By Richard Heller
One of the easiest and least expensive ways to speed up your computer is by adding more memory or RAM. A couple of years ago, 8 MB of memory was standard in a new computer; now a computer has 32 MB or 64 MB installed when you purchase it. Windows 95 will run in 8 MB RAM while Windows 98 requires 16 MB. Please note that this is the minimum requirement in order to run the operating system and does not include the requirements that your word processor or other program may need.
When you run a computer with Windows 95 or 98, a special file is created on your hard drive that is called a swap file. As you run a program that requires more RAM than you have in your computer, Windows will store part of the program or data in this file, making room in RAM for the program to function. This swapping action causes the computer to slow down due to the fact that your hard drive is a lot slower than RAM.
If you are running more than one program at the same time, or if you are doing photo editing or scanning, the swap file will become quite large. In the case of a large image file, the swap file can grow to be 100 MB or more. As you edit the photo, the part that you are working on will load from the hard drive. With 16 MB of RAM, you may only have enough memory to load in 1 or 2 MB of image; the balance is on the hard drive. When you go to edit another section of the photo, the section that you have already edited is saved to the hard drive and the new section is loaded. This swapping can take anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more.
By adding additional RAM to your computer, you can reduce the use of the swap file and actually cause your computer to run faster. You will be able to run more programs at the same time, edit larger images, and make your Internet access faster. Since most web sites make extensive use of graphics, these are also stored in the swap file, causing you to wait as you go from site to site. Another benefit of adding additional memory is that the computer will lock-up or blue-screen less often.
A few years ago, memory was selling for $50 per megabyte; today memory is selling for less than $1 per megabyte. If you know how to operate a screwdriver, you can probably install the memory yourself. In order to purchase the correct memory for your computer, you will need to know the computer manufacturer and model number along with the amount of memory that is currently installed.
The general rule is that you can never have too much memory. Memory prices have never been lower, and its a lot cheaper than a new computer.
Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.