I've recently been given a Dell Latitude D600, with these specs:
512MB DDR PC2700 RAM @ 333MHz
1MB L2 cache
20GB HD @ 4200rpm (which I intend to upgrade)
When I received the system, I repartitioned and reformatted (it had been set up as FAT; I changed to NTFS), reinstalled Windows XP Home and installed all updates, including SP3.
At first, with a few applications installed, it was running along at a respectable speed - much snappier than I thought it would - then, after I installed a few more apps, it began to get sluggish. Now it takes much longer to boot, load apps (especially Firefox), etc. I’ve also noticed that IE takes a LONG time to load. I only use it to run Windows Update, but I have to refresh the page; it never loads it the first time. I’ve upgraded to successive iterations of IE 8; didn’t help.
I'm not doing any gaming or graphic design, other than occasionally running MS Publisher. I've been careful not to load a lot of memory-resident crap, and I've gone into the System Config Utility to make sure very little is running. I also regularly run utilities to defrag, clean the registry, remove junk and temp files, etc.
I'm running Avast as my anti-malware. I'm using Win XP's firewall; I was going to run Comodo, but it's sluggish enough that I didn't want to overload it.
I was in MicroCenter the other day, and noticed they had 1GB PNY DIMMs on sale for $25. I bought one, intending to upgrade my RAM to 1.25GB. However, I've seen a number of older posts in tech support forums in which 512MB is recommended as being more than sufficient for my level of use. Also, I've monitored RAM usage using System Explorer and Process Explorer. RAM usage, even with a number of apps open, is typically 60-80%. CPU usage occasionally goes to 100% (such as when I first load Firefox soon after booting), but RAM usage never does.
I should mention - I did try an experiment recommended on Cnet - I had an extra 2GB flash drive, and configured Windows to use it as virtual ram. I didn't notice any improvement in performance, but it seems to me that's when it started to become sluggish. I've restored the default configuration (I think).
Will I see any substantial improvement in performance by putting in that much RAM, under these conditions and on a machine of this vintage, or is there no point? Also, any tips on improving system performance would be appreciated.