How to Determine If You Need More RAM in Your Computer

By John Lister

RAM, or Random Access Memory, measures the amount of data a computer can process at any one time. Having too little RAM can cause performance problems, particularly when you run multiple applications at once. Before upgrading RAM, though, you should check whether it is likely to bring any benefits.

Step 1

Eliminate any problems that could be causing effects that you may mistakenly blame on a lack of RAM. Use measures such as scanning your computer for viruses, defragmenting your hard drive and making sure at least 10 percent of the capacity on your hard drive is unused.

Step 2

Look out for specific problems that may result from not having enough RAM. The main one is applications running slowly and being unresponsive. Less common ones include parts of the display on your screen appearing to be missing, or on-screen messages explicitly referring to a lack of memory.

Step 3

Keep track of the problems you experience over the course of several days, noting which applications you are running. If the issue is related to a lack of RAM, the problems should happen regularly and not necessarily be affected by the particular application you are running.

Step 4

Check how much RAM your computer uses. Open and run a typical combination of applications that you would normally be running at the same time. Then open Windows Task Manager by clicking the Start button (the Windows logo at the bottom left of the screen), typing "task manager" and pressing the Enter key. In Task Manager, keep an eye on the figure next to "Physical Memory" while carrying out a range of typical tasks in the applications you have open. If the listed figure is consistently at or close to 100 percent of memory, you may benefit from added RAM.

Step 5

Check whether your operating system is 32-bit or 64-bit by clicking the Start button, then clicking "System and Security" then "System." Look for the details next to "System type." If you have a 32-bit system, you will not get any benefit from having more than 4 GB of RAM.