Tuesday Tech Tips

I’m thinking it’s something in the water…or the latest updates from Microsoft.

Several people I know have been complaining about how slow their systems have been running. A few of these systems I have worked with for years in some cases and they have been doing fine on a budget type setup all along. Lately, the trend has been Windows XP systems, with less than 1GB of memory have been either running very slowly (30 minute boot up, then minutes for programs to open), or locking up when a few programs are opened at once.

For all these years, this hasn’t been a big issue, at best being a bit irritating. Now it has moved beyond mild frustration.

I’ve checked the systems for spyware and they are basically clean. Maybe a few cookies of no significance. The hard drives are not cram packed and about to burst, two conditions that used to be the main causes of very slow systems. So, what is causing this?

Windows XP Service Pack 3 came out many months back, but it’s not unusual for me to find a system here of there that has’t been updated. On top of that, there have been patches, to include fairly regualr ones recently. I always run the Windows patches when I get the indication for most of the work there is to keep your system safe from attacks via the net.

My very rough cut analysis is this: The operating system, regardless of who wrote it has to load first in memory. So, think of your available memory like a water bucket. The size? Your choice. Bigger buckets cost more. Now, in order to keep your bucket from being blown away, you have to put a brick in it, which, at first has one volume. So, your available memory to work is diminished by the brick’s volume. So, things are fine, until one day, the wind picks up. The current brick, by weight, lets the bucket blow over and the water runs out. The fix? A heavier brick, made from the same material, therefore, it has a larger volume. So now you have same bucket, bigger brick, and less room for water. If the wind blows even harder, then you upsize the brick again. Pretty soon, you can’t get much water in at all.

Solution? Bigger bucket. The brick will remain a constant, but now there is more room for water. Maybe a lot more room.

Back to the real world of computers, that has been the solution. Buy more memory. The 30 minute boot is down to 8 minutes (many add ins here), and the applications take some time, but not minutes anymore.

There are plenty of things to consider when you buy RAM for your computer. There are basically two type of memory used in the current crop of machines: Double Density Ram (DDR) and DDR2. They are not interchangeable. first you need to know which your computer uses. DDR, not being in mainstream production now, is more expensive, even though it is less capable. It matters not, if you’re not able to purchase a new system right now, so…bite the bullet if you’re one of these systems. DDR2 is widely used and there are still many manufacturers out there in production, It’s cheap right now, and if you plan to (or maybe have to) hang on to a system that isn’t but a few years old, now is a good time to max it out on RAM. I just paid $49 for 4GBs of DDR2-PC6400 this past weekend at < ahref="http://www.compusa.com">CompUSA, name brand stuff with lifetime warranty, too.

DDR3 is in the newest computers, and the prices are coming down, but, even the big manufacturers haven’t made DDR3 the most commonly used type of memory. You will see it in gaming/graphics systems, and in a year or two, it mostly likely will be the most commonly used memory.

Once you have figured out what type of memory used, then you have to figure out how much your motherboard will hold. Normal systems come with 2 to 4 slots, with notebooks sometimes having one or two. The really new systems, using DDR3 can have 6 slots. Each slot if engineered with a limit as to the maximum capacity of the chip installed. While you might find one that has more memory on the stick, the slot will only allow it’s limit to be used and displayed to the operating system. If you have a brand name system, you can head over to Crucial Memory and select your manufacturer and model, and the page will tell you what type of memory you need and the maximum configuration for your computer. If your system was put together by a friend of a corner Mom & Pop place, you’ll have more homework to do to find your answers.

Anyhow, I believe the requirements of protecting your system with Windows XP has grown, so if your computer seems to bogging down, I’d advise you to put in all the memory you can and go from there. Know this also: The “bad guys” aren’t letting up. Systems requirements will continue to grow. Always nice to get all the RAM you can in a systems.

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