Saturday, November 29, 2008

Computer Resource Useage on Start Up

A question that's been posed to me:

I am running Norton Internet Security and Norton Systemworks on a Gateway Pentium 4 (2.8 GHz with 496 MB of RAM) using XP Home Edition. It is annoying that it takes my computer so long (several minutes) to get through the initial Norton start-up process when I turn it on from a cold start.

Am I system resource limited here (especially memory) or is this just a "feature" of Norton's products?
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Though you've asked a question about Norton software, I think the question more bears an issue of the amount of RAM you have in your computer, so I am going to go down that road with my answer.

With RAM, the more the merrier. 500MB of RAM is literally not enough. It's barely enough for the operating system alone! I'm betting your system uses it's swap disk space (Virtual Memory) a lot while running. I say that because at a minimum, XP uses around 256Mb of RAM. That doesn't leave a lot of RAM for my other applications.

For example on my system right now, my memory usage looks like this snapshot to the right and as you can see, FireFox (My preferred browser), is using more than the amount of ram you have available for any program.

Virus protection program is using another 95k, Skype 44k... well you get the picture. More is always better so you can run all the programs you need without hinderance.


More RAM, priceless… oh sorry, wrong ad.

If I only had 500Mb of RAM, the system would then start using my Virtual Memory, and that requires disk access, because that is where the extra memory stuff is stored to be used. That alone slows down your processes as RAM access itself is near instantaneous as opposed to the disk access process.

On the other hand, security utilities can load up memory as they set up their modules for protecting your computer, but that's the price of gas to get somewhere, so we need to focus on your memory issue.

I have several gigs of RAM and have set 1/2 that for Virtual Memory. (It helps to have a 200 gig hard drive).

But also keep in mind that some of your start up time involves all your system programs accessing your hard drive to obtain the information to run correctly to put into your RAM. It's a mixed bag. It takes my system a few minutes to boot from scratch too.

So my take is to increase your amount of RAM to what ever specifications your computer distributor says it can handle and be sure to buy matching / identical sticks of RAM to eliminate potential manufacturer idiosyncrasy conflicts.

Here's a great article to read on the issue. pcworld.com

Thanks for the question Danny. -Bruce

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Hi - sorry for the confirmation but I need to weed out the noise from the well intended comments. Thanks for leaving a note... - Bruce