Adding RAM to a Dell Inspiron 1150 and Other Changes

This is part one of a four-part posting.

Awhile back, I had an interesting situation in upgrading the RAM in my Dell Inspiron 1150 laptop. It came with one 256 MB and one 128 MB RAM chip in slots A and B, respectively. This made for some really slow computing. So I purchased a pair of 512MB chips from Kingston. But when I installed them, and turned the laptop back on, it refused to boot. In fact, other than one of the LEDs flashing a few times, it would simply shut down.

So, first I swapped back the original pair of chips (after shutting down and removing the battery, per Dell instructions) and everything worked fine. So I tried installing one of the 512s and the 256 (after shutting down and removing the battery) but got no joy. So, I tried just a single 512 with the “B” slot empty (after…well, you know the drill). That worked. So I shut down again, removed the battery, and installed the second 512 chip. Low and behold, the laptop booted successfully and recognized the 1GB of RAM. I have no idea why I had to do the installation in steps, but it worked for me.

Unfortunately, I have been underwhelmed by the speed difference. Don’t get me wrong, there is a difference, but it’s not dramatic. Although programs run a little better, the boot process is still measured in minutes (I’m not kidding here, it takes minutes to boot). But, for awhile I just lived with it since I didn’t use the laptop that often.

But recently, I decided to bring the laptop from home to work so I could use it for meetings away from my office. Since it would not be appropriate to connect my laptop to the network (since they frown on attaching non-government owned PCs), I decided to get a Sierra Wireless AirCard(r) 875 PC card from Cingular Wireless/AT&T. This provides Internet access wherever a cell phone would work. Although Cingular does not have 3G service yet in Hawaii, when it does, this card supports it. In the mean time, the speed it does get is fast enough for email and web browsing.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, in getting the software installed and configured by the very patient Cingular sales person, my slow hard drive took so long that I was embarrassed by its lack of speed and decided enough was enough.

So, I ordered a Hitachi Travelstar 7K100. This is a 7,200rpm second generation 2.5 inch drive. I am hoping that the speed difference between this drive and the original IBM 4,200rpm unit that came with the laptop will make a noticeable difference. Along with the drive I also ordered a copy of MS Vista Home Basic.

Why Windows? Because I have software that runs only on Windows. Why Vista? Because I want something that will be supported as long as possible and because it is, in my opinion, more secure than XP. Why Home Basic? My laptop meets all of the hardware minimum requirements for the higher editions except for the video graphics. As far as I can remember, the built-in Intel graphics uses no more than 64MB (and maybe as little as 32MB) of shared RAM. Vista Premium/Business/Ultra requires a minimum of 128MB. Since the Intel graphics does not meet the minimum requirements, it would not make sense to pay for the more expensive features, such as Aero, when I can’t run it.

That said, I will also dual boot Vista with something else. What version of GNU/Linux I choose I’m not sure yet. Linux and laptops usually do not go well together because laptops tend to use proprietary components that many times require drivers. Said drivers are usually not made for Linux. However, some versions of Linux are getting better at supporting laptops so maybe I can find something that will work. If any of my 11 readers have any experience with getting Linux running on a Dell Inspiron laptop, please leave a comment here. Thanks.

Have a Great Weekend, Everyone – Aloha


11 responses to “Adding RAM to a Dell Inspiron 1150 and Other Changes

  1. hey, i have a inspiron 1150 too, i have a few questions hopefully youll have time to answer them… i was wondering if the Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 would fit any 1150? is there a gigabyte limit that the 1159 supports? how do you know which one fits? would any of these fit???
    Maxtor QuickView 500GB Hard Drive
    Western Digital 500GB SATA-300 Hard Drive
    Seagate 400GB 16MB Buffer ATA-100 Hard Drive
    Please send me an email whenever you get a chance,

  2. Hi Mike: First, remember I’m not a Dell technician so take what I have to say with a grain of salt! 🙂 If you are unsure about anything, I would think you could contact Dell and buy directly from them or contact your favorite computer shop and ask them for help. YMMV. Insert disclaimer here.

    That said, as far as I know, the 2.5-inch mobile hard drive form factor is the standard size for most laptops, including the Dell 1150. In addition, the two main interface types are ATA and SATA. For my 1150 it uses ATA. So, I would think as long as you order the correct physical size (2.5-inches) and the right interface (ATA)it should physically fit (remembering to remove the adapter from your existing Dell drive and using it on the new drive).

    As to the storage size (i.e., gigabyte limit). Sorry, I don’t know. As a practical matter, I don’t think there are any 2.5-inch drives larger than maybe 160-250GB. But as above, you could contact Dell to check before purchasing.

