As we get older, trying to cram new information into our brains sometimes means that information from a few years ago may disappear.
In many respects, the same can be said of computers. Here I am referring to the internal memory (known as RAM) that the computer needs in order to run programs, rather than the hard disc (or flash memory) used to store the system files, programs and your documents, photos, music etc.
If your computer is now slower than when you bought it, chances are there have been some major updates to the system itself, plus you will have installed many new programs, some of which are running from the moment your start the computer; any program that has an icon near the clock would fit this category.
Every program that’s running uses up memory. Stopping programs may release some memory but this would mean a program was then not available for use, stopping antivirus software is simply not an option!
When memory gets to around 60% full, the computer will move programs that are running (but inactive at that time) from memory onto a special place on the hard disc, moving it back when there’s room or when you need that program again. This process is called swapping.
Swapping slows the computer down, sometimes it might just ‘hang’ for no reason, often that’s when swapping is happening.
How can you speed things up? If you install more memory, the swapping will happen much less often, if at all. Remember, this has nothing to do with the size, capacity nor contents of the hard disc!
How do you increase memory? With a desktop PC it’s a simple matter of opening the box (with the power off) and installing a new module – hang on! No, it’s not that simple! Memory comes in a multitude of sizes, physical and electronic, different speeds, different connections etc etc. Buy the wrong one and you’ve wasted money. Laptop memory in particular may be very easy or incredibly difficult to install, depending on the make & model.
I would recommend at this point that you speak to a competent computer engineer/technician about what memory you have, and what you might need. Windows 7 (and 8) prefer to run in 4Gb of memory, whilst 7 could run in 2Gb (at a push). Memory of 1Gb (or less) is simply inadequate for current needs.
When your computer starts (boots) it may show you a screen with some basic information, including the amount of memory that’s installed. Otherwise, in Windows, go to the Control Panel and double-click on the System icon, this will tell you the memory size. For most desktop and laptop PCs this would be between 1gb and 4gb. 1gb is one Gigabit, or ~1000Megabits.
Adding new memory to a sluggish system can improve performance by up to 50%. Memory itself costs anything from £20 to £100 for example but would depend on exactly what type was needed. This would not include any engineer charges. All told, it could be several £100 cheaper than replacing a sluggish PC.