Understanding Memory


Many users wonder if they should you live with a minimum amount of RAM and save a few dollars, or if they should spend some extra cash and load up the system. The answer really depends on what you’re doing with your PC. RAM requirements can vary from system to system. Let’s do the math.

Windows XP can run with as little as 128MB of RAM, but it gets a real speed boost from 256MB. You’ll also need enough memory to load all the programs you want to run at any one time. Applications like Microsoft Word or Excel generally use about 32MB each, but you can check the system requirements listed on each application’s box to determine the recommended RAM.

If you want to run three applications simultaneously (say, Word, Internet Explorer, and Media Player), you’ll need to add the RAM requirements for all three to your total. Finally, you’ll need RAM for data files—the open Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, MPEGs, etc.

As a general rule, if you base your overall memory requirements on the amount recommended for your operating system, you’ll be in the ball park. If you’re processing large, complex files, you’ll need more RAM.

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