bought a computer for my wife and kids in 2002, pentium 4 1800, with only 256mem 40 gb hard drive. it was a good buy[ thanx toys r us] the only thing is now we want to spend a little cash tweaking we spend on memory or a bigger hard drive?


Distinguished Member
It all depends! Are you low on memory, or low on disk space? 256Mb of memory is usually enough for most purposes. You can see how much memory is being used at any time, using the Windows "Task Manager" program (right-click the task bar). Some software uses a lot of memory, and will run faster (eg. graphics packages, games, etc.). But for basic tasks, word processing, web, email, etc. there isn't always the need. As a rule, increasing memory from 128Mb to 256Mb may have a dramatic improvement on performance, but increasing from 256Mb to 512Mb is less significant. This is because Windows uses a lot of memory itself, and 128Mb just isn't enough these days.

If you are upgrading for speed/performance reasons, then the answer may be neither. It could be that you need a new graphics card, or perhaps you can do some house-keeping (like removing unnecessary programs and services, or disabling some virus scan options, etc.).

If you need a new hard drive, then you may be able to get a faster one than the one that came with the PC (eg. 7200 rpm vs. 5400rpm), although it won't provide much of a noticeable speed improvement over the existing one. If you've run out of disk space, then you know what you need to do.

I hope that helps!

Iain Shields

Active Member
If your wanting to add another hard drive, doing it soon would be good as they are pretty cheap at the moment, I picked up a 160gig Maxtor for about £80 a couple of weeks ago!! but I'd say go for the memory first unless your really short on space in the hard drive, 256 megs is really the minimum that XP needs to run so adding another 256 megs should get you a nice speed boost...



Distinguished Member
Since my RAM usage seldom seems to go above 200Mb under XP, I had a look at what other people had to say on the matter, and I found this (hopefully impartial advice) on the crucial website

The same holds true for Windows XP. In our benchmark tests, performance improved up to 65% when we upgraded from 128MB to 256MB. And the "sweet spot" of 512MB resulted in up to 80.5% improvements. That's why we recommend a minimum of 256MB RAM for anyone using Windows XP, and 512MB for average users who want to get the best performance from their system. Those who work with very large files may want to upgrade even higher.
So there you go!

Iain Shields

Active Member
Isn't that what I said ;)

p.s. I don't work for Crucial :D

Anyway, I'd back-up what Mike said about the house-keeping, it's surprizing how much junk can clog up your computer and slow it down, also, he might be right in saying that it may be a different upgrade you could do with (e.g. graphics card), you'd really need to post back and let us know what the computer is commonly used for, though personally I'd still give the memory a bump...



I would also say go for the memory upgrade. If you have standard DIMMS on your PC then this should only cost £25 - £30.
Another idea if you are very brave is to delete EVERYTHING off your disk and reinstall it. Obviously you wil need to have all the install disks and save all your documents etc that you don't want to loose. Another good idea is to make sure you have a friendly neighbour with internet access just in case you need the odd driver etc downloaded. You'll be amazed at how much better the PC will run after.



If you are fealing brave and decide to go for the nuke the disk approach which I also recommend you can save a lot of the trouble of getting the system back to a familiar state by using the "files and settings transfer wizard" which allows you to restore all your settings and email etc to the newly installed machine.


Distinguished Member
Isn't that what I said
Quite so. I will never doubt your advice again! :)

I'd better get some more ram for my laptop before the prices go back up.

p.s. I don't work for Crucial either.;)

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