Microsoft Windows is a Greedy Memory Hog, the Cure is to Feed it

By: Lyle Cochran

Choosing RAM (Random Access Memory) has become much simpler these days. Intel has adopted AMD's standard DDR memory for PC motherboards. DDR (Double Data Rate) RAM technology was originally developed by graphics engineers as video card memory. DDR is more efficient and affordable than the RDRAM (RAMBUS Dynamic Random Access Memory) that Intel was using. Recently, engineers have pushed the DDR technology to DDR3 increasing motherboard bus speed even more.

A very important thing to remember when purchasing and installing RAM: If you use more than 1 module, make sure they are compatible. It is a good idea to buy modules from the same manufacturer insuring you get the same module type and bus speed. Quite often memory modules made by different manufacturers do not work and play well together.

Finding the correct RAM modules for your PC:

If you know the manufacturer name and the model of your PC motherboard, finding the proper RAM is a simple matter. Visit any online RAM distributor and search for your motherboard model. Or check your motherboard manual for the type of RAM to use. Also, visiting the motherboard manufacturer's website will give you a list of RAM modules that have been tested to work with your motherboard.

Don't know what motherboard your PC has? No problem. Search the online RAM distributors for your PC's model number that is usually found on the back of the case. If you are the curious type, visit your PC manufacturer's website support files and you can find detailed specifications for your PC.

How Much Is Enough?

To set the record straight, there is no such thing as "too much" RAM. Buying too little RAM is the mistake most often made by PC buyers trying to save a few bucks. The amount of RAM installed has a direct affect on the speed, performance and stability of your computer. In some cases, increasing the amount of RAM in your PC will reduce the chances of a Windows crash. Some applications will cause Windows to suddenly shut down for seemingly no reason when they run out of RAM.

Personal Recommendations:

These recommendations are form personal experience as a PC technician. They are not recommendations of Microsoft or any PC manufacturer.

  • For Windows 2000, XP, 512MB is the minimum and 1GB or more is recommended.

  • Windows Vista is a a bigger memory hog with a minimum 1GB and 2GB or more recommended. Windows Vista is a a bigger memory hog with a minimum 1GB and 2GB or more recommended. 4GB is recommended for serious gamers.


  • For Windows 98 any flavor, 256MB is the minimum and 1GB is recommended.

  • Other operating systems such as Linux or Mac are similar. If you are an avid PC gamer or video editor 1GB is the minimum recommendation. Simply put, more is better.


Skimping on RAM is one way PC builders hold down prices. The average pre-built PC comes with 128MB or 265MB of RAM installed. If you want to do anything more than surf the net and send email, that is not enough. If you buy more RAM than you "think" you need, you will be a much happier computer user a year later. By rule of thumb, if you buy a pre-built computer, double the amount of RAM offered by the builder.

The cheapest way to buy a new PC:

Upgrade your old PC. Install a minimum of 1GB of RAM and add a high performance video card with as much additional video RAM as you can afford. The increased performance and system stability of the additional RAM will amaze you.

If you are buying new and want to save a few bucks, buy a less expensive monitor and don't buy a floppy drive, you won't need it. Also get a CD-DVD+RW combo drive instead of 2 separate CD-ROM drives and ransom the family pet. But don't skimp on RAM.

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