photosmart printer & therefore am always downloading from my camera to my computer. Wondering if a computer memory upgrade is called for.

I've said it before: upgrading your computer's RAM memory is one of the most cost-effective ways of increasing its performance.

However, it's not a silver bullet. Whether or not it will actually help you depends on many things. And of course, whether or not you actually can add more memory is something we also need to look at.

Continue Reading: Do I need a computer memory upgrade?


The Best of Ask Leo!
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Glossary Term


RAM is an acronym for Random Access Memory. This is the part of your computer that holds the programs that you're actually running right now, such as the operating system, your word processor (if you're running it), your email program (again, if you're running your email program) and so on. It also holds the data that's being worked on right now, such as the document that's currently shown in your word processor or the email that you're typing up.

Computers these days typically have somewhere between two to eight gigabytes (two to eight billion bytes) of RAM. What's important is that when you turn the computer off or if it crashes – poof – anything stored in RAM is gone.

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

Is USB safe?

Bernie writes:

I have McAfee Total Protection installed on my desktop - every time I plug in a USB drive, the McAfee provides an alert: "Removable Media Drive Detected". I must then affirmatively indicate whether the drive should be scanned or not (McAfee allows the user to choose) before I access the data on the drive. This seems to be a pretty good defense against introducing a compromised USB drive to my computer.

Leo writes:

The firmware that this article is about will not be scanned, so there's no protection in this scenario.

Ken in San Jose writes:

There appears to be only one way to prevent this problem, use only USB devices without programmable controllers. That way if the manufacturer of the USB device is trusted, no problem. Maybe all USB devices, at least USB memory sticks, should be labeled as to what kind of controller they include.

Are we at risk of losing our digital information over time?

Ken in San Jose writes:

And hope the drives do not crash. And hard drives do crash. I had a new HP notebook computer that the hard drive crashed after only 6 months. It was under warranty and and I had recent Image backups for the drive, so it did not cost me anything and nothing was lost.

Also, if the hard drive sits unused for years, what will that do the moving parts of the drive, such as the ball bearings which can go flat if left in one position for long periods of time.

Mark Jacobs writes:

No need to hope the drives don't crash. Assume they eventually WILL crash and make regular backups. Several are better than one.

Leo's Blog

Desperately Seeking Closure

Can I delete my Yahoo! email but keep the files containing past received emails?

That's a question I recently got on my Facebook page. I responded with an answer, which I'll include below.

However I often have to remind myself that while answering a specific question is great, understanding the reasons behind the question can often be even more helpful.

For example, I should have asked: why do you want to close the account?

Continue Reading: Desperately Seeking Closure

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