Does my computer know that extra RAM is there?

I switched to a laptop a few months back and had the manufacturer (dell) add more RAM to make it faster, taking me from 64 to 128 MB RAM. Still, it isn’t as fast as I thought it would be.
Yes, I’ve checked out my registry to be sure I don’t have a lot of stuff running there all the time. And I don’t run that much–I’m not a big graphics person, mostly it’s just microsoft office programs: word, excel, outlook, access. But if I use all 4 of these, it is really slow, and my boot time is slow slow slow.
So, how can I check to see if my computer KNOWS that it has the additional RAM available and is using it properly?

It sounds like you are using a Windows product. Right click on “My Computer” and select properties. It should tell you how much RAM is detected on that first screen.

If you see 128MB listd during the post (the first things you see when turning on your PC) then your PC see the extra memory just fine.

Extra memory is not a panacea for all computer problems. While it never hurts it rarely helps people as much as they think it will.

Your boot times are more dictated by your harddrive than your memory. Laptop harddrives are particularly slow compared to their desktop brethren. No matter how much memory you have the data still needs to be read from the disk into memory so that will most likely be your limiting factor.

Running all four Office apps at once is going to slow down any PC with only 128MB of RAM. Windows itself can gobble 60 or so MB by itself (depending on the OS and other factors that number can vary quite a bit). Once you start eating into your RAM the PC switches over to Virtual Memory which is on your harddrive. Virtual Memory is MUCH slower than your standard RAM.

You might check your harddrive to see how much free space is left. If the drive gets close to filled performance can be severly affected. In addition, you need to see that your harddrive space is unfragmented. The Virtual Memroy mentioned before needs contiguous space to work. If that largest open block on your PC is (say) 20MB your PC will spend a ton of time swapping data in and out of virtual memory and severly hamper performance. You should have around 250MB minimum of free, contiguous disk space for your swap file to function efficiently. Add to that some extra space on top of that and I’d say you should have at least 300MB of free space available on your harddrive minimum.

Adam and Whack, thanks for the tips. I checked my harddrive, still have 2.5GB free space (out of total of 4.5GB hard drive, so that should be plenty.
I’m intrigued about the virtual memory though; any tricks or settings you’d recommend for faster fileswapping and the like. I guess I’d like to know if there are any manual settings you’d recommend, rather than letting smug windows and gates determine what’s best?

The amount of free space on your hard drive is not an issue, it’s the fact that laptop hard drives are slow. Since you’re using Windows, defragmenting your hard drive may help a little bit. But you’re not going to get fantastic performance with MS Office no matter what you do. It’s against the Laws of Nature.

In the ‘old’ days (Windows 3.1 and Windows 95) you did not want Windows managing the swap file (or virtual memory…same thing). However, nowadays it is generally best to let Windows mange it itself (much as I hate to say that). Over the years Microsoft has learned a few things and better management of virtual memory is one of them. In some relatively rare cases adjusting the settings on your own can improve performance but usually it’s best to leave it be. I have also seen articles talking about having swap files present on different or multiple partitions or harddrives but none of these resulted in any stellar performance increases and didn’t seem worth the hassle.

So, if you have Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 or maybe an early version of Windows 98 fiddling with your swap file might help. Windows 98SE and beyond do a fine job of managing themselves.

Still, if you feel compelled to twiddle with it yourself the loose rule of thumb was a swap file twice the size of the RAM present in your PC. In the ‘old’ days some people suggested keeping the swap file as small as possible since if it is there Windows will use it (Windows loves gobbling resources…the more the better). Some people I know turned it off altogether to force the PC to use RAM only. However, the last time I tried that (on a 98 machine I think) Windows did not like it at all and ran like crap. It’ll let you turn it off but Windows expects to see a swap file and shits itself if it isn’t there.

One other thing…with 2.5GB of free space you almost certainly have enough free contiguous space for your swap file. Still, a defrag never hurts and sometimes (rarely but sometimes) improves performance a bit.

In Pablito’s case it doesn’t seem that it is an issue but it certainly can be. If the hard drive is close to filled or badly fragmented the largest swap file size gets to be quite small. If the amount of memory needed exceeds the RAM + Swap File Windows will start shovelling data in and out of the swap file in an attempt to make room for whatever it is you’re trying to do. If your harddrive is getting thrashed I guarantee your performance is gonna suck BIG TIME (I’ve seen it happen). At least, that will be the case with systems that have IDE hard drives which most desktop computers are (SCSI by its nature affects system performance less during disk access than IDE does but you will still see an effect).

