The Layman’s Guide to Diagnosing and Fixing a Slow Windows Computer. Part Three – Adding Memory to Your Computer

Your computer’s memory, usually known as RAM (Random Access Memory), determines how fast your PC can “think” and how many things it can think about at one time. Most people when buying or building a new PC use the old rule of thumb, buy the maximum amount of memory that they can afford and is needed for the purposes for which the PC will be used. However, as we add programs our memory requirements can grow.  And more and more programs want you to download and install new features and content on a regular basis. We get popups about new updates constantly. Some of these end up taxing our current memory beyond its capacity to “think” efficiently.

As these new features are added and our needs change, so do our memory requirements. Adding more memory can be one of the quickest and easiest ways of speeding up an older computer. Following is a step-by-step procedure for increasing the memory in your computer.

Determine the amount of memory currently in the computer.

On your desktop there is probably a “My Computer” icon.  If not I would recommend placing it there. It is highly valuable for gaining quick info about your computer.   To do this in XP:

•  Right click anywhere on your desktop to bring up the “Display Properties” window.
•  Click on the “Desktop” tab
•  Click “Customize Desktop”
•  Under “Desktop Icons”, put a checkmark next to “My Computer”. This procedure is pretty much the same for all other Windows operating systems.

Now return to your desktop and:

•  Right-click the “My Computer” icon and click on “Properties”. It should open to the General tab and give you a lot of information about your current system including the manufacturer (if it isn’t a custom built PC), Operating System, processor speed, and amount of RAM.  RAM stands for Random Access Memory and simply means computer memory.
•  Note the amount and speed of your current RAM.

Determine how much memory your computer will support.

ETC (Formerly EdgeTech)has a great memory configurator for determining just how much memory you can add. If you know the manufacturer and model number of your system or motherboard, you can go to the main page ( and “Browse by Manufacturer”. Click through to your exact model and look for the text box with the Standard Configuration of your model (you may have to scroll down). This will tell you how many sockets you have available and how much RAM your System will hold.

If you just know the type of RAM you need, you can Shop by Type in the left hand navigation bar of the site.

Max out your memory

It’s true that you don’t have to go to the absolute maximum.  Any added memory should speed things up. You could research the requirements of each program installed on your computer, do a quick calculations of how many of these programs you usually have open at any given time, and go from there. Myself, I just max things out.  If I am going to be in my PC and putting in memory, I want to add just as much as I can so I don’t have to do it again soon. Of course, I work for a memory manufacturer. Buy as much memory as you feel you need.

Install the memory

This is the part that seems to get many laypersons nervous. Don’t be scared.  Replacing memory is actually very quick and easy. ETC (formerly Edgetech), has several good videos explaining how to install your new memory. The following two will explain how to do basic memory installation.

For more specific videos (like replacing memory in a Macbook Pro) search ETC’s site.

Check the memory

Start the machine and check the general tab under your My Computer icon to make sure that the memory was recognized by your system.

One note – some older systems needed to have memory modules installed in tandem.  That is, two sticks of memory of the same size, one each in one socket of each bank. (Most desktops have two banks of two sockets). If you are having trouble with your system accepting the new memory, check the manufacturer’s site to see if this is the case with your machine.

That’s it. This may not be a cure-all but adding memory will increase the speed at which your computer can think.

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