Archive for July 2010

Computing 101: How’s Your Memory?

I run into this bit of confusion almost every day – people deleting files to give them more “memory”. Deleting files may give you more hard drive space, but it won’t give you more memory.

Let’s start with the hard drive. The hard drive in your computer is your filing cabinet. This is where Windows and all your programs are installed. ALSO, this is where ALL your documents, music, photos and movies are stored. Your hard drive is your storage in the same way that you may have music CD’s or DVD’s stored on a shelf, or your important papers in a filing cabinet. Getting a bigger hard drive simply gives you more storage. A Terabyte hard drive can hold the equivalent of 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. No one listen’s to all their music at the same time, or looks at all their photos or movies at the same time – we take what we want from “storage” and use the particular item at the time we want to. That takes us to memory.

Memory is made up of small chips inside your computer. They work kind of like an old calculator. Turn off the power and it goes blank. Turn on the power and you start filling it all over again. Memory is what your computer uses when it’s actually working on something. The processor inside your computer (probably by AMD or Intel) is what actually does the thinking. Because memory chips are MUCH faster than your hard drive, the computer pulls what it needs at the time into memory FROM the hard drive.

Let me put it into non-computer terms. You have a wall in your office filled with filing cabinets filled with papers; this is your hard drive. You have a desk that you work at that’s 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep; this is your memory. YOU are doing the thinking and working with the papers; this is your processor. What happens when you have more papers to work with than desk space? You start shuffling papers around, maybe putting them into stacks and moving stacks around – this slows getting your actual task done. If you had a bigger desk, you wouldn’t waste time shuffling papers. This is where more memory comes into play.

So deleting files from your hard drive doesn’t speed up your computer any more than throwing away papers in your filing cabinet helps you get the task at your desk done.

When your computer wants to use more memory than it actually has, it does what we do when we get more information than we can remember – write it down! We use paper; the computer uses the hard drive. To “add” to its memory, the computer uses unused space on the hard drive to “extend” its memory. The problem with this is writing to the hard drive is MUCH slower, your computer slows down. The solution, close programs that are running you don’t need OR buy more memory. The good news? Memory is cheap! Sites like will peek inside your computer, tell you what you have inside and what you can upgrade with. The Windows Task Manager will tell you how much of your memory you’re using. If you’re using 80% or more, you’ll be noticing a dramatic decrease in speed. Installing memory isn’t hard in most computers, but if you’re not comfortable call a professional.

Goodbye Windows 2,000! On July 13th, 2010, all versions of Windows 2000 and Windows XP RUNNING SERVICE PACK 2 will reach the end of support. Microsoft will no longer be updating these products. If you have a system running Windows 2000, it’s time to move that machine up to XP. If you’re still running Service Pack 2 in XP, you need to download Service Pack 3 to continue getting updates. Go to to get Service Pack 3, or consider upgrading to Windows 7. Windows XP with Service Pack 3 will continue to be supported by Microsoft through April 8, 2014.

Until next time….

Laurie Scott / Tek-Chic Systems
“Because Everybody Needs a Geek in Their Life”®

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