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Increasing RAM

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September 27, 2004 5:43:24 AM

I have a novice question. Would it be worth it in terms of performance to increase the RAM in my two Dell laptops?

The one Dell laptop is an Inspiron 8200, 1.8 GHz machine, with 512 MB of RAM. I believe the maximum RAM allowable is 1 GB. The OS is Windows XP Home Edition.

The other Dell laptop is an Inspiron 5150, 3.06 GHz machine, with 640 GB of RAM. I believe the maximum allowable RAM for this machine is 2 GB. I think it has a 533 mHz FSB. The OS is Windows XP Professional.

I use the Dell 5150 most of the time. This machine seem to run hot as the fan is always going at high speed. I use it to burn DVD's and it takes forever to do things like transcoding the video. I also use the computer for a program from NASA for viewing the earth and zooming in on selected locations to generate satellite views. Finally, I use it a lot for real-time-strategy war games. The gaming doesn't bog the computer down nearly as much as DVD production and using the program from NASA.

I was wondering if increasing the RAM would result in noticeable improvement in performance, or if it would just be a waste of money.

Does anyone know?

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September 28, 2004 4:39:20 PM

>> with 640 GB of RAM. <<

I hope you mean 640MB of ram. :) 

For most normal office-type apps 512 is plenty. For games, 512 is usually ok, 1gig is plenty. Video work loves lots of ram, and for scientific work, more ram will almost always be better.

One thing to do is load the Task manager and check your memory usage after you've loaded the programs. it shows it's using your swapfile, then more ram is a good idea. You can also try enlarging your swapfile to about 1.5 gig if it's not already there.

Another way to test and see if you need more ram is while you are using your NASA program, watch the hard drive light - is it on when the program is being slow? Then more ram will help because it's likely using swap file space. Can't really do that with video encoding because it's constantly pulling new video and saving encoded video, but while panning and zooming on an image that's already loaded into memory gives a good indication.

Other things to check is to go into the power management settings and BIOS and make sure everything is set to full power. Laptops will slow down the CPU in order to save power. If you have it plugged into the wall (not using the battery), who cares how much power it uses?

Yes, Pentium 4 (not M) laptops run 'hot'.

Mike.
September 29, 2004 3:07:16 PM

Yes, I meant 640 MB. Thanks for the information. I'm not quite sure how to check the swapfile. There's something called PF Usage under the performance tab in the Windows Task Manager. PF Usage shows as 210 MB. There's also Kernel Memory (K), which shows with a total of 44928, with Paged 27916 and Nonpaged 17036.

I have another application called CachemanXP. It shows RAM with peak usage of 589 MB out of a total of 639 MB when I'm using the NASA program. The paging file shows usage of 21/209 MB, with an allocation of 274/957 MB. I'm thinking the peak RAM usage of 589 MB out of 639 MB, shows that adding additional RAM would signficantly increase performance.

As for power management, I believe I have it set for use as a desktop computer with settings for maximum peformance.
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September 29, 2004 4:01:00 PM

swapfile = pagefile (PF). I used the old 'name' for it.

Set your page file to the same both min and max. (and make it 1gb or 1024mb - opinions vary but PF = 1.5-2.5xRAM is probably optimal) That may be part of your slowdown because when the system needs more page file, it has to allocate it before it can use it. If it's allocated first, it just uses it.

I think you're right. More memory will help - it will reduce your pagefile usage, and since laptop hard drives are usually slower than desktop drives, it hurts performance more. Going to 1gig should be plenty given 589 used + 210 swapfile = 799. Gives you a little headroom to play with.

Another thing to check is any background processes - ad programs, pop up stuff, weatherbug-type programs, even things you may not know are there unless you're very careful.

Mike.
September 29, 2004 4:17:51 PM

Notebook PC's benifit the most with having more RAM. The smaller spindle hard drives transfer data at lower rates than their equivlant RPM desktop counterparts. So the more RAM, the faster they perform.
I suggest minimum of 1gig of RAM for notebooks.
Also, the fastest processor you can afford is recomended, since most people do not upgrade processor, and usually you are limited in upgradeability.
If you are buying a notebook, be sure to get either 1 gig or more RAM, or at least configure it so the RAM you get only takes up one bank, allowing for future addition or RAM without removing what you already have.


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