I’ve said it before: upgrading your computer’s RAM memory is one of the most cost-effective ways of increasing its performance.
However, it’s not a silver bullet. Whether or not it will actually help you depends on many things. And of course, whether or not you actually can add more memory is something we also need to look at.
First off, I will say that 1GB (gigabyte) of RAM is pretty small these days. Both Windows 7 and 8, for example, list 1GB as the bare minimum requirement to run the 32 bit version of the operating systems The 64 bit versions require twice as much: 2GB.
And as I said, that’s just the minimum. It’s rare that you’ll want to run those operating systems at their minimum configuration.
I would actually encourage you to make sure that any new machines on which you plan to run Windows to have at least two gigabytes of RAM for the 32 bit, and four gigs of RAM for the 64 bit version; perhaps even more.
There are several reasons for my suggestions. For one thing, as I’ve said, RAM is cheap these days. But for another, over time Windows itself and the applications you’ve likely installed on it are getting larger. What was a reasonable configuration a few years ago is likely getting stressed just a little by updates, new tools, and applications that have likely been added as well.
It’s about what you do
How much RAM is appropriate for you actually depends on what you do with your machine.
If all you do is download pictures, then what you have may actually still be just enough: downloading and printing pictures is just not a particularly memory intensive task.
But I’m betting you do a lot more with your computer than just download pictures. You probably surf the web, use email and perhaps even write documents. If you’ve got Microsoft Office installed and you use it regularly, for example, then yes – one gigabyte isn’t enough in my opinion.
If after downloading those pictures you then fire up an image editing program to crop, tweak or otherwise adjust them, then it’s almost certain that what you have isn’t really enough, since image editing programs are often applications that use a lot of resources, particularly RAM.
And if you download photos, check email, surf the web, write documents and tweak photos all at the same time (leaving all those programs open and running at once), then it’s clear – you want more RAM.
Preparing for the future
The limiting factor that you need to check before you consider adding more RAM, particularly in older machines, is how much RAM your PC can actually handle. The maximum amount of RAM you can add to a computer is a physical limitation of the computer’s motherboard design.
When buying a new machine, I often recommend that you make sure the machine can handle more RAM than you need today. For example when I purchased my most recent desktop I ordered it with 16 gigabytes of RAM (my needs are above average 🙂 ). But I also made sure that when the time came that 16 gigs wasn’t enough, I could add more. Thus my computer can actually support a total of 64 gigabytes of RAM.
In your shoes, personally I probably wouldn’t hesitate to add RAM if your machine supports it. If you plan to keep that machine for any length of time, I’d upgrade the RAM to its maximum. It’s not only a cost-effective way of improving performance, but it’s actually a cost-effective way of lengthening your computer’s useful life.
Particularly as my machines get older, if I plan to keep them for any length of time, maximizing RAM capacity is one of the things I do to lengthen their useful life.
But if it ain’t broke?
One last counter argument: if things are working, why look at it at all?
There’s certainly a great temptation to upgrade, to get the latest and greatest, to see if things can be faster or better than they are. But … if it ain’t broke, why fix it? You didn’t indicate that you were experiencing any problems, so even though RAM upgrades are simple and inexpensive, if there’s no real reason, then why bother with whatever expense or risk?
On the other hand, if things are slow, if you see a problem, adding RAM is a reasonable first step.