Created: 17 Jun 2008 ::: Last updated: 17 Jun 2008
Applies to: Win95 Win98 WinMe Win 2000/NT WinXP WinVista MacOS
By Jason Kerluck
If your computer has been running slow lately, it might be that you’ve just got too much stuff on it running at the same time. As a result, your hard drive might be chattering all the time. You can try to remove some of those extra applications, but what if you actually use them all?
This slowdown can be due to quite a few reasons. Have you checked for spyware lately? There are many applications that help find and remove these malicious infestations, such as PC Tools’ Spyware Doctor. If you haven’t got it yet, get it and try it.
You can also try webroot.com’s Spy Sweeper. A word of caution: it claims to be free, and the sweep is free, too, but if the application detects any spyware or adware, and you want to do something about it, the next step would be to subscribe to it, that is, buy it. Many software developers and vendors act this way, and this is not to say that it is the correct approach. If they let you clean up your system, say, once, to try whether the application works, and then ask for money, that’s one thing. Pretending to be free while, in fact, demanding payment, now, that borders on the ridiculous.
But that’s neither here nor there for our purposes.
What else could have slowed your computer down?
There can be other issues, such as your hard drive itself needs a bit of cleaning up using defragmentation. By the way, that’s something you ought to do regularly: your computer and your nerves will thank you for it.
Your hard drive can also contain a whole bunch of hidden files. You can and should get rid of them forthwith.
Last but definitely not least, have a peek at your system tray and consider cleaning up your Start Up menu, too. Here’s how.
When everything else fails, it may be that what you really need to do is add more RAM to your computer. You’ve probably heard of RAM before, but you may not be sure what it is. To really understand RAM, think of your computer as a digital kitchen, and data is on the menu.
Let’s start by imagining your hard drive is the pantry, stuffed full of the raw unprocessed ‘food’ that makes up your music, pictures, and games. You can also think of the processor as a very hungry diner at a table. The ‘diner’ will quickly eat any ‘food’ in front of it, but the bowl in front of the diner is not large enough to hold all of the food at once. So there is the pot of cooked food on the stove between the diner (processor) and the pantry (hard drive). That’s the RAM.
Now, let’s take our image of RAM image further, and ask: What happens when the diner (processor) runs out of the food in his bowl? Well, he goes to the stove and gets more cooked and ready-to-eat food out of the pot (RAM). But if the pot is too small, the diner runs out of the ready-to-eat food, and has to go to the pantry (hard drive) to cook up some more.
This is slow for both the imaginary diner, and your real computer.
Adding more RAM allows your computer to have more data ready to ‘eat’ when it needs it. And the more data that’s ready for that hungry processor, the less often your hard drive has to chatter away to supply the processor.
So if your hard drive seems to be running all the time, and you can’t find any more programs to remove, and you’ve checked all the potential issues above, then more RAM might be that best choice on the menu.
Great, so now you know what RAM is and why it’s in your computer. So what can you do with this newfound understanding? Why not look to see if you computer needs more?
There are only few types of RAM available today, but it can still get confusing to tell them apart, given that they all usually look the same. It’s always best to take a stick of your RAM with you when shopping for new RAM, or at least knowing the type in your computer. More often than not, most computers now use DDR RAM. The most common type of DDR RAM is DDR2, with the older DDR and the newer DDR3 also common in today’s systems.
There are some even older types you encounter only rarely these days. The precursor to DDR was SDRAM. The DDR stands for Double Data Rate and was twice as fast as SDRAM initially. The ill-fated RDRAM type was supposed to take over from SDRAM, but RDRAM was expensive and quickly fell out of favor compared to cheaper DDR. While RAM is usually limited to the computers motherboard, RAM can also be found on your Video Card.
As in any case with RAM, more is always better. And with RAM prices being at an all-time low, why not add more? You can buy 1GB of RAM for around $50 and really improve your performance. And installing that extra RAM is easy, as well.
Inside your tower you’ll see the RAM slots fairly easily. They are about 8 inches long, and if empty, have a long trench running up the middle for the stick to fit. Adding a new stick is as easy as lining up the new stick with the slot, making sure the notches in the stick line up with bumps in the trench. Press down on both ends until the two end arms click into place.
But what if all of the slots are already full, and you have new sticks of RAM that have more memory on them than the old ones? Easy! You just remove the old RAM stick: lower those two white arms to release it. The stick will just pop right out. Place the new stick over the slot and press it in until it clicks.
With a bigger RAM 'pot’, your hungry computer won’t have to go to the pantry nearly as often, and can keep munching away on all your pictures, music, and videos.