Speed Up Your Computer (Part 1)

Matt Stauffer

When you first got your computer, it was running like lightning. But now, it’s been a few years, and it’s starting to slow down.

There are few things that go into this slowdown. As time passes, software programs require more and more from your computer, so your same computer won’t be able to handle as many new programs. Also, as time passes, you accumulate junk on your computer–more programs installed, and more leftover crud from previously installed and uninstalled programs.

The two pieces of the speed puzzle that are easiest to manage are your memory (RAM) and hard drive. Total we’ll be talking about memory.

What is memory?

Your memory (usually in increments something like 1GB, 2GB, etc.), or RAM, is the high-speed data storage your computer uses to manage the programs that you have open–specifically, all of their data. It’s like a super-fast hard drive (but super-expensive, which is why it’s so small) that the computer uses to handles programs that are open so it can avoid working with the much-slower hard drive.

The rule here is: Get as much RAM as you can afford. It’s so cheap these days (2GB can be as cheap as $30, which is astonishingly affordable) that you can’t hurt to fill your computer up with as much RAM as you can get.

Finding how much RAM you have/need

For Mac users, open the Activity Monitor app (hard drive / Applications / Utilities / Activity Monitor) and look at the pie graph in the “System Memory” tab. Green is good. If there’s no green, you need to buy more RAM (or close some programs.) Windows users, I don’t have a PC, but I remember that I used to right click the task bar and click “Task Manager”, and there was a tab there to analyze performance which showed my memory usage. Maybe a helpful commenter can tell us more.

A few quick notes on memory:
You only have so many slots for memory in your computer. So if you have 2GB of memory in 2 slots (most laptops only have 2 slots), you will have two 1GB RAM sticks. If you want to upgrade, you’ll have to take out one and replace it with a larger stick. There’s a lot more to learn about your specific computer’s capabilities that I won’t cover here, but Crucial, a very cheap and reputable RAM manufacturer, has a diagnostic tool that you can download for free and which will tell you what RAM you can buy.

That’s it for this very basic intro. Questions? Ask them in the comments.

By Matt Stauffer | Posted: Sep 06, 2011
Category: Miscellaneous | Permalink | Post a comment | Trackback URL.

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