Ask the Doctor: Alien? Where?


I have an Alienware Area-51 m7700 laptop computer with 2GB of memory and an Nvidia GeForce 6800 Go with 256MB GDDR memory. It’s three years old and runs fine, but I would like to upgrade the graphics to get better video response. I play World of Warcraft and occasionally have problems with the video becoming a bit choppy. Plus, with the economy in its current poor state, I don’t really want to buy a new computer anytime soon, so upgrading my current computer seems like a good, relatively inexpensive way to go. The problem is, when I talked to a tech support person at Alienware, I was told a video upgrade isn’t available for my computer because the current videocards work with only the current bus configurations, not with my computer’s bus. Is there truly no way to upgrade my laptop’s video?

—Thomas Oglesby

The tech support guy is right, Thomas. Each new mobile GPU typically runs hotter and requires more power than the previous iterations, and there’s no universal laptop graphics hardware spec. You’ve already got the best videocard you can put in your rig. You can increase performance relatively inexpensively by upping your RAM to 4GB—you can get 1GB and 2GB SO-DIMMs for your machine for nearly nothing, and that’ll help with your game performance—but since the m7700 runs on a 32-bit Pentium 4 processor, you won’t be able to utilize the full 4GB. Other than that, you’re out of luck.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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