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I sometimes feel that my laptop works slowly because of lack of memory (when I have LOTS of browser windows open or when I am running graphics applications or computer games) but I am not sure if the memory is the bottleneck of my laptop. How can I be sure that memory is the bottleneck of my system?

(other than by installing more memory and trying to see if the performance has improved)

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What OS. Tools will be somewaht OS specific. – Dave M Apr 24 '12 at 19:57
You know what is good in terms of performance besides memory? MORE MEMORY. – Shiki Apr 24 '12 at 20:02

For Windows, pull up the task manager and go over to the performance tab. It shows how much memory you're using. For modern systems where swapping is like a million times slower than memory and memory is cheap, you always want to keep your memory usage below your physical memory.

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If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7 you could plug in a USB thumbdrive (or some other flash memory like an SD card etc) and use ReadyBoost to see if it speeds things up. If so then upgrading your memory would probably help. If it's still running slow it's probably because of the hard drive (laptops usually have slow 5400 rpm disks in them).

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Usually when your computer is running short on memory one of two things will happen. The computer will crash or it will "swap" things out of memory onto the hard disk to be saved for later. Hard drives are not nearly as fast as regular memory so this slows things down drastically if it starts to happen a lot. This is probably worse on laptops as they usually have slower harddrives.

A quick easy test would be to notice if your hard drive seems to be running flat out when you notice the computer running slow. You can also open task manager (press ctrl-alt-del and select "Start Task Manager") and switch to the "Performance" tab. Depending on the OS (assuming windows) you should notice a box that says "Physical Memory" and one of the fields should be "Available". If this available memory is very low you could be having problems.

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