[IMGCAP(1)]Do you have a smartphone or tablet purchased in the last year or two? If you do, chances are it has more RAM memory inside than most of your desktop and laptop PCs.

Today’s smartphones and tablets usually start with about 16GB of RAM, and 32GB is fairly common as well. Most desktops and laptops, unless purchased in the last year or so, generally have 8GB of RAM or even less.

Why does it matter? Apps on smartphones and tablets are fairly small as far as the space they take up, both when running or just being stored. If you have a fair number of them, as many of us do, even small bites add up to a big mouthful, and since there’s not external storage like the disk drive you’ll find in a laptop or desktop, all of those apps need to be stored in the device’s RAM.

On the plus side, that’s not the case with a desktop or laptop. Applications that aren’t being run are usually stored on disk, and read into RAM when needed. And large applications usually have segments that are swapped in and out of memory as needed.

The operative words her are “large applications.” Operating systems such as Windows have tended to get a bit leaner through the years, while exactly the opposite has been the case with applications. Application blot has been a problem pretty much since personal computers hit the scene. The first computer I programed was an IBM 1401. It was a large console, had 4KB of RAM (yes, 4 kilobytes!), and a card reader/punch. Sorting was done with punch cards on a machine called a sorter. It was a big step up for me when I got my first Apple //e. It had 16KB of RAM and eventually 64KB. The Mac started out with 64KB and was upgraded to 256KB; same for my first IBM PC compatible.

The machine I’m writing this on is a Core i7 Extreme Edition with 6 cores and 32GB of RAM. 32GB! And still it slows down sometimes. The reason is simple, and I bet many of you suffer from the same problems.

One is that both Windows (this machine has Windows 7 Professional), and many applications aren’t real good when it comes to giving up memory when an application or operation is finished. If you take a look at the Processes tab in Task Manager at the beginning of the day or when the machine is first booted, and then 12 hours later, you’re going to see the list is a lot longer. And many of those processes and services are just eating RAM.

The other problem I have (as do many of you), is I usually have multiple applications open at the same time. Right now I have three Word Documents, an Excel spreadsheet, and the Chrome browser with eight tabs working, all open right now. A lot of that 32GB is being chewed up by those.   

It would be even slower if I didn’t have all that RAM installed.

So the answer is simple. RAM is cheap. It’s easy to install, even in a laptop. Don’t take my word for it—there has to be 100 or more videos on YouTube showing how to do this. I can’t tell you how much RAM to buy, or even how much will fit on your motherboard or in your laptop. That information is pretty available online if you know the model of your laptop (on a tag on the bottom) or the make and model of the motherboard in your PC. That’s not quite as easy to find out, but there are some great utilities out there that will give you that info. I’ve been using one called SANDRA for years.

This isn’t a product column, but I’ve been using Kinston RAM and SSDs for as long as they have been available. I don’t know if it’s the best, or offers the most value. But I do know I’ve never gotten a bad stick of RAM or had one fail on me. I have used other vendors’ RAM on occasion, but usually that’s been when I couldn’t get Kingston for one reason or another.

But there are a fair number of memory vendors out there, some rebranding memory that’s actually produced by other companies. Some familiar names are Crucial, Patriot, PNY and lots of others that don’t spring immediately to mind.

Once you know what motherboard you have and what kind of memory it needs, almost every vendor has a chart that will help you pick the right part number.

And, if you can afford it, maxing out the memory in your laptop or desktop is a good way to get at least a bit better (and sometimes much better) performance for a reasonable amount of money.

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