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A Crucial question 

Within reason, the more RAM you have, the faster your PC will run. A RAM upgrade in an existing machine could well be a viable alternative to buying a new machine that, most likely, will come supplied with Windows 8 installed. The Crucial website offers the information and guidance to make this a realistic option.

Not only would a RAM upgrade be a less costly alternative, even if  you are happy to move from the world you understand of  XP or Windows 7 to Win 8, it will require a steep learning curve.

I became convinced that my machine was having difficulty in coping when I had a number of apps running and, in particular, I found that the display would not “refresh” properly when scrolling through a spreadsheet. This was confirmed by my using Windows Task Manager which reported that physical memory usage on my desktop machine was over 80%.

I downloaded and ran the memory checker app from crucial.com. This reported that my machine had 6GB of RAM consisting of 2 x 2GB and 2 x 1GB modules and that the 4 slots on the motherboard would accommodate a maximum of 8GB i.e. 4 x 2GB. There was also the note that, although memory can be installed one module at a time, the best performance comes from using matched pairs of modules.

It then “featured” two upgrades: solid state drive (SSD) and memory. I did not consider that I could even consider, let alone justify, the former for my “mature” machine. Importantly, it gave the option to view all the relevant RAM upgrades so one can decide how much extra is worth adding. I did not have any such problem as the maximum RAM the board could accommodate is 8GB whereas other boards may be able to support 16GB or even more. In reality, I believe that 8GB is probably enough RAM for the majority of users.

There is another, not so obvious, variable: what grade of memory to get. For the normal user, the normal Crucial memory is perfectly adequate. Gamers, and those who use data intensive programs such as video editing programs, could well consider that the company’s Ballistix Sport RAM is worth the extra cost because it offers better performance overall.

In practice, I found that the upgrade very simple to carry out although, obviously one must observe the usual precautions when handling memory and other chips.

With the machine switched off, having removed the side of the case, I was able to see the memory slots. While it is not always the case, I found I could just push the cables out of the way, remove the two existing 1GB modules and replace them with 2GB units.

But was it worth it? And I was upgrading a tower computer which is more difficult to upgrade than a laptop where memory is accessed by just removing one of two screws and then lifting off a small “trapdoor” on the underside of the machine.

Yes! I found that even with a large number of apps running and both Mozilla and Google Chrome running each of which with a number of open tabs, I hardly ever went above 50% memory usage and I could switch instantly between windows. At least as important was the fact that there was a vast improvement in graphic handling and I was able to scroll through a spreadsheet without the screen image breaking up.

If you have not previously carried out any such task, in the first instance, go to crucial.com and look at the help files and the videos – old but still useful – and you will soon get an idea whether it should be worthwhile upgrade.

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