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DOS command reveals RAM use


Now that I have upgraded my PC (running Windows ME) from 128 megabytes of RAM to 512 MB, I am wondering how I can determine if all that memory I purchased is indeed available.

The best way to check how much RAM is in your machine is to hark back to the DOS routines computer users relied upon in the days when memory was counted in kilobytes rather than in multi-megabytes.

To do this you need to open a DOS command line window, which accepts text commands to check the machine's memory chips and returns an answer when the enter key is hit. Type the command mem /c and hit enter, and the machine will check the memory chips on board and give you the answer.

The readout shows how much RAM is being used by the computer for essential operations and how much "extended" memory is free for handling applications. In your case it should say there is about 513 MB free, which counts about 1 MB above that in your memory chips.

To find the DOS command line, click on Start, then Programs, then Accessories, and you will find an icon marked MS-DOS Prompt to click.

Sometimes when I try to open a file or an e-mail attachment, a window will pop up saying "Open with" and giving a list of options. How do I know what to highlight? I have asked friends, and they are puzzled. They say they, too, occasionally get that message but that they ignore it.

That "Open with" prompt is a cop-out from Microsoft, and it comes up when the file you are trying to open has an extension that Windows does not recognize.

For example, Windows knows that files ending in .txt or .doc are word processing files, so the operating system uses the proper word processing software to open them.

But if a file gets named with gobbledygook for an extension name, .zyx or some such, the operating system doesn't know which program to use to open it. So Windows asks the user which application he or she thinks might work. If you happen to know what kind of file the icon is supposed to be, you can rename it with the proper extension, and Windows will open it if you guess correctly.

Sometimes it is possible to figure out what kind of file lies behind one of these mystery icons by using that "Open with" command box to scroll to Word Pad, the basic word processor built into Windows that will open a file and show whatever text it includes.

You can often find a clue in that text and then rename the icon with the extension that will open it.

For example, the letters JPEG usually appear high in .jpg image files, so if you see them you can change the icon's name and get it to open.

I am concerned because whenever I open Outlook Express, my computer's e-mail program, it automatically opens the first e-mail. I am afraid that one day I will have a virus sent to me and will not be able to delete it in time.

As you note, with the preview operating it is possible that the act of displaying the text of a message could trigger macro viruses that can cause substantial grief.

It is also true that Microsoft and other companies have distributed powerful fixes to Outlook Express and the high-powered Microsoft Outlook 2000 software to prevent such attacks. I take the view that the chances of a virus attack from the preview feature are small, while the convenience of seeing the content of e-mails as you scroll down a list is enormous.

If you click on Tools and then Layout with a single e-mail displayed in Outlook Express, you'll get a control panel that allows you to shut off the preview function. Give it a try, but I'll wager that once you experience e-mail without previews, you won't like it very much.

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