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30-08-2004, 05:26 PM
FAQ #35 - Computer running slower - RAM clutter

Originally written by roofus


Has your computer become gradually slower and slower? Have you run defrag and scandisk but this made no difference?

A computer's response time to tasks commonly degrades the longer you have the computer. The primary reason for this is RAM clutter.

RAM clutter is RAM used up by programs that you have installed and have attached themselves to the boot sequence. This allows the program to load up quicker when you want it, however it scarifies overall system performance.

RAM is used by programs as they load themselves up to help with the exchange of data from the hard drive to the CPU. So the more RAM you have available the more programs you can have open at the same time without degrading overall response times.

When you run out of RAM your operating system will use virtual memory. This is hard disk space that is set aside and pretends to be RAM (hence allowing you to open more applications). A hard disk can transfer information to the CPU at only a fraction of the speed of RAM. So naturally the smaller amount of RAM you have, the quicker you will experience a sacrifice in performance.

As explained RAM clutter lowers the amount of RAM available and hence the virtual memory is used within a shorter time. By removing some of this clutter we ensure the computer can open more applications before system performance degrades.


The Solution

To remove RAM clutter first inspect the applications you have in your taskbar. Are they all required to be there? Do you need that specific application to be able to load up quickly? Common applications that reside in the tasktray alongside the clock that don’t really need to be there include any Real Player software, instant messaging software and unnecessary system utilities.

To remove them open up the application and search for the “options” or “preferences” within there. You should be able to find a “load at startup” button - disable this, press OK to everything and it’s done.

If you can’t find this button load up msconfig. Do so by going to the start menu --> Run and type in “msconfig”. Go along to the “Startup” tab. In here it shows all the applications that are loaded at startup. Disable any that are not needed.

Some of these names are obscure. To decide if you need them check out this helpful link (http://www.pacs-portal.co.uk/startup_content.php).

The registry is also the management centre for windows. Invalid information in the registry slows your computer also. If you have Norton Utilities use Windoctor to fix these problems. Otherwise see FAQ #30 The Registry for registry cleaners to help solve your problems.

Spyware and adware on a computer are used by companies to send information about your actions. Naturally you don’t know it is installed. It is always installed into memory so that activities can be watched. See FAQ #16 Spyware and adware - how do I get rid of it? to detect and remove these nasty little critters, hopefully resulting in a performance boost.

While you are in msconfig click on the “system.ini” tag. In here you will see a folder called 386Enh - right click on this folder and select “new”. Now type in “ConservativeSwapfileUsage=1” (without quotations of course). This tells Windows to use as much of the RAM as possible before using virtual memory.

Another factor in system performance slow downs is “memory leaks”. This is where an application uses RAM and slowly uses up more and more, hence cluttering your RAM. Unfortunately the only way to avoid this is to do a reboot. You tend to notice this when you get to the end of your day and start imagining that everything is running slower……….. well it is!

There are many factors that influence the likelihood of performance degradation but RAM clutter is definitely a major cause.

A rule of thumb for Windows operating system is that 64MB will get things loaded up for Windows 9x, but it won’t take long at all (maybe a few Internet Explorer windows) before you run out of RAM and are onto using virtual memory. I recommend a minimum of 128MB for Windows 9x with 256MB preferred.

For Windows XP 256MB is the recommended minimum with 384MB or 512MB being the preferred option. RAM is relatively cheap these days and can result in a significant performance boost to your system. For this reason it is sometimes referred to as the cheap upgrade.


Original FAQ available here (http://pressf1.pcworld.co.nz/thread.jsp?forum=1&thread=27622&message=104778&q=clutter#104778).