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How to Find Out If Your PC Has Enough Memory

The more programs running simultaneously on a computer, the slower it runs. The speed decrease should not be noticeable, especially when you switch applications. If it is, your PC may not have enough memory installed. To determine whether your computer has enough memory, try this simple test:

  1. Start up a few programs.

    Some programs are memory hogs, especially the larger applications, such as anything in Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, or perhaps a video editing program, such as Windows Movie Maker. Start up some programs and don’t close them. You want to have a host of programs running all at once (which Windows easily handles).

  2. Press Ctrl+Esc to switch to a running program.

    Like the Alt+Tab key combo, Ctrl+Esc methodically plods through each program window you have open. Keep pressing Ctrl+Esc to cycle through the clutch of programs you opened.

  3. Observe any delay in the program switching.

    When you experience a delay or you can hear the hard drive crunch away, your PC doesn’t have enough memory to properly multitask all those applications.

  4. Close the applications you opened for the test.

What you’re experiencing is the computer making up for a lack of RAM. Windows avoids the Out of Memory error message by swapping out chunks of memory to mass storage (the primary hard drive). That’s the delay you experience when switching programs.

There’s nothing wrong with chunks of memory being swapped to disk and back. It’s a clever solution, and it even has a name you’ve probably heard: virtual memory. Keep in mind that virtual memory is a software workaround for a hardware problem.

To truly resolve the issue, pack your PC with more memory or, if you are running Windows 7 or Windows Vista, use ReadyBoost.

  • Windows 7 requires 1GB of memory in its 32-bit version, but 2GB of memory for the 64-bit version.

  • Windows Vista requires at least 1GB of memory.

  • Windows XP requires at least 512MB of memory to function at a minimum level.

  • Obviously, the more memory your PC has installed, the happier Windows is and the more efficient your computer runs. Oh, and you’ll probably be happy, too.

  • Beyond Windows, the applications you run also require memory. The amount that's needed is listed on the side of the software box. Use the recommended value as opposed to the minimum suggested value. The application requirements are not in addition to what Windows requires.

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