I agree that disk speed affects overall speed more than the amount of memory, but you have to consider CPU speed and front side bus speed.

Currently, desktops are running at 1.9 gigahertz CPU, and FSB of 266mz.

A laptop a few years old is probably running a 266 mz CPU and an FSB of 66 to 100 mz

Extra memory is good!

I can’t believe the difference in my Dell desktop with the addition of 256 Megs to make it 512 Megs total.

Going from 128 to 256 made no noticable difference.

Whack-A-Mole is correct, though. The startup process is determined by hard disk speed and how many programs you run at startup.

Do a CTRL-ALT-DEL after you start up to see how many programs are running. If there are a lot, you should look at them closely to see if you need any of them. Real Player starts up, some of the other internet things start up, who needs em? The only thing I have running when I start up is Explorer.

You can do a selected startup by clicking Start, then Run and then entering “msconfig” without the parentheses . There is a tab on there called startup. Click on that and deselect the programs you don’t want to run on startup. I deselected most of them, leaving ScanRegistry, Task Monitor and LoadPowerProfile the only ones still checked.

I just went from 128 to 512 on my desktop with little to no noticeable difference in speed. The total shows in POST and in My Computer – properties. Is there anything else I can do to utilize the extra RAM?

Asus P3B-F moboard
PIII 550
Memory = 2 X 256K PC100 ECC Kingston Value Ram
Relatively few items run at startup, just the bare necessities, including the Dlink network files and virus scan.
And since there is always a monkey wrench to be admitted to: shortly after installing the new RAM, I installed (for the first time) Norton’s Systemworks 2000. I’ve heard that this is a memory hog, but I figured w/ 512 it shouldn’t be noticeable.

Man, you think you know your way around Windows and someone comes along and shows you msconfig. Never seen that before, pretty neat.

At the windows DOS prompt type: mem

Gives you a list of what you got for memory.

To find out what your HD is like, type at the Dos prompt:

To check your HD for *.chk files (lost clusters) just type at the dos prompt:

If startup speed is important to you too, adding lots and lots of RAM could just as easily lengthen you startup time. See, when your computer POSTs, it does a count of all the RAM in your system, the more RAM, the longer this count takes. On my setup w/ 256 MB of RAM, it takes a noticeable (couple of seconds) amount of time to finish.

As for adjusting your virtual memory settings, it’s probably best just to let Windows do it for you like Whack-a-Mole said. If you have enough RAM, it won’t even create a swap file for you, leaving your hard drive free and unencumbered. If you end up loading up a ton of programs and run out of RAM, it will recreate that swap file (which wouldn’t happen if you disabled it). That’s what happened to me when I upped to 256 MB. Swap file bye bye-o, hasn’t come back since.

      • Uh, -no. To see any improvement, you have to run programs that are heavily RAM-resident, such as 3-D games or media creation. Many of these programs check how much RAM is available, and adjust themselves to use all they can. Ordinary (office) programs don’t; they have a set amount they need to use to work reasonably well, but don’t have any way of detecting or using any more RAM beyond that.
  • Related Note: I have an old PII 350/320 megs PC and recently put together a T-bird 1200/256 DDR. Both running Win98, the time they take to start loaded with roughly the same software, is just about the same, ~35 seconds. - MC

you guys are amazing. I go to sleep, then wake up this morning with lots to things to try on my humble computer. I appreciate everyone’s suggestions. Now if I can figure out a way to keep from having to hear or see microsoft’s window picture and chime when I boot.

In Computer properties I usually set my computer to ‘Network Server’. This speeds things up for me. Also I run System Suite 2000 often as it has defrag for files but also for the registry. My registry needs defragging & cleaning too. This is for me, w98 to Me as Im not sure what OS the OP is using.

This is also doable. I’ve never tried but in the Boot tab of Tweak UI, you can disable the splash screen. Assuming this works, you shouldn’t see the picture when you load. I’ve also come across sites on the web that have replacement splash screens. I’ve never cared enough to switch mine so I never bothered going to those sites to find out how to do it but they do exist.

As for the chime, just go into Control Panel > Sounds and change them.

Pablito, I checked & checked but I couldn’t find what operating version you are using. Is this W95?