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Entries in memory (1)

Monday
Nov212011

POWER USER TIP: Time to upgrade your memory! RAM has never been cheaper

I hadn't been in the market for a while for a memory upgrade, but today I took a look to see what it would cost to upgrade my wife's iMac to 8GB, the maximum it can use.  I was BLOWN AWAY when I saw how cheap memory (RAM) is right now.  Even through a reputable dealer, in this case Other World Computing, the price for 2x4GB PC8500 DDR3 memory is currently just over $50!!    

But how does this apply to you?  If you are running a modern OS, at least Windows 7 64bit or Mac OS 10.6, your computer can handle 8GB (or more in some cases) of RAM.  If you're still running a 32bit OS like Windows XP, your computer will only be able to address 3GB of RAM.  Before I went to 8GB of RAM on my machine, I was routinely blasting through the 4GB of memory I had installed.  The primary culprit was usually the web browser, in my case Google Chrome.  I tend to have at least 10 tabs (web pages) open at all times, which is like having 10 copies of Chrome running.  What I did to give the computer a breath of air every so often was to simply quit Chrome, making sure I have it set to reopen all of the tabs I had open previously.  Immediately more than a GB and sometimes 2GB of memory would be liberated!  

RAM is THE CHEAPEST way to upgrade the performance of your PC or Mac.  The biggest cause for performance problems is lack of available physical memory when running too many applications, or is commonly the case, too many tabs in a web browser.  Your computer must start using the much slower hard drive to handle the overflow of information when your RAM gets full.  The best way to tell for sure you need more memory is too look at the Task Manager in Windows or the Activity Monitor in Mac OS after you've been using it for a few hours.  Look at the available physical memory and if it's under 100MB, you are headed into "swap drive" territory soon.  Your computer will feel like its climbing a hill covered with molasses in January (that means sllllooowww).  

Once you've got the RAM maxxed out in your computer, consider swapping that archaic spinning hard disk with an SSD, or solid state drive.  These high performance FLASH drives provide a HUGE performance boost over hard drives in the areas of "seeking" data.  Seeking occurs when data is located at random locations within a drive, which is one main reason a spinning hard drive makes a lousy substitute for memory.  RAM and FLASH memory, which is used in an SSD, can seek MUCH faster.  It's still far more expensive per Gigabyte than hard drives, so I recommend getting a small one, perhaps 128GB, for your system drive, and rely on conventional hard drives for media.   An SSD allows the Macbook Air to boot from off to desktop in under 20 seconds, which is remarkable.  

Side note:  Right now upgrading storage to a larger hard drive is not recommend due to the up to 180% increase in hard drive prices for the commonly used 1TB drives.  This has had an effect on all hard drive prices as well.  The cause?  Massive flooding in Thailand, where many of the hard drive manufacturers source their parts.  Several major industrial parks are underwater, and have been for weeks.