Determining the right RAM size

Computers rely on RAM memory to run programs, and RAM memory has a significant effect on performance. Determining the correct amount of RAM for a computer does not need to be guesswork; it can be accurately checked using a simple procedure.

When a computer has sufficient RAM memory, all of the programs that are running will fit in RAM memory, allowing the processor to operate these programs quickly.

Since Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 are all virtual memory systems, they are not limited to the installed RAM memory in a computer. On a computer with too little RAM, Windows will swap out programs that don’t fit into memory and store them in a swap file on the hard drive. Since hard drives are more than a thousand times slower than RAM memory, the performance drops off dramatically as soon as Windows uses all available RAM.

The correct method for determining if a computer has enough RAM is to check the commit charge after the typically used programs have been opened.

1. Press Control-Alt-Delete on the keyboard to display the Windows Security menu.
2. Select the Task Manager button.
3. Select the Performance tab.

Commit charge, total: amount of RAM presently in use by the running programs.
Commit charge, peak: most amount of RAM used since the system was last started.
Physical memory, total: actual amount of RAM memory available.

The commit charge total should be below the physical memory total. Any time the commit charge total or the commit charge peak exceeds the physical memory total, the computer will become significantly slower. At a minimum, enough RAM should be added so that the commit charge total is less than the physical memory total. Ideally, there should be enough memory installed to exceed the commit charge peak.

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