If you're computer is running slowly and virus scans are negative, you may be running short on Random Access Memory, or RAM. Improve performance drastically and have programs running quickly by installing extra RAM. Since it doesn't require configuration and is easy to install, this inexpensive upgrade is a great alternative to buying a new computer.
Different motherboards (mobo, for short), support different kinds of RAM. The most common is Synchronous Dynamic RAM, or SDRAM. This memory is designed to operate in synchrony with the clock on the PCs CPU. This helps to decrease downtime with transferring data.
In comparison, DoubleDataRate SDRAM, or DDR SDRAM, works twice as quickly. This type of memory is designed to access data twice each time the clock cycles. Effectively, the data transfer rate is between 200 MHz and 550 MHz.
Computers with more RAM perform faster and more efficiently. For this reason, most hardware experts recommend the fastest memory permitted by the PC's motherboard. Typically, home or home office users will want a PC with at least 1 GB of RAM. If the PC or desktop will be used for gaming, experts recommend a minimum of 2 to 4 GB RAM. For multimedia functions, at least 2 GB is recommended.
Different types of DDR memory are manufactured, and these are usually defined by either bandwidth or clock speed. DDR200 memory is slowest, and is equal to a PC1600. The DDR266 is considerably faster, but slower than the DDR333. The latest and fastest is the DDR400, which is equal to a PC3200.
Some sockets require users to add RAM in pairs. Be aware of a motherboard's requirements before making the purchase.
Other memory options
Some Pentium 4s still use Rambus memory, which is also known as RDRAM. This kind of RAM is only available for use with motherboards that contain Intel 850 and 850E chipsets. Adding RDRAM can be expensive (nearly twice the cost of DDR memory), but is helpful for gaming and video editing. Both PC800 and PC1066 RAM speeds are sold.
Another way to upgrade memory is by installing Dual Inline Memory Modules, or DIMM s. This is a tiny circuit board that contains memory chips on either side. The bottom side of the DIMM, where it plugs into the motherboard, is lined with electrical contacts.
Sound and video quality
Upgrading sound or video can also enhance performance. Video cards or sound cards can be inserted into an open PCI slot. While many computers have basic sound and video capacity, adding these cards can significantly speed up applications and make them perform more efficiently. When building their own motherboards, computer experts often use the best video or sound cards available.
Video cards are also marketing as graphics accelerators or graphics controllers. They may be called video boards or graphics adapters as well. Whether they are known by these names, or as graphics cards or video adapters, their purposes is the same: managing 2D and 3D processes and delivering them to the desktop as video output.
To buy a video card for a desktop or PC, find one that fits into the motherboard slot. PCI express slots are usually required for most higher-end graphics cards. AGP versions of these cards are still sometimes sold, but aren't easily available.
Planning to watch television by computer? Shop for video cards with a TV tuner. Users who are planning to set up two monitors will want to install video cards that support dual monitors.
Gamers will want to find a video card that offers that fastest possible speed. Good options are an ATI Radeon or NVIDIA GeForce (higher product numbers mean faster cards). For video editing or multimedia, use ATI or NVIDIA cards that include a VGA or DVI output, or both.
Choose a sound card that offers good connectivity as well as top quality wavetables. For music production, choose sound chips that support six channels of digital sound and permit replication of digital 5.1 sound quality. These cards function as synthesizers to generate sound.
Many also include MIDI interface, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface capability, for connecting to electronic instruments. These also function to convert analog sound to digital sound, and for converting digital sound to analog.
Buying a new PC processor
The Central Processing Unit, or CPU, acts as the computer's brain. This is the system's primary microchip processor. It controls computer functions. Two primary CPUs are sold: Intel and AMD. Each of these uses a different naming system for identifying processors.
The speed of a processor is described in MHz, or sometimes GHz. The speed may be indicated at the beginning or end of the name of the processor. An example of this is a Pentium 4 3.4 GHz.
Intel offers two types of processors: the higher end Pentium processor and the less expensive, slower Celeron processor. Both are good quality processors, but the Pentium is faster.
While Intel describes processor speed, AMD refers to Intel-type processors. For instance, a 3200 AMD processor functions at a comparable speed to a 3.2 GHz processor. The higher the number, the better the expected performance.
Certain desktop PC motherboards are capable of using two processors that will alternate data management functions. This will only benefit the user, however, in terms of PC performance, when software applications are also optimized to take advantage of dual processing capabilities.
When considering buying a new computer, evaluate processor speed in terms of the applications or functions for which they will primarily be used. For example, productivity software applications (which include word processor software or finance software) require less power. In contrast, games or Internet applications require more RAM.
Choose the processor that best accommodates the computer's expected uses. Home or home office users will probably find that a desktop PC processor that offers the equivalent of 1.6 GHz or faster will probably find these suitable for their needs. Dual or quad core chips are better for gaming and multimedia use. Two examples are the AMD Athlon 64 FX and the Intel Core 2 Quad.
The motherboard rules
The motherboard, also known as the mainboard, controls all the components in a desktop PC system. Any extra components installed must be compatible with the motherboard to function properly. The motherboard also contains the chipset, which manages data with respect to the CPU, memory, and hard drive.
The quality of the chipset largely determines the quality of the motherboard. While different features can be installed to distinguish between motherboards, like FireWire ports or RAID controllers, RAM and CPU types are determined by the chipset on the motherboard. Understanding the chipset's distinguishing features and capacities will help in comparing motherboard capabilities.
Whether you're interested in building your open PC from the motherboard up, or whether you're ready to shop for a new computer, a basic understanding of RAM and processor speed is essential to choosing the right computer. Know what to expect before you make the purchase; without the right equipment, getting the job done effectively will be very difficult.