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 The Computer Buzz July 1st, 2010     



Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Factory

RAM-it Damm-it!

We’ve talked about the importance of RAM (random access memory) many times in the past. The simple truth is that no matter how well everything else in your PC is running, if it doesn’t have enough RAM to handle the applications you wish to run it will suffer from “RAM starvation.” Your PC will run slow, give you resource errors and occasional freeze for no apparent reason.

A running PC idling on the “desktop” requires a certain amount of RAM. We call that “overhead.” You can check the amount of “overhead” your system requires by bringing up your task manager (press Ctrl, Alt & Del keys simultaneously) and checking the PF usage graph. Task Manager also displays your total RAM and available RAM in the box titled “Physical Memory.”

XP PCs need 200-300MB of “overhead”, Vista 600-700Mb and Windows 7 about 500MB.

If your XP PC has only 256Mb of RAM, the “overhead” will consume nearly all of it and you will have no RAM available to run applications or surf the WWW. To compensate for the lack of available RAM, your PC will create “virtual RAM” by assigning a portion of your hard drive to act as RAM. This forces your hard drive to work very hard. The “Virtual RAM” on your hard drive is hundreds of times slower than the hardware RAM in your PC. This will be a very slow PC.

With 512MB of RAM (1/2 GB) the PC will perform better but even with 512MB the user will only have 200 to 300MB available before your PC goes to “virtual RAM.” Adding another 512MB will give the PC a full GB of RAM and increase the “Available RAM” from about 200MB to about 800MB, a fourfold increase. In order to run at its designed speed an XP PC must have at least 1.0GB of RAM.

Most Win 7 and Vista PCs have at least 2.0GB of RAM. Three to eight years old XP PCs however, were often sold with only 256 or 512MB of RAM. These older PCs will often outperform brand new PCs when upgraded to a full 1.0Gb of RAM or more.

Installing a RAM upgrade is a five-minute job once you have the right components. Matching up the proper RAM for each PC is tricky. There are three different generations of RAM in XP PCs and each generation has several different speeds. Other variables are the number of RAM slots and the configuration of the previously installed RAM.

Years ago we did sell RAM over the counters to DIYs (do it yourselfers) who sought to upgrade their own PCs. More than half the time this RAM came back because the DIY asked for the wrong type RAM. We decided to let the DIYs shop at Fry’s

Today we still sell RAM upgrades but only to folks who bring their PCs in. We don’t charge to install the RAM and we can make sure it works before it leaves our store. A one GB upgrade can cost as little $35 or as much as $90 depending on the variables. RAM is the most important single factor in your PCs performance.

 
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