    Your comment listed the names of several drives but not their model numbers. But given the storage size, I would guess these are 3.5-inch drives and, therefore, will not fit the 1150 (or any other laptop that uses 2.5-inch drives).

    In addition, you’ve listed a drive with the SATA interface drive and one with ATA. These interfaces are not interchangeable. As mentioned above, my 1150 uses ATA, if yours is the same, you must limit your searching to that interface.

    I hope this helps and good luck in your upgrading!

    Aloha – Dan

  3. You should really post pictures of the installation of everything. Much more helpful.

  4. Scott:

    I agree. But since I work on this site in my copious spare time /kidding, I don’t always have the time or energy to do so. 🙂

    That said, Dell does a great job of it with its manuals. You can view the page dealing with installing, among other things, RAM online here:

    Aloha – Dan

  5. I also have a Dell Inspiron 1150. I just found your blog on Google while searching for 1150 memory installation instructions. I just took my system from 512 megs to a 1 gig using 2 memory sticks that I bought from Kathlon. The upgrade went without a hitch. Perhaps on your system it did not seat right when you installed the first time? Anyway you asked about Linux and that is something my Dell notebook knows about. I currently run the latest version of Ubuntu Feisty Fawn on it. If you ever try Ubuntu go to their Synaptic Package Manager and see how many programs are available for download (well over 20,000). Issues like video (Ubuntu autodetected video chipset and configured LCD monitor fine), USB (you can plug in just about any USB device and it automounts), NTFS (ability to read windows drives), have been resolved. In fact the only problem I have with Ubuntu is the Dell Wireless 1350 Mini-PCI card. I have had to use a program called ndiswrapper to manually add the Windows driver for the card. This is the case for almost all the distributions that I have tried. The only exception to this is a distribution called Freespire 2.0, it saw the card and loaded the driver right out of the box. If you need to use ndiswrapper there are two files that you need for the driver to work, bcmwl5.inf and bcmwl5.sys. You can get the Windows driver for the 1350 on Dell’s site, it is a file called R115321.exe. The file has the .inf and .sys file that you will need to use with ndiswrapper. By the way, ndiswrapper it a command line tool. They have a GUI front end for it available called ndisgtk if you hate working from the CLI.
    You can download both ndiswrapper and ndisgtk through the Synaptic system.

    BTW I have used a Hawking HWU-8DD Wi Fi adapter with Ubuntu and it works right out of the box. I find the USB adapters to get much better reception than the intergrated ones so I think this is probably the best way out of the Wi FI driver problem.

    Hope try out Linux sometime. There is no risk to your system with the live cds that are available now. You can run Ubuntu right off the cd without making any permanent changes to your system.

  6. Windows service pack 3 is almost out so maybe I might give Vista a pass for a while.
    It should fix the security issues I think its in beta at this time.
    Casper 4.0 trial version works perfectly to mirror my broken HDD it transfers both the hidden partition of the drive containing the dell recovery files and the main c:drive kudos to Casper4.0 and its so small I fit it on my thumb drive.

  7. Has anyone tried upgrading the processor on the Inspiron 1150? Mine has a Pentium IV Celeron processor and I would like to know some of your inputs in case I stumble with a mobile pentium iv processor.

  8. Fred:

    Sorry, I’m not aware of any easy way of swapping out the CPU. Perhaps someone else can help.

    Aloha – Dan

  9. so bottom line ? What is the easiest way to speed up my inspiron 1150???

  10. Hi Dan,

    I know this is an old post, but I’m gonna give it a shot and see if anyone will answer. I too have a Dell Inspiron 1150 and I am currently finding conflicting information online.

    I bought my computer way back in July 2004 and from the beginning, I had my hard drive bumped up to 40GB, my CPU speed to 2.80GHz and my RAM to 512MB. This heavy laptop got me through my toughest year of high school, all of college and even my first job as a graphic designer; you get the point.

    With all that being said, I’m about 3 years overdue for a must-needed memory upgrade. I have been running the Adobe Suite on 512MB for way too long and need a minimum of 1GB to continue my line of work on this hunk of metal.

    Dell’s website says the maximum allotted memory for this computer is 1GB, however other sources say otherwise. Since there are two slots for memory; in theory I would think it’s possible to put two 1GB chips in this computer.

    My questions to you: Since this post, have you tried putting in 2 GB of RAM? Would you recommend it? And does my CPU speed play a part in the computer’s ability to handle 2 GB of RAM?

    Thanks in advance.

  11. Heather: did you have any success in upgrading to 2 gb ram? I have a 1150 and a memory seller advises that installing a32 bios will allow 2 gb of ram: another site advises that bios a22 needs to be installed first: an unofficial dell tech group advises that 1gb of ram is the limit: any suggestions?

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