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Computer Memory or RAM

Memory, Startups and System Resources

Resource hogs   The startup folder   msconfig  Take care when removing things.   Spyware   Seeing your resource usage   Which startup programs are needed?

Yes, Memory Is Different from Hard Disk Space.

Both are physical things; ie, if you were to look inside the box you could see them.
Memory consists of “chips” that fit into slots on your motherboard.

You also get a memory-like facility from the swap file, which is a virtual, not physical, thing.

It depends on there being free space on your hard drive.

Physical memory and the swap file work together to let you do things on your computer.


Seeing your resource usage

When you go Start > Settings > Control Panel > System and click on the Performance tab you’ll see a line that reads: System Resources:   xx% free (with numbers where I’ve put xx).

“Memory” is about the physical memory chips. This number won’t change (a) unless you have more memory put in by a hardware person or (b) if one of the chips dies.

“System resources” is about the memory and the swap file working together, and it will get smaller as you open more windows or run more programs at the same time.

Try looking at the Performance tab under different circumstances, eg when you have just booted your system, when you have several programs running, and after you’ve closed some programs.

Some programs give all the resources back when you close them.

Some programs hang onto some resources which won’t be freed up until you’ve restarted your pc.

I have a little address card file sitting on my desktop and I use its Help > About to see how my resources are going, because it’s quicker to open that than go through settings. Many programs offer this information through Help > About. One could also put a shortcut to System on one’s desktop.



Spyware uses resources and thus slows down your pc, which is just one of many reasons for avoiding it. Some spyware installs itself surreptitiously, but there's a lot that invites you to download and install it yourself. Be very wary of special toolbars; gadgets that claim to make searching easier; links that give you instant access to free smileys; free icons and cursors—anything that claims to "enhance your Internet experience" or suchlike. One very nasty piece assured people that it would scan their hard drives for pornography, eliminate it and prevent the entry of any more.

Most such "helpers" are a hundred times harder to remove than to install, so do be very, very suspicious. Google the name of any such program that takes your fancy, and be sure to read several articles that are from sites other than that belonging to the purveyor.

For an explanation of spyware, how it gets into your computer and links to free programs that detect and remove it, read the page about spam.


Resource Hogs

When you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, or when you right click on the Task Bar and choose Task Manager, you see what’s running and can end task on the ones you know you don’t need.

If you have something called Find Fast running, highlight it and End Task.
Don't bother with the "Fast Indexing Service" either.

Turn off things like the Office Toolbar unless you are actually using them at the time.

Wallpaper, screen savers and music also eat into resources, some even when they’re not running.

Some programs hang around like hopeful puppies after you've closed them. If you find your machine to be sluggish after you've used and closed some program, a reboot will often work wonders.

Everything in the sys tray (right hand end of the start bar) is using resources.
That’s a good reason for allowing only things you want there to put themselves there.


Proceed with Caution

Don’t turn off anything to do with your anti-virus program or your firewall.

Don’t turn off Explorer or Systray.

That said, there are at least three ways to stop things from loading when you boot your computer.

The simplest way—and every program should make this available, but many don’t— is to use the program’s own configuration file. To find out if this exists, right click on the program’s icon in the systray. Look for an item “config”, “setup”, “settings” or something similar. Click on that item and there should be an option “Run on startup” or “Load on startup”. Remove the check mark.

Don’t worry too much that the Razzle Dazzle Music Maker will disappear for ever. There’s little doubt that it’s assigned itself the job of opening music files when you double click them. If you are worried, locate the program before you uncheck it and make yourself a shortcut to its exe file. That way you get to decide when it loads.


The Startup Folder

If the program seems not to have this simple method of being told not to load unbidden, it may be hiding in your startup folder and you can remove it easily.

Right click on the Start button.

Click Open at the top of the menu that appears.

One of the folders that will appear is called Programs. Double click it.

Now you’ll see a whole flock of folders. One is called StartUp. Before opening this folder, make a storage folder. Right click inside the Programs folder and choose New > Folder from the menu.

Name the folder Start Extras. Go up to the View menu and click Arrange Icons > by Name.

Now double click the StartUp folder. If necessary, drag the window to a new position so that you can see the Start Extras folder. You can leave the Start Extras folder closed. One by one, click on shortcuts to programs that you don’t want to load and drag them into the Start Extras folder.

This is a much more comfortable procedure than deleting things; it allows you to change your mind at any time.


The Last Resort


Before actually turning anything off by this method, make quite sure that it really is an unneeded program.
I’d recommend that you look first, make a list of what you see and find out what each item does before going any further. So go through these steps, look, make a paper list, then click cancel to close the box.

Click on the Start button.

Click on Run. In the box that appears, type msconfig. Click OK.

A set of six tabs pops up. Click on the Startup tab.

Now scroll down the list and notice which things are ticked.
Don’t change anything at this stage.
Just make a note of the things you suspect of being unnecessary, then click Cancel to close the box.


Identifying Necessary Programs

Once you’ve listed the things in your startup, go to Answers That Work, where you will find an alphabetic list almost certain to include the items from your list, along with hundreds of others.

Read the descriptions and recommendations carefully. You’ll probably see that some things you queried are important or essential, but you may find that some are just passengers.

When you are comfortable about which things you can safely prevent from loading, go back to msconfig and uncheck those items.

This time, close the box by clicking OK. You’ll be notified that your changes won’t take effect until the next reboot. You can restart now if you wish, but you don’t have to.


Put a shortcut to System on your desktop. Open it, click the “Performance” tab, and have a look at your resources.

Close it, open a program and look again.

Open something else and look again.

Close something and look again and so on.

NB It doesn’t change if you leave it open between the opening and closing of programs. You need to close and reopen it each time.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you. My email address is here.

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