If I add an external HD to my laptop, will it improve the speed?

I’ve been trying to convince myself that I do not NEED to get Sims 2: Nightlife, and for the most part, I know that I don’t need it. However, we’ve been living on an incredibly slim budget for the past several months, and things have vastly improved - so I’ve decided that I’d like to upgrade my laptop a little and get it. However, there’s no room to install it on my current HD - my laptop is pretty new, almost a year old now, but I’ve got both Sims editions already on it. I should’ve just gotten the 80 GB HD to begin with, but we didn’t expect to need it. So I’m thinking of getting a 40 GB external HD.

So…at the moment, I have 756 MB of RAM in my laptop, which is pretty quick. However, I know adding the extra Sims upgrade will slow things down somewhat. Will having the additional hard drive help keep the speed up, or should we consider upgrading from the 756 to the 1.2 GB of RAM as well?



Your confusing a couple of different concepts here. RAM is used only when programs are called into memory. You can have every Sims pack ever made on the HD and it won’t do anything to the RAM. To make it short, 756 MB RAM should be enough and is still a bit above average. More probably won’t make a significant difference.

A very simplistic view of hard drives is that you either have enough space or you don’t . If your primary hard drive is truly full you should try to free up space for Windows XP to use during critical operations. It is not good to have your primary hard drive nearly full.

It does sound like you need an external hard drive. However, that will only allow you to store more things. It shouldn’t make a positive difference in speed.

Ok, first you have to realize that hard drive space and memory space are totally different things. Hard drive is where you store your programs; memory is what you use to actually run them.

You’d want a new hard drive if you were running out of disk space. You’d want more memory if you can’t run enough programs at the same time. A good way to see if you are memory limited is to start up a bunch of programs and switch back and forth between them. Keep adding programs until you start to see evidence of running out of physical memory. At some point, switching the focus from one program to another will be slow and you’ll hear the hard drive churning.

Are you sure about this? An update will take up additional disk space, but it won’t necessarily use extra memory while running. In addition, it’s possible that the update streamlines some processes to make them more efficient than the original. If you have the disk space, I recommend installing it and seeing how it runs before upgrading. If you don’t have the disk space, you’ll obviously either need to delete something or buy another hard drive.

To delve into more geekery that probably doesn’t really apply to you, pulling data off of an external hard drive might be faster than pulling it off of an internal laptop drive. Laptop drives are generally slow, and external drives can be much faster. The limiting factor would be the bus connecting the extrnal drive to the computer. Theoretically, IDE has much faster transfer speeds than firewire or USB2, even. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the actual speed of the hard drive is the limiting factor.

Thanks, guys. The reason I asked about the RAM is because I had 512 on there, but it wasn’t fast enough for the second Sims upgrade - it was running really slowly. So I upgraded.

And Shagnasty, I do still have plenty of space on this hard drive, but adding the additional Sims upgrade would probably push it to the absolute limit - hence the reason for wanting the extra HD space.

Thanks for answering so quickly - now to see how long it’ll take for Dell to get my HD here.


If your current video card uses “shared memory,” that will cut down the amount of RAM you have to run programs. I’d guess that the Sims is video intensive, and perhaps adding a dedicated video card could help.

If you are getting a standard external hard drive you are not tied to Dell. You may want to shop around because they are advertised heavily by a number of manufacturers. Your computer will run better if there are just the needed services running when you start your computer. I have seen computers with 45 or more running and they get really slow at that point.

In the modern world of modern operating systems such as OS X and XP, a faster hard drive and/or extra empty hard drive space can speed up your computer, at least in some ways and at some times.

a) Although RAM is (as others have explained) not storage space, all modern operating systems page out chunks of RAM to swap files, so that bits and pieces of applications sitting idle in the background can be cleared out of real RAM to make room for stuff you’re currently doing. Bits and pieces of the operating system itself also get paged out. If you are running this one game by itself, nothing else open, that’s probably not a big factor, but modern operating systems do various housekeeping and polling chores all the time, so to at least a mild extent your system is reading from and writing to hard drive all the time. If you’re downloading and installing system updates, fetching email, and recompiling database field definitions in the background while you’re playing the Sims in the foreground, it’s going to be a much bigger factor.

b) I know absolutely nothing about how this particular game is programmed, but it is entirely possible that the little modular bits and pieces of the game are only read from hard disk into memory on an as-needed basis; or that some of them are, at any rate. I’ve noticed this in some games where you complete a section or navigate out of one “place” into another — the game hits the hard disk to get the info for rendering the new scenery for the next section or “place”.
In the case of swapfiles, adding an external to a laptop won’t help much, unless you never expect to boot without the external attached. The OS is going to want a specified location to write its swapfile data to, and you can’t pick a place that ain’t there a good portion of the time.

In the case of space used for bits and pieces of the game, you might get a speed increase by having your OS on one drive and your games (and other programs) on another.

I’m using a now-elderly klunker of a laptop, a “WallStreet” PowerBook from 1998. One of the big factors that makes it still a nice enough machine that I haven’t been prompted to run out and upgrade is that it has multi-purpose expansion bays, and so I have two hard drives that are both internal hard drives (and both of them fast: 7200 RPM Hitachi/IBM 60 giggers). There is no laptop being sold right now that would not be a step down from having dual-60 gig 7200 RPM drives (or at least none that I’m aware of, and certainly no Mac PowerBooks).

In short, it might be worth it if your laptop is nearly always used as a desktop-substitute, indoors and with its external HD hooked up and available for use. If you use it on the train and plane and at the cafe table, don’t bother.