No, I’m not talking about a male sheep. I’m talking about Random Access Memory. Your computer has several types of memory. In a previous post, we’ve talked about the cache, a temporary storage-type memory that will keep information so you can browse faster. There are other types of memory as well, but I want to talk about two basic ones: ROM and RAM.
Let’s start with ROM. ROM, or Read-only Memory, is integrated into your motherboard –the circuits that tell your computer what to do when and with what. For instance, if you want to save a piece of information on your hard disk, the ROM on your motherboard has the information to go from the commands you give from your keyboard or your mouse to writing it on the disk drive. The information in ROM is non-volatile, meaning that when you turn off your computer, it keeps whatever it has in it. It’s also unchangeable. To improve on ROM, you basically have to change computers.
If you have a tendency to have several programs open at the same time, say your word processor, your browser, your email program, and/or you find your computer is getting sluggish when it never used to be (and you’ve gone trhough all the spring cleaning steps in my previous posts) then what you may need is extra RAM, or Random Access Memory. The explanation for the name is a bit technical, so I won’t go into it but, contrary to ROM, RAM is wiped clean every time your computer either refreshes it, or is turned off.
Next to the Central Processing Unit (CPU) in your computer, RAM is one of the most important element in your computer performance. Adding RAM may be even better (and certainly cheaper) than getting a new computer!
With the advent of more powerful operating systems (e. g., Windows XP) and more complex software (e. g., Microsoft Office), your poor computer’s memory may be taxed to the max. RAM puts into temporary memory as much information as it is capable of so your computer doesn’t have to go onto your hard disk constantly to find it, which greatly slows up operations. Think of RAM as a bucket. The bigger the bucket, the more stuff you can put in and dump at the other end.
So, you’ll ask, how do I add RAM? The best way is to go to your computer dealer or a computer repair store when they can do it for you. The trick is to select the right one, based on your CPU and motherboard configuration. They will also be able to tell you how much you should add (RAM comes in multiples of 128 kilobytes) to improve your system performance. If you’re reluctant to pay for service, think on that. I recently bought 512K of RAM, and with installation, the bill came to $135CDN. Way cheaper than a new computer.
How can you tell how much RAM you already have?
- In Windows, click on Start, then Control Panel.
- Click on System.
In Windows XP, if you’re in Classic View, double-click on System.
If you’re in Category View, click on Performance and Maintenance at the bottom, then System.
- This leads you to the System Properties. Click on the General tab. You’ll see something like this:
Here’s what the website How stuff works recommends for RAM:
“If your system responds slowly or accesses the hard drive constantly, then you need to add more RAM. If you are running Windows XP, Microsoft recommends 128MB as the minimum RAM requirement. At 64MB, you may experience frequent application problems. For optimal performance with standard desktop applications, 256MB is recommended. If you are running Windows 95/98, you need a bare minimum of 32 MB, and your computer will work much better with 64 MB. Windows NT/2000 needs at least 64 MB, and it will take everything you can throw at it, so you’ll probably want 128 MB or more.”
This is the bare minimum and I’d recommend you go higher than this. Believe me, your computer will thank you. You’ll have stopped kicking it.