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How can I check if my computer has enough RAM?

Before we check RAM (Memory) usage of your computer, lets define what "RAM" means, what it is and its usage.

RAM is short for Random Access Memory. It is a physical piece of hardware similar to the one shown below that is installed inside your computer. There can be one or more RAM Modules installed in your computer. RAM is measured in KB (KiloBytes), MB (MegaBytes) or GB (GigaBytes).

Desktop RAM CHIP / DIMM (Dual Inline Memory Module)
Desktop RAM CHIP - DIMM (Dual Inline Memory Module)
Physical Size: Approx 5.25" x 1.25"

Laptop CHIP / SODIMM (Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module)
Laptop RAM CHIP - SODIMM (Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module)
Physical Size: Approx 2.6" x 1.25"


How is RAM Used?

RAM's function is somewhat similar to the short-term memory that human brain uses for all of its computations.

When you launch a program such as Microsoft Word, it is first loaded from Hard Drive (permanent storage) to RAM (short term storage) then executed by your computer. If your computer has a lot of RAM installed, you can run multiple software without slowing things down.


Does RAM store data in it permanently?

No! RAM is volatile in nature; meaning it requires constant electrical power to keep the data content stored in it. When power is turned off, all data stored in RAM is lost.

How do I check RAM usage on my PC?

 

Windows 7/Vista:

Step 1: To check current Memory usage on a Windows 7/Vista computer, right click on Task Bar (Task Bar is the Grey/Blue bar at the bottom of the screen) then left click on "Start Task Manager".

Windows 7 Task Manager

You will see "Windows Task Manager" window. Task Manager shows application currently running on your computer.

Step 2: Click on "Performance" tab within "Windows Task Manager". A screen similar to the following appears. This screen shows Memory and CPU usage statistics of your computer. 

Windows 7 Task manager

To keep this guide simple, we will note:

  • "Total" under Physical Memory; which in this case is 2047MB or 2GB.

  • "Memory" Section shows the amount of Memory computer is currently using; which in this case is 1.13GB.

  • "Commit (MB)" value in right side column shows the total of Physical RAM and Virtual Memory in MB (Mega Bytes) currently in use; which in this case is 1619MB or 1.58GB.

As you can see, "Total" RAM value (2GB) is more than total Commit value (1.58GB); so this computer does not need a RAM upgrade.

But if "Total" RAM value (2GB) for example was lower than "Commit" value then you should upgrade the RAM.

Question:

How is it possible that "Commit" value be larger than "Total" RAM?

Click here to continue reading...

Windows XP/2000:

Step 1: To check current Memory usage on a Windows XP/2000 computer, right click on Task Bar (Task Bar is the Grey area at the bottom of the screen). A small window similar to the following appears:

Windows XP Task Manager - Showing Running Programs

"Windows Task Manager" window appears. Task Manager shows application currently running on your computer.

Step 2: Click on "Performance" tab within "Windows Task Manager". A screen similar to the following appears. This screen shows Memory and CPU usage statistics of your computer. 

Windows XP Task Manager

In this screen, Physical Memory section shows the Total Physical memory installed in the computer. Which in this case is 129528KBytes (Kilo Bytes) or 128MB (MegaBytes).

Commit Charge section shows current memory usage of the computer; which in this case is 226820KBytes or 226MB. Since this computer was turned on, Peak memory usage was 227MB.

Question:

My "Commit Charge" value is more than Total Available Physical Value. How is that possible?

Hmm this sounds quite confusing, but there is a simple explanation. When computer runs out of physical memory (RAM), it starts using a portion of the hard drive as temporary memory known as Virtual Memory (also known as Page File).

Use of Virtual Memory increases wear and tear of the Hard Drive because computer has to continuously swap (juggle) data between RAM and Hard Drive. This drastically reduces overall performance of the computer because Hard Drive (a mechanical device) is many many times slower than RAM (an electrical device).

RAM Usage Monitoring Tool: To see RAM usage statistics in an easy to understand format, download our RAM Monitoring Tool by clicking on the screenshot below.

Conclusion: To determine if your PC needs a RAM upgrade or not, turn your PC on and use it for a day like you would normally do. At the peak of your day when you have all the software programs you normally use open, check your computer's memory usage statistics. If Virtual Memory is being used excessively, it might be a good idea to upgrade RAM!

Given the complexity of the modern software and low prices of RAM, a PC running Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000 should have at least 2GB RAM to function properly. With Windows 7/Vista go with 4GB if you can afford to spend a few more dollars.

This cheap yet important upgrade will increase your computers performance and hard drive's life for pennies on the dollar!


Click here to read How to Install RAM in a Computer


  

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