Computer Memory Requirements: A view from the trenches

Posted on March 27, 2008. Filed under: Hardware | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

One of the common themes I am experiencing on service calls is computers without enough system memory or RAM. If you have an “entry” level PC with the following you may be experiencing slow performance:

  • Less than 512 MB RAM,
  • Shared or on-board Video which uses system RAM to render graphics.
  • Bloatware such as that which comes “free” with a new PC. Often the configuration out of the box has several, if not many, applets and programs running, by default, on start up that you never access or use.
  • Configuration utilities for video, sound and the like. In my experience most PC users simply set up those particular setting once and leave them alone. If so, why have a utility running at all?
  • Computer maintenance and driver download utilities. Sure, on a new PC run them (esp. if you have lots of RAM) but once the computer gets older than 2 years old consider deleting them. If the drivers are available it is often easier to simply download them at the manufacturer’s site or they are distributed in Windows XP and Vista updates (note: though in specific cases getting the driver from the mfg’s site is much preferred).
  • Anti Virus Programs: You need one. But their protection comes at a price. Usually in the use of system resources. Review not only its effectiveness but the cost in processing power you may incur if it is a resource hog.

The impact to the computer user is slower performance and on service calls this can translate into increased costs.

Personally the Kingston memory recommendationsfor XP and Vista are too low. From experience I am recommending a minimum of 1 GB for Windows XP for general computing and up to 4 GB (if supported) for gaming. With Vista 2 GB for general/laptop computing is a bare minimum and I recommend 4 GB for general computer use and as much as you can afford for gaming.

The main issue is to buy a computer with a memory upgrade path. Try to get one that has memory slots free so you can easily insert a memory SIMM later if your computer needs change.

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