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SoftRAM is a bust

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


SoftRAM is a bust
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1995, The Syracuse Newspapers

Get a refund. Take the software off your computer. Let SoftRAM be a lesson to us all.

SoftRAM has been the hottest-selling program for PCs for many months. I bought it, and thousands of others in this area did, too.

SoftRAM was billed as a memory expander—a RAM doubler, in other words.

We all got fooled.

Syncronys Software sold the package of SoftRAM that I bought with this description on the box: "RAM Doubling & Resource Expansion Software for Windows 95 & 3.0." That sounded like just what I wanted, and just what many of you wanted, too.

But Syncronys wasn't being straight with its customers. Experts who tested SoftRAM under Windows 95 quickly discovered that it did nothing—I repeat, nothing—to enlarge the random access memory in Microsoft's new PC operating system.

Syncronys backtracked in public and admitted that SoftRAM didn't help Windows 95 owners.

It then created new packaging with new labels that omitted any mention of Windows 95.

But then a stranger thing happened. The experts then looked at what SoftRAM was doing for Windows 3.1 and 3.11 PCs.

Guess what? Same story.

SoftRAM's only known benefit on PCs running the older versions of Windows was to increase a technical specification for how much memory could be swapped out to the disk drive. Anyone could do the same thing, just by changing a setting in one of the Windows' configuration files.

In other words, SoftRAM isn't needed if you want to change this setting. I'd planned to explain how to do it, but decided not to, because the standard setting—the one Windows comes with—works better most of the time. More importantly, the change in this setting doesn't increase memory anyway. Only more RAM chips can increase memory.

That's the first of two lessons we can learn from the SoftRAM fiasco. If your PC needs more memory, add more RAM. That's the long and the short of it. Nothing is more important than good friends, a lot of love and an abundance of RAM.

The second lesson is harder to explain; I'll give it a try.

The older versions of Windows run out of a certain kind of memory very easily. This kind of memory is not affected by how much RAM your computer has. On my newest PC, I can run out of this sort of memory very quickly when running Windows 3.1, even though the PC has 32 megabytes of RAM.

This kind of memory is known as the resource heap. There are three segments in this area of memory, and they are all extremely limited. (Technically, each is only 16 kilobytes in size.) A so-called RAM doubler that does not work some magic on the resource heap won't help much.

And SoftRAM works no magic on the resource heap. Despite claims by Syncronys that SoftRAM increases these resources, independent tests show no improvement.

What about the other RAM doublers? There are at least three others—RAM Doubler (the program that started this new sub-industry), Hurricane and MagnaRAM.

I tested MagnaRAM and found that it just slowed down my computer.

(QuarterDeck, the company that makes MagnaRAM, says it has an improved version on the market now. I'll give it a try and let you know what I find out in a few weeks.)

I haven't tried RAM Doubler or Hurricane, but reports from people I trust say both of them seem to do what the manufacturers claim.

AS FOR SoftRAM, it's a bust. The company has said it will refund the purchase price for anyone who is not satisfied with its product.

I'd say you'd have to be soft in the head to be happy with SoftRAM.


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