Will 1 Gig of RAM rock my computing world, or just waste money?

My brother recently added more RAM to his 2.3 Ghz (clock speed) Dell machine, bringing it up to 1 Gig of RAM and pronouncing that it gives a notably faster, more pleasant computing experience. Follow my lead, he said.

My current PC is a 2 gigahertz Dell with 512 RAM. I run mainly MS Word and Excel, though I recently got a digital camera and will be horsing around with Photoshop. I also play with MS Publisher, from time to time and run music by way of Windows Media Player. Unless someone triples my IQ, I doubt I will be doing all of this simultaneously.


  1. When I have an open Word document and Windows Media Player is playing, the CD drive is constantly revved up to speed. The noise is irritating. Will 1 Gig of RAM change this? (If not, what will?)

  2. Running AVG anti-virus while listening to Media Player really slows the machine down. Will 1 Gig of RAM change that much?

  3. What changes large or small will I notice? Somewhere on this board, a seemingly knowledgeable poster claimed that the biggest increase is often from more RAM, not a somewhat faster clock speed. Correct?

  1. When I have an open Word document and Windows Media Player is playing, the CD drive is constantly revved up to speed. The noise is irritating. Will 1 Gig of RAM change this? (If not, what will?)

Using a slower machine with the same amount 0of memory as you have, I had a similar experience when using a Plextor writer, that didn’t happen with a Lite-On writer. DumpindgWindows Media Player cured that.

  1. Running AVG anti-virus while listening to Media Player really slows the machine down. Will 1 Gig of RAM change that much?

Same machine as above, this only holds true for the first 40 seconds while AVG checks programs running in memory, after which there is no noticeable loss of speed.

  1. What changes large or small will I notice? Somewhere on this board, a seemingly knowledgeable poster claimed that the biggest increase is often from more RAM, not a somewhat faster clock speed. Correct?

Generally held to be the truth but seems to depend on the overall capabilities of the machine and the software applications.


Are you using the media player to play a CD? copy it yo your hard drive and remove the CD from the drive. no disk in the drive = no noise and less wear on the CD drive.

Generally more ram is better to a point. I’ve noticed that my wifes 2.6ghz Dell is not nearly as snappy as the 1.8ghz box I built. I have 1gig of ram and she only has 256megs. I’m planning on sticking a gig in it after we recover from Christmas.

More memory helps if you are using all the memory currently in your system. You can get an idea of how much memory you are currently using by looking at the Task Manager in XP or 2000 (right click on taskbar, select Task Manger). Look at the Performance tab in the Task Manager and see the PF usage. If you are using more than the current amount of RAM in your system, then getting more memory will help.

The reason more memory helps in this situation is because when your system uses more memory than is available in RAM, it starts using the disk as overflow memory storage. The disk is very slow compared to real RAM and the swapping in and out of memory from RAM to disk can slow your system down.

If you are not using all of the RAM in your system, adding more memory won’t make your system faster. So say you’re using 400MB of the 512MB in your system. If you go up to 1GB of RAM, you won’t notice a performance difference. But if you’re using 700MB of memory, then going up to 1GB will help.

Every time you notice your Hard Drive chugging when your not directly accessing it (copying files, listening to MP3’s, loading game levels etc), your computer thinks it’s run out of RAM and is using the HD as a sort of psuedoRAM that is about 1000 time slower. Of course, if you let windows manage everything, it gets quite paranoid and uses the Hard Disk whenever possible, even if you have plenty of RAM. The best way to find out is to open up Task Manager by doing Ctrl+Alt+Del and keep an eye on Peak Commit Charge in the performance tab. Perform the most streneous, most multitasking activity you could envision on your PC and then check what the Peak value is. If it’s less than, say, 400000, then I would stick with your 512MB and turn off your swap file. If it’s more than that, then it might be worthwhile upgrading to 1gb.

If you’re about to plunge into the world of Photoshop, you’ll appreciate the extra RAM. Photoshop loves RAM.

When you open a large image in Photoshop, especially one you’ve created multiple layers and additional channels in, Photoshop farms out part of the image info to a temp file. The more RAM you have, the less of the image it swaps out to temp file. So then if you apply a filter or rotate the image 3° counterclockwise or even just scroll around in the image, if it has to read back from the temp file extensively to do that it’s a whole lot slower than the same machine would be with double the RAM.

You didn’t specify what OS you are running. 512+ is a waste in 98.

That depends on how you use the extra RAM. What I would do is have the computer reserve half of the memory for a virtual drive within the RAM itself, pre-load your most used apps, libraries and files onto the drive. That way you can avoid using the slow moving parts of your physical HD. Doing this will result in a very impressive performance increase on your desktop.

Other than that… I do not think that anything beyond 512mb is especially useful.

Thanks, folks. BTW, I’m running XP.

I did as you and Myglaren said–copying my (legit) CD to the hard drive. But should one really remove Windows Media Player? Doesn’t a music CD need something like WMP to play? Please explain.

