Can Memory Problems Cause A Slow Computer?
Paul Watson, PC Technician Friday, March 4th 2011
Diagnosing A Slow Computer From Memory
One of the first things I like to do with a computer accused of being slow is to restart it. This does two things. First, it allows me to observe the boot-up routine. Each computer’s boot-up period is unique. The speed with which a computer boots is determined, up to a point, by its hardware. By rebooting the computer, I can look at the “hardware-only” portion of the boot process to make sure something hasn’t gone horribly wrong with the computer’s working parts.
One example of a hardware failure that can impact performance noticeably is a memory failure. Whether a memory module has become unseated, or isn’t responding properly, this effectively cuts down the amount of available memory and can slow things to a crawl. Laptop computers are more likely to suffer a physical dislodgement, especially if they’ve been dropped (it happens!) or handled roughly – such as could happen when you’re moving through an airport.
In other cases, memory modules simply burn out. They’re integrated circuit boards, and they can experience component failure. The boot up process can reveal how much memory the computer thinks it has. You can also check for installed memory once the system is up and running. If what you have installed doesn’t match up with what the computer thinks it has, a trip to the repair shop may be in order.
Computers also seem to do better with an “even amount” of installed memory. If you have two memory slots, put something in both. If you have four slots, put an equal amount of memory in two or four slots, but don’t try to fill up one slot or three slots, even if the computer allows it. If you only have one slot, stick with an even amount of RAM (e.g., 2 Gb, 4 Gb). The computer can work with “odd” amounts of memory (e.g., 1 Gb, 3 Gb) but from experience, they seem to like even numbers better than odd ones when it comes to RAM.
In the next post, I’ll talk about benchmarking a computer to give some basis for comparing performance over time.
Photo Credit: Warrenski, via Flickr