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by JB Burke

Q. My 4 year old XP computer has 1GB of RAM. Will adding more memory make it run faster?

A. Yours is a 32 bit computer, so a maximum of 3GB or 4GB is all it can address. When you boot your system, much of your 1GB is immediately used by Windows. When you start a program, such as Word, Excel or a browser such as Firefox or Internet Explorer, a lot of software is read off the hard disk and loaded into memory. You may have several programs loaded – word processor, spreadsheet, browser windows, etc.

Together, the total size of these programs adds up to a great deal more than your 1GB of RAM. So the system begins to “swap” the contents of RAM to an area on disk called the Swap File. It shuffles the contents of RAM in and out to the swap file as required by whichever program needs it at the moment. As you can see, the more programs you have running, and the more space they require in RAM, the more swapping will take place. And the speed of your disk swap file is much slower that the speed of your RAM, hence the less swapping the better.

So especially if you have multiple programs loaded at the same time, then more memory can be a great performance aid. In general, I always suggest installing the maximum memory your system can support.

Note – be sure to get the exact memory specified by your computer documentation. If you’re not sure, consult an expert.

Published: Courier 9/19/10 - Page 5C