Operating systems have become more complex over time. For an every-day user, it’s really a hard task to find what programs are slowing down their machine and for what reasons.
The most common performance problems are related with physical memory.
As I wrote in a comment answering a reader, Ben, in another post:
Programs use more RAM (another name for physical memory) if there is more available. Thus, you cannot associate high memory usage with bad memory usage. If your machine has resources (one of these resources is RAM), there is no problem using them if they’re available for use. But what about when you hit the limits of your physical memory?
What can an every-day user do to find out if their machine is using all of it’s current physical memory and, therefore, needs more RAM?
This not an advanced way to look for performance problems but, if you are using Windows 7, why not use a free tool that this great operating system offers?
To achieve our goal, we need to open the Resource Monitor. Do this by pressing WinKey and typing resource monitor in the search box:
Go to the Memory tab and sort by Hard faults/sec; you will see something like this:
What is that column?
The numbers are the average of the hard page faults per second in the last minute by a process.
Modern operating systems use the hard disk for additional memory. If the system thinks that a portion of memory is not going to be used right now, it saves it to disk so it can release some physical memory.
This way, your system can open and work with more programs than if it uses only physical memory; however, problems appear when the operating system needs to access the drive more often.
A page fault occurs if your operating system has to look for a portion of memory in the disk. The hard drive is one hundred thousand times slower than memory so it is easy to see this is going to slow down the computer.
See what happens if you open several programs:
As you can see this is not the ultimate way to know if your computer needs more RAM but it’s an easy way to see if you are hitting physical memory limits and, at least for me, it’s worth to trying when your computer is under “normal” use to evaluate whether you need more RAM.