The Effects of Added Memory on a Laptop

By Gregory Hamel

Laptop computers are usually less powerful than their more bulky desktop counterparts, especially when laptops have less random access memory (RAM) installed. RAM is required for storing data from the hard drive and sending it to the processor and can have a large impact on computing speed. Adding more RAM to a laptop can improve computing performance and make the difference between laptop and desktop performance less noticeable.

Reduced Lag

Computer lag occurs when the programs or processes that a computer is running exceed its maximum processing power, which makes the process and programs take longer to load. One of the leading causes of computer lag is insufficient RAM. If a computer's RAM fills up with data, and the user commands the computer to begin a new process, the computer will have to wait to create space on the RAM before the process can begin. Installing more RAM on a laptop will reduce the likelihood that the RAM will fill up with tasks, so it is likely that lag will be reduced. Computer lagging can be especially problematic on laptops that run Windows Vista because it requires more RAM to run than other popular operating systems. Computers with less than 2 gigabyte of RAM may experience lag while running Vista, even when performing normal tasks like web surfing and word processing. Installing new RAM on laptops that run Vista can lead to considerable gains in speed.

Multitasking & Intense Applications

While installing more RAM may lead to improved computing when performing normal tasks, it will be most noticeable when performing tasks that require a large amount of RAM, such as when multitasking or running intense applications like computer games. The more processes you run at the same time and the more complex the applications are, the higher the RAM requirements will be. Some laptops may not even be able to run certain applications without expanding the amount of available RAM.

Virtual Memory Size

Another advantage of adding memory to a laptop is that it will increase the potential size of the virtual memory you can use on the laptop. Virtual memory is a system where a computer uses hard disk space to supplement the RAM and increase the effective size of the RAM. The maximum size of virtual memory is limited by the maximum amount of RAM, so by increasing the amount of RAM on a laptop you also increase the maximum size of the virtual memory, which can lead to even greater improvement in computing speed.

Processor Usage

One potential drawback of adding RAM to a laptop is that it can lead to increased processor usage and heat generation. The more RAM you have, the more data you will be able to send to the processor, which allows for better computing speeds, but can also make the processor reach 100% of its processing power. When a CPU nears 100% utilization, it will generate more heat. If it gets too hot, the computer may shut down to avoid damage.