I opted for a gig with my 2.8 Dell. It seems to run faster than my 3.0 IBM with only half that much RAM at work. Both run XP, but the latter is networked, so maybe that has something to do with it. They have virtually identical software, too.

filmore and Shalmanese have it right. Measure how much memory you’re using now. If it’s more than the 512m you have, upgrade.

Try ripping your Cd’s to mp3 or ogg or ape, or whatever format you prefer to use, then either keep windows media player, or better yet use somehting like winamp to listen to your music.

I wouldn’t remove Windows Media Player, but most people that I know don’t use it for playing music. As you’ve seen, its too much of a system hog and there are other players that tread lighter on your system. I’ve used Music Match Jukebox for years but there are many others out there.

Another vote for WinAmp. :cool: Rip all your CDs and you can make custom playlists or just shuffle play your entire collection!

512MB should be enough for most everyday tasks like Word, Excel, browsing the Internet and getting email. Photoshop, on the other hand, will want
eed as much RAM as you can throw at it. As other have said though, wait until your system is doing many things at once or seems to be slowing down., then check your memory useage with Task Manager. I have 1GB of RAM in my machine and rarely go under 300MB for free RAM unless I’m running Firefox and several instances of BitTornado, both of which are known memory hogs.

To answer your specific questions:

Does this only happen if you have Word and Media Player open? I ask because many brands of optical drives are notorious for being “noisy”. If you go to a CD\DVD review site (like this one), you will note that almost every review details the amount of noise a drive makes, from “as quiet as a churchmouse” to “sounds like an freakin’ jet plane taking off!” It’s possible that you simply have a loud drive; it’s not exactly uncommon. You can try another media player (I like WinAMP myself) to see if the problem is with your drive of your player. I’m not a huge WMP fan myself, but in this case, I think it might be the drive itself. If this is the case, then you’d need to “rip” the tracks to your computer for truly “silent” listening.

Maybe. But with virus scanners, it’s not so much RAM as it is disk activity. Anti-virus scanners typically check (almost) each and every file on your system whilst checking for viruses. The “IDE standard” (the way hard drives work) dictates that each channel is restricted to either one read or write at the same time. So, what’s probably happening is that the virus scanner’s request to access files on your system is interefering with the “flow” of data that WMP needs to play your file. An easy way to maybe get around this is to make sure that your CD-ROM drive and system drive are on different IDE channels, or buy a new hard drive for all your music files and place it on a different channel that the one your system hard drive uses. It might be all for naught though - I have Symantec Antivirus (that’s Symantec, not Norton) and I get system slowdowns when it’s doing a virus scan and I have a 3GHz processor and 1GB of RAM.

Probably not much actually, unless you have an application that specifically needs more RAM, like Photoshop. Once an average desktop PC gets over 512MB of RAM, it’s not about making the computer faster, it’s about making it wider. This means that you should be able to do more “stuff” at once with more RAM.

Look at it this way… let’s say you’re working on a picture in Photoshop that causes the app to need 300MB of RAM. That leaves 212MB of RAM available to Windows and any other open applications on your current system. If you upgraded your PC to 1GB of RAM and opened the same image, you’d have 700MB of RAM left. This is a gracious plenty for Windows and any other apps you’d have open, like a web browser and email client. But lots of people don’t run apps that specifically need that much RAM. Keep checking Task Manager and see if you ever get “low” on RAM whilst doing your everyday tasks. If you do, then go ahead and upgrade. The computer I’m typing this on now originally had 512MB of RAM - upgrading it to a GB hasn’t made the “system” seem any faster, but it does make certain applications like Photoshop faster. And I can have much more stuff open at once now. But did I get that “OMG WOW!” feeling after I upgraded? No.

If you’re gonna play around a lot with Photoshop, you might wanna check your video card. The more memory it has, the less strain on the ram/virtual ram.

For media player, I prefer Media Player Classic which at first look strongly resembles the old media player from W95. It’s GNU open license and can handle just about any format. It will still use some ram, but it won’t try to do what a bunch of the other players do, i.e. try to connect to the internet, pester you about upgrades, hide in the registry and sneak into the system tray when you don’t notice, insist on telling you the latest entertainment news. It plays video and music and it does so well.

I’ve just bought a Dell and it came with a free upgrade of doubling existing RAM (512 to 1024). I’d say I didn’t waste my money :slight_smile:

Well, aside from the fact that MPC comes with a bunch of codecs that the user may or may not have, you could just as easily use MPLAYER2.EXE, which doesn’t “look like” the old player… it is the old player. I use it almost exculsively for playing short clips or playing shows while I;m working - i.e. anything that I don’t want to see full-screen.

How do you do this?

More RAM won’t shake your planet unless you’re already experiencing a lot of hard disk activity when not doing something obviously file access related (aka threshing). If you’re playing online games (notorious RAM hogs) this might manifest itself as stuttering, as if the little monitor elves (bear with me) have hiccups. More RAM definitely provides diminishing returns after 1 Gig. I’ve seen people suggest 1 Gig as an absolute minimum even for desktop use. These people should be mocked and scorned. I’d say no to all your questions unless you have the dreaded thresh-monster to stay.