Should I upgrade to 256 meg RAM?

Question

I want to upgrade to 256 megs of ram. Will windows recognize it and will I be able to use it all?

Answer

This question was answered on June 30, 1999. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

“More is better” is a concept that holds true in your system memory, but as usual, only to a point Your question about RAM (Random Access Memory a.k.a memory chips) asks about effectively using more than 256 MB With the exception of a 16MB limit in certain configurations of Windows 3.1 (which I will explain later), all three versions of Windows are capable of addressing between 256MB and 512MB of RAM or more First, let’s explore what “effective” might mean in certain scenarios, then I will make some general recommendations The two most common reasons for adding additional memory are: 1) Increased speed, 2) The ability to work with large files Most people purchase additional memory because they were told that it would speed up the performance of their system It is often referred to as the “Best Bang for the Buck” This can be true or false depending upon how much RAM you started with or how your computer makes use of the new memory

If you are planning on increasing your RAM above 64MB, another concern is the computers Chipset Extensive performance tests using benchmark software on certain popular chipsets used in Pentium/PentiumMMX class systems, actually showed a slight decrease in performance when the system memory exceeded 64MB The newer Pentium Celeron and Pentium II systems did not exhibit this characteristic

If your system requires more than 64MB of RAM in order to work with large files that are generated by programs such as spreadsheets, desktop publishing, photo editing or web development just to name a few, the amount of memory becomes more important than any slight performance decreases that may occur on older systems

In laptop computers, more RAM can actually increase the amount of time that you get out of a battery cycle! How can that be? Remember, Windows uses the hard drive to create virtual memory and the hard drive is one of the highest battery sucking devices in the system If you Cram it full of RAM you can decrease some of the access to the hard drive, which in turn, should extend the amount of time you can run on the battery

So what is a non-technical person to due when it comes to RAM?

Here are my general recommendations (your mileage may vary):

486, Pentium, Pentium MMX systems running Windows 3.1X - minimum 16MB - maximum 32MB

486, Pentium, Pentium MMX systems running Windows 95/98 - minimum 32MB - maximum 64MB

Pentium Celeron, Pentium II systems running Windows 95/98 - minimum 64MB - maximum 128MB

Anyone running Windows NT should start at 64MB and determine the maximum based on what the overall tasks of the system may be

The above recommendations are for general computing situations Special circumstances created by some software programs may require you to install larger amounts of memory in order to function properly Always check your programs documentation for specific RAM requirements and recommendations There is no magic number when it comes to RAM, but too much is always better than not enough Since memory chips are relatively inexpensive, your first upgrade option should generally be to increase the RAM, but within reason.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on June 30, 1999