When enough memory isn't enough

The culmination of everyday use on a computer diminishes its performance — adding more memory can help, our lab tests show.
You bought a computer with plenty of memory. In fact, the system met or exceeded the minimum requirements for your OS, productivity software, and other applications — and for a while, it worked great. But now, you're starting to notice a slowdown. You're once-speedy PC is taking longer and longer to boot up or shut down, to load applications, or to respond to your requests.

The problem? There isn't enough available memory to respond to tasks. The solution? Add more memory.

While many benchmark tests start with a brand-spanking new system, the Memory Experts from Crucial wanted to replicate a more real-life scenario: what happens when a good computer inevitably gets a lot of use. For instance, what about a home system that has multiple family members relying on it, for multiple purposes?

We set out to learn more. And our tests show that while a new PC can start out fast and responsive, performance erodes as applications are used, updated, added, and deleted. That's where more memory comes into play, because it's not how much memory you've got – it's how much available memory you have left when you sit down to use your computer.

Here's how the test worked. We purchased a used Dell Inspiron 1525 notebook with a dual core Pentium 1.73GHz processor and 120GB HDD. This way we could run our tests in a ‘real configuration’ mode rather than in the sterile lab environment that is not representative of our customers' use. We took our newly purchased used PC and used it in our call center training classes and our tech support group's hands-on demos. We asked our people to install and uninstall programs as well.

After we spent a few weeks of beating the machine up, we began our testing. First, we performed a series of tests on our well-used computer. Next, we performed a factory restore from the restore image that Dell installed on the additional partition they configure. This completely wiped out the C: drive and reloaded a brand-spanking new factory image on the C: drive (with all Dell’s drivers already loaded). This saved us time as we again let Windows catch up with automatic updates. We ran our tests again, and that’s how we complied our results.

1GB results

We started our testing with 1GB of memory

We found that simply booting the computer with 1GB of memory used 79% of our available memory. That left only 21% remaining!

Multiple apps stress the system »