Memory upgrade problems

A good customer of mine has a borrowed Toshiba Satellite A100 laptop, which the owner had already bought some extra ram for, and I was asked to do the memory upgrade. I took out the old ram, inserted the new, and whir click, whir click – it won’t boot, won’t even show the splash screen. Obviously there is something wrong with the ram. With no obvious reason to suspect the ram being faulty,  I looked at other aspects of the problem.

It looks right, and matches all the specs, and several suppliers will swear that it is the correct ram for the computer, but multiple entries on the web point to the same problem. Do a search on “satellite a100 memory upgrade wont boot” and you will see what I mean. None of them will make much sense, but using what they say, and with some experimentation of my own, this is the situation.

The official spec for the computer says it uses DDR2 PC4200 ram, up to 2 gigabytes in two 1 gigabyte pieces.

The ram supplied to me was DDR2 PC5300 1GB x 2.

The computer currently has in it 1 piece of DDR2 PC4200 of 256MB, and 1 piece of DDR2 PC5300 of 512MB. Surprisingly it works!

It seems that to operate at all, the computer requires at least one of the memory sticks to be DDR2 PC4200. This is easily proved as follows

1. take the DDR2 PC5300 stick out, leaving just the DDR2 PC4200 stick and it boots fine.
2. take the DDR2 PC4200 stick out, leaving just the DDR2 PC5300 stick and it won’t boot.
3. leave the DDR2 PC4200 stick in and put in one of the supplied sticks, and will boot OK, showing 1.18 GB of ram.
4. leave the DDR2 PC5300 stick in and put in one of the supplied sticks, and it won’t boot.
4. put in both sticks of the new ram, and it won’t boot.

This is a really peculiar problem, which neither Toshiba or ram suppliers seem to know about or acknowledge.  Toshiba will probably say stick to what the spec says, which is fair enough. Some (most?) ram suppliers seem to recommend the PC5300 ram.

Other than sticking with PC4200 ram, there doesn’t appear to be  a solution. Fortunately, PC4200 ram is still available at a reasonable price, so if it is considered worthwhile, the memory can be upgraded.


Dave Glover is a director of Signs of Success Ltd. married to Lynn (the other director of SOS) with 3 grown up kids. We live in Whitby, in New Zealand. After 30+ years in IT as everything from Trainee Programmer to Project Manager, Dave now runs a Computer Maintenance and Sign Making shop near his home.

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