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How to Speed Up Your Computer

How to Speed Up Your Computer

Author: Duncan Kelly

When your computer runs slowly, technicians often advise you to add more RAM memory to speed it up. Not only does this normally work, but sometimes the increase in speed is quite dramatic, especially when loading large programs or graphics. So how does this all work?

Well, RAM, or Random Access memory, is a small plug in card of Integrated circuits, which people commonly call "chips." What this means is that this memory is solid state ie. No moving parts, and is thus extremely fast, able to do hundreds of millions of operations every second. Programs, pictures, documents, videos and so on are all stored in this fast memory while you have these various things open and are working on them.

Now if your RAM gets full, and can't fit all this stuff in, the computer starts using what it calls Virtual memory, which is actually just space on your hard drive that is set aside for this emergency. You can see it on your hard drive as a file called pagefile.sys - and it's usually huge, because it has to be at least the size of your RAM. What the computer system does is, it swops stuff in your RAM that you're not actually using right at that moment, putting it onto your hard drive, and then swops what you want to use right then, from your Hard drive to your RAM.

But your hard drive is very slow in accessing data compared to your RAM. And this swopping can get very hectic if your RAM memory size is small. Sometimes when you are in a word processor and you click page down, the computer has to swop the one page of your document out of RAM to hard drive, then pull the next page off the hard drive into RAM. This takes time and gives the impression that your computer is slow. Every time the computer swops a "page" of memory between the RAM and the hard drive, it registers what is called a "page fault." You can view these numbers in your task manager program, under the tab "Performance."

If you think of your computer as a restaurant, and yourself as the customer, then the RAM would be your plate of food, and the hard drive would be the kitchen. If your plate was full but you wanted to add a roast chicken, then you send all your potatoes back to the kitchen, and the waiter brings the chicken back to you. Getting a bigger plate is like getting more RAM. (Either that, or you have to eat less!)

With programs and graphics getting bigger and bigger all the time as new and exciting features are continually added, quite a large RAM memory is necessary even in the most basic computer. 256 MegaBytes is about the absolute minimum you can get away with, 512MB is usable, but I would recommend putting at least 1 Gigabyte (1000MB) of RAM in yoyr PC for comfortable computing. Put in more if you do a lot of graphics, gaming or you're a NASA space shuttle programmer.

And finally, if you can't afford any more RAM, then you can reduce RAM swopping aka Page faults, by closing any programs that you don't need. Try and close any process that uses memory if you don't actually need it. This will give your computer more RAM space to actually do it's job in.

And start saving for RAM!

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Duncan Kelly



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