RAM: A Key to PC Performance

RAM is an often overlooked yet important factor in your computer’s performance.
May 2012
by Robin Wark

The amount of RAM available on your PC can have a significant impact on its performance. Signs that you might not have enough Random Access Memory include:

  • Your computer performs poorly when you are doing normal activities such as working on a document, watching video or saving files.
  • It takes an extremely long time to boot up when you restart.
  • Applications respond slowly when multiple windows are open at once.

If your computer does not have the Random Access Memory space it needs, it will have to do what is called "swapping." It will reserve space on the hard disk. Swapping can greatly slow down your PC! It has been reported that, on average, it takes a Central Processing Unit (CPU) about 200 nanoseconds to access RAM. However, to access the hard drive, it takes 12,000,000 nanoseconds. This is the same as if a task normally took three and a half minutes to complete, it now would take four and a haf months!

If a lack of RAM is potentially slowing down your PC, you can try:

Freeing Up Space

Having Photoshop, Microsoft Word, your web browser (such as Firefox, Internet Explorer or Chrome) and Live Messenger running all at the same times takes up a lot of resources. By closing unneeded files and programs you can free up memory space.

It is possible that you have programs running in the background on your PC that you are unaware of. Software such as SpeedyPC Pro can show you all processes currently running and help you stop the unnecessary ones.

Stop unwanted processes: Free Scan

Adjust virtual memory

While RAM is best, you can use virtual memory, which is simulated RAM. You can increase this virtual memory to up the amount of space reserved for RAM overflow.

Adjust virtual memory settings on Windows XP:

  1. Click "Start" and then click "Control Panel".
  2. Click "Performance and Maintenance" and then "System".
  3. On the Advanced tab, go to Performance, click "Settings".
  4. On the Advanced tab, under Virtual memory, click "Change".
  5. Under Drive [Volume Label], click the drive that contains the paging file that you want to adjust.
  6. Under Paging file size for selected drive, click the "Custom size" check box. Then enter the amount of memory you would like to reserve for virtual memory by entering the initial and maximum size. The rule of thumb is to make the maximum size 1.5 times the amount of system memory. To stop your computer’s CPU from constantly changing the paging file, it is a good idea to set the initial and maximum size to the same value.
  7. Click "Set".
  8. Click "Yes" when you are prompted to restart the computer.

Adjust virtual memory settings on Windows 7:

  1. Click "Start" and click "Control Panel".
  2. Choose "System".
  3. In the left pane, go to "Advanced system settings". You might be asked for an administrator password or confirmation.
  4. Select the "Advanced" tab, and then, under Performance, click "Settings."
  5. Go to the "Advanced" tab and, under "Virtual memory", click "Change".
  6. Uncheck the "Automatically manage paging file size for all drives" check box. Under "Drive [Volume Label]", click the drive that contains the paging file you want to change. It is usually the C: drive.
  7. Select "Custom size", set a new size for the Initial size or Maximum size. It is suggested that these values match. Click "Set," and then "OK."

Use ReadyBoost for Windows 7 and Vista

A feature in Windows 7 and Vista lets you use most flash storage devices for additional memory for your PC. ReadyBoost lets you use such devices as universal serial bus (USB) flash drives or secure digital (SD) memory cards.

The device you use should have at least one gigabyte of available space. In fact, it is recommended for ReadyBoost you use a device that has at least double the amount of memory (RAM) in your computer. With Windows 7, you can use up to eight devices for a maximum of 256 GB of memory.

To use ReadyBoost:

  1. Plug a flash drive or flash memory card into your PC.
  2. In the "Autoplay" dialog box, under "General" options, click "Speed up my system."
  3. In the "Properties" dialog box, go to the "ReadyBoost" tab, and then do one of the following:
    • If you don't want to use the maximum available space on the drive for ReadyBoost, click "Use this device". Using the slider, set the amount of space you want to use.
    • To use all of the available space on the drive or card, click "Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost." Previously saved files already saved on it are safe. Windows will use the rest of the available space for ReadyBoost.
    • To turn ReadyBoost off, click "Do not use this device."
  4. Click "OK."

Install additional RAM

Adding RAM to your PC can help its performance. Before doing so, you should consider:

  • Researching your computer and the installation of RAM.
  • That opening your computer and installing RAM might violate its warranty. You might want to have a technician install it.
  • Even if you have a number of open slots on your computer, you can only add so much RAM and see a performance improvement.
  • Checking what kind of RAM your PC uses.

RAM is important to how your computer performs. There are several ways you can increase the memory on your PC. You might consider trying a couple different ways and seeing what improves your system the most.

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