Memory vs disk space - PRR Computers, LLC

by Matt Kelland
11 years ago

Sometimes when we talk to customers, and they tell us they’re having computer issues, they ask us whether more memory or more disk space will solve the problem. It’s easy to get the two confused: after all, they’re both measured in gigabytes, and unless you know the difference, you could end up solving the wrong problem.


Memory – also known as RAM – is where the computer stores what it’s working on right now.The more memory you have, the more applications you can run simultaneously before it starts to slow down. Bigger programs, or programs that use a lot of data, such as games or video editors, take more memory. If you’re running low on memory, you’ll find it can take a while to perform simple operations, or to switch between applications. 

If this is happening, then you can (usually) add more memory, which will help. However, there are other things you can do to make things better:

  • Don’t run so many applications at once. Close down apps you’re not actually using. Remember, each tab in a browser takes up memory, so close tabs you’ve finished with.
  • Check for applications running in the background and disable any you don’t need. These can take a substantial bite out of your memory without you realizing it, particularly if you don’t have much to start with.
  • Run a virus checker and make sure there’s nothing running without your knowledge!
  • Reboot your computer regularly. Applications tend to accumulate information, and gradually require more and more memory, even if you’re not actively using them. Shutting the computer down – not simply telling it to sleep or hibernate – resets everything. “Have you tried turning it off and on again” really does work a lot of the time!

Disk space

Disk space is where the computer stores its files. Think of it as the computer’s filing cabinet. When you’re very low on disk space, the computer takes longer to save information to disk and to load it. 

The disk is also what the computer uses as extra memory if it needs it. If it runs out of memory, it writes data to the disk and retrieves it when necessary. This is much slower than keeping everything in memory anyway, and if your disk is nearly full, it can grind to a complete halt.

Generally, you want to have at least 20% free space on your disk (though you’ll probably be fine with less if you have a big disk). If you have more than one disk, try to keep 20% free on each of them. 

  • Delete files and programs you don’t need.
  • Defragment your disks regularly to keep them tidy and speed up saving and loading.


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1 Comment

  • Ben says:

    If it’s one thing.. this is the #1 – Question that people wonder about.. and I need to untwist them back into normal harmony :o)Thanks!

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