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512MB of RAM pretty much rules

Scott Wasson
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I mentioned the other day that everything is cheap, especially RAM, so I decided to pick up an extra 256MB DIMM recently. Well, it arrived today, and I slapped it into my PC tonight, upgrading it from 256MB to 512MB.

I booted up, tested it, and started some pretty heavy use of the system, as is my custom. Not long after that, a liberating feeling of empowerment caused me to begin sending this message to darn near everyone on my ICQ list:

I AM THE ALL RAM-HAVING, NO DISK ACCESSING POSSESSOR OF SMOOTHNESS. FEEL MY GLORY!!

Juvenile, yes, but entirely warranted under the circumstances, mind you.

This old PC o’ mine is really, really fast now. Working on a big review as I am now (and pretty much always), I tend to have open a spreadsheet, an image editor, an HTML editor, a text editor, an FTP proggy, a couple of instant messaging programs, a number of browser windows, Winamp, some Explorer windows, and various and sundry system tools and services. Then I may take a break and pop on to the Backbone Beatdown for a little Q3 action. Running Win2K, memory use can easily top 200MB. Which leads to the great, performance-sapping evil of paging from disk.

Or at least it used to.

With half a gig of RAM on board, disk paging is a thing of the past. I’ve used machines with huge amounts of RAM before, but the impact of the upgrade on my own PC was unexpectedly dramatic. Windows 2000 certainly demands a lot of RAM, but when it’s given plenty, it sure makes good use of it. Disk caching makes the hard drive seem unnecesssary—just boot up, run all your programs, and turn the thing off. We won’t be needing it.

Which leads me to wonder how useful it really is to fork over a new system that supports RDRAM or DDR SDRAM, both of which are not yet anywhere close to the $70 mark for 256MB. It’s difficult to benchmark such things, but I’m willing to bet a lot of folks would benefit quite a bit more in real-world use from having 512MB of SDRAM versus, say, 256MB of the more expensive stuff.

Again, much of this may be laboriously obvious to some of us—even me when I’m not directly experiencing the effects of an upgrade—but it’s still very, very true. Half a gig of RAM in my PC pretty much rocks. Highly recommended, especially for current prices.

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