More RAM today, ma’am?

We do a lot of computer cleaning on a daily basis. One of the most frequent complaints (besides the MOST popular – “I think my computer has a virus…”) is that the computer runs slow. One of the most common things we see is lack of memory in a lot of these laptops and desktops. There is another reason – TOO MANY STARTUP PROGRAMS – but we’ll cover that another day…

This lack of memory thing is one of the biggest issues particularly if your computer is stock and uses DDR RAM. Back a few years ago, DDR was still pretty expensive. It was on par with the older SDRAM memory prices, but far better than the ill-conceived RAMBUS technology memory. Eeesh. The prices on RAMBUS made it cheaper to buy a whole new computer with DDR memory than to just upgrade the RAMBUS memory – stupid, just stupid.

We see computers all the time with 256 MB and 512 MB of RAM. This just isn’t enough to give good performance on ANY of the current operating systems. Many times people are convinced that they need to go buy a new computer to get better performance. WRONG!

Most machines that we take in for service can have memory added or replaced to SERIOUSLY increase performance. Sometimes, memory can be just added to existing slots. Most of the time though,  the existing memory is removed and replaced with 2 NEW memory chips. Lower end boards frequently only have 2 memory slots. We hear frequently, “But I already HAD 1 gig of memory, can’t you just add another GB?” Yes, it would be nice if one didn’t have to pay for two 1 GB DDR modules to replace two 512 MB chips, but that’s just the way it is. When we take a machine from a very low amount of computer memory to 2 GB of RAM, the customer is usually ecstatic with the performance. See the list below for recommended memory amounts.

It’s actually rather fun to start with a computer that is limping and grinding along on 256 MB of RAM and boosting it to 2 GB of RAM. The look on a customer’s face when they see their old (and ready to be thrown through a window) machine booting up in a quarter of the time from when they gave it to us for computer service is awesome.

Total cost? It can be as little as 50 bucks. Usually it’s a more, but it does depend on the memory style, type, and quantity that ends up being replaced or added.  No matter how you slice it, it’s a lot cheaper than buying a new computer.

As of late, RAM memory is one of the cheapest features that can be added to a new computer to boost it’s value in store ads. You will see new computers playing up the whole “8 GB of DDR2 RAM memory”. I would have given a left arm for memory amounts like that a few years ago. Up until recently, it was common to almost always suggest buying memory upgrades at the same time as a new computer when my customers ordered or bought a new computer. But due to current price levels, it is NOT uncommon to get a new computer with 4, 6, or 8 gigabytes of RAM already installed.

How did this all happen? Just a couple of years ago, memory fab companies took a bit of a miscue and started building up new plants too fast and too heavy. And then they started producing – and producing – and producing! Memory, due to this huge OVERproduction, has reached relative dirt cheap prices – particularly for the DDR2 & DDR3 memory types. DDR is stil a bit pricier than it’s version 2 & 3 siblings, but it’s come down nicely in relative price.

Consequently, this is one of the absolute best and most cost-effective things you can do to breathe life into an older computer! So, add more memory!

Lizardwebs recommends the following RAM amounts for your OS:

  • Windows XP – 1 GB RAM Minimum, 2 GB should give it some serious punch.
  • Windows Vista – 2 GB RAM Miminum, 4 GB should rock
  • Windows Seven (Windows 7) – 2 GB RAM Miminum, 4 GB should rock

Remember that only the 64 bit OS versions allow the 6 and 8 GB RAM amounts fairly common in new computers to be used. 32 bit OS versions will only recognize up to 4 GB. Seriously, it’s likely overkill at the moment to have 6 or 8 gigs in your box for most users, but if you’re using 32 bit OS systems, it’s not even being recognized!

I run 4 GB on my 32 bit Vista Ultimate box. And the machine rocks! I currently am running Moz with 14 tabs open, Quickbooks, UltraEdit, Defraggler, Blackberry Desktop Manager, Photoshop, Outlook, CuteFTP and several smaller system tray applications all concurrently. 4 GB can handle a LOT.

Do yourself a favor and upgrade your memory today – or, as always, CALL LIZARDWEBS!

Author: Eric Erickson

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