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Laying down facts - how RAM influences laptop performance

Laptop Memory Upgrades Guide - Part 1

Laptop memory and how it affects the performance of your laptop

why RAM is important

Many laptops sold today come outfitted with a non-optimum amount of system memory installed, otherwise known as RAM (Random Access Memory). There are two reasons as to why. The first reason is that manufacturers use the amount of installed RAM as a way to differentiate between lesser (i.e. economy) and more advanced (i.e. higher-end) laptop models. Fortunately, this makes a lot of sense, after all someone buying a cheap laptop won't likely want to use it for very demanding tasks requiring lots of memory.

The second reason is also driven by marketing but much more acutely. Namely, it's not all that uncommon to stumble upon high-end laptops being sold with at most an average amount of RAM installed. This is a deliberate attempt by manufactures to make you want to upgrade either at the time of purchase or soon after. Of course, they know most users won't know enough about laptop memory to feel confident buying from anyone else but them. Buying directly from the laptop manufacturer however comes at a price, which is also proportionally higher than elsewhere on the market. It's a tried and proven way for them to increase their profit margin per laptop unit sold.

Normally it wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't for the simple truth that RAM heavily impacts laptop performance. It's therefore rather a case of where should you buy laptop memory from rather than should you upgrade at all. The only real exception to this statement is if your laptop shipped with a healthy amount of RAM, in which case you probably configured it at the time of purchase (i.e. it's CTO/BTO model - Configured To Order or Built To Order). Even if you did, it may be that what was "then" isn't so relevant "now". We'll find this out throughout this guide. For now, let's instead unmask how adding more RAM to our laptop boosts its performance.

Laying down facts - how RAM influences laptop performance

Friends, work colleagues, family but probably most of all computer gurus may tell you that adding more RAM will boost performance and make your applications load and run faster. As a matter of fact they aren't pulling your leg unless of course they take it to sky high proportions and can't explain why - sadly this happens. In order to defend yourself from such pitfalls we'll take you through a short journey and explain what actually goes on inside your system (specifically Operating System and RAM). From this it will then be easier to comprehend why more RAM is better than less RAM.

Let us start this journey by making a simple statement: memory is always used to store something in it. In terms of our brains we may refer to what's stored as knowledge but when we speak of computers we are in fact referring to data. Any data that can be electronically represented in a computer can at any point in time find itself stored in RAM. Any software you run on your laptop is also data that can be placed in RAM. So what can we conclude so far? If you're thinking along the lines that RAM is a vital component in any computer then great!

It's time to evolve this theory. RAM is what's known as volatile memory, in other words as soon as you turn of its power supply, anything stored within it will be lost. For this reason, RAM is not only important within a laptop PC but also used only when the machine is powered on. An Operating System (i.e. Windows, Linux etc.) treats RAM as physical memory because it's physically installed in the computer in the form of memory modules found on its motherboard (also known as mainboard).

Each time we turn our laptop on and start (load) the Operating System (OS), a large portion of physical memory (RAM) is consumed. This is because the OS just like any other software copies sections of its own footprint (i.e. functions, components, media etc.) into RAM. It does so to speed up its operation due to the fact that hard drives (HDD's) including solid state drives (SSD's) aren't anywhere near as fast as RAM. The more that can be loaded (unpacked) into RAM the better as it will enable various software tasks to perform faster.

Unfortunately, there is only a finite amount of RAM in any computer. In the older days this used to be measured in MegaBytes (MB's) but these days it's GigaBytes (GB's). Once we load so much software at once that physical memory (as known by the OS) becomes almost full does the OS incrementally begin to forcefully push both existing software and any new software we launch into what's called as virtual memory. The latter is a section of the HDD (or SSD) that is used to simulate physical memory. Of course there's a catch, if you remember what we mentioned above, a HDD/SSD will always be considerably slower than RAM. How much virtual memory gets used really depends on how much RAM our computer has but also how much software we're trying to run at the same time.

If you were to try the above (i.e. launch as much software as you can at the same time) you would eventually run into your OS signalling that you're low on both physical and virtual memory. Some software applications may even display an "Out of memory" error and/or simply terminate automatically. Last but least, you will experience a severe slowdown - even switching between different applications may occur at a much more leisurely pace.

So what does the above mean in practise? In simple terms we should ensure our laptop has enough RAM installed to satisfy the amount we need for the software we use. As long as we limit the likelihood that the OS will need to dive into using virtual memory, we can ensure optimum laptop performance. This statement holds true providing any other component in our laptop isn't limiting performance (i.e. processor, HDD/SDD, graphics card etc.).

Excessive memory usage diminishes performance

Continue reading to learn about the Types of laptop memory...

...alternatively discover Where to buy 100% compatible SDRAM, DDR, DDR2 and DDR3 SODIMM memory.

PC3-10600 1333MHz DDR3 204-pin SODIMM Dual Channel kits

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