How do I know if my computer has a memory problem?

Usually, Windows automatically detects possible problems with your computers memory and displays a notification that asks if you want to run the Memory Diagnostics Tool .

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Preventing low memory problems
When your computer does not have enough memory for all the actions it is trying to perform, Windows and your programs can stop working. To help prevent information loss, Windows will notify you when your computer is low on memory. You can also learn to recognize the signs of low memory and take steps to prevent the problem.

What is virtual memory?
If your computer lacks the random access memory (RAM) needed to run a program or operation, Windows uses virtual memory to compensate.
Virtual memory combines your computer's RAM with temporary space on your hard disk. When RAM runs low, virtual memory moves data from RAM to a space called a paging file. Moving data to and from the paging file frees up RAM to complete its work.

Memory and RAM
Memory, such as random access memory (RAM), is temporary storage space on chips that your computer uses to run Windows and other programs. Memory is different from disk space, which is the amount of storage space available on your computer's hard disk. Different computers and programs have different RAM requirements.

Using memory in your storage device to speed up your computer
Windows ReadyBoost can use storage space on some removable media devices, such as USB flash drives, to speed up your computer. When you insert a device with this capability, the AutoPlay dialog will offer you the option to speed up your system using Windows ReadyBoost. If you select this option, you can then choose how much memory to use for this purpose. However, there are some situations where you may not be able to use all of the memory on your storage device to speed up your computer.

See details about your computer's performance using Task Manager
The Performance tab in Task Manager provides advanced details about how your computer is using system resources, such as random access memory (RAM) and the central processing unit (CPU):
Monitor how much CPU and memory resources are being used.
Get details about how much memory is being used.

Change the size of virtual memory
If you receive warnings that your virtual memory is low, you'll need to increase the minimum size of your paging file. Windows sets the initial minimum size of the paging file at the amount of random access memory (RAM) installed on your computer plus 300 megabytes (MB), and the maximum size at 3 times the amount of RAM installed on your computer. If you see warnings at these recommended levels, then increase the minimum and maximum sizes.

What is CMOS?
Complementary metal-oxide semiconductor, or CMOS, typically refers to a battery-powered memory chip in your computer that stores startup information. Your computer's basic input/output system (BIOS) uses this information when starting your computer.

Find out how much RAM your computer has
Random access memory (RAM) is a general indication of performance that is measured either in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB): the larger the number, the faster some programs will run.

Here are answers to some common questions about video cards.
How do I find out what kind of video card my computer has? How do I find out how much memory my video card has? How can I find out whether my video card is compatible with Windows? Can I upgrade my video card? How do I update the driver for my video card? What is video acceleration? Can I use more than one video card in my computer? What is a video capture card?

What information is sent to Microsoft when I report a problem
When a hardware or software problem occurs on your computer, Windows collects information that describes the problem, called a problem report. Report details can include, for example, the name of a program that has stopped working, the date and time that a problem occurred, or the version of the program that has encountered the problem.

Reporting and solving computer problems
Here are answers to some common questions about reporting and solving computer problems.
How do I report problems and check for solutions?
How does Windows find solutions to my computer problems?
How does Windows notify me about solutions?
What if I miss a solution notification?
Why does Microsoft ask for more information about some problems after I check for a solution?
Can I stop sending information about problems automatically?
Can all problem reports be sent automatically?
Should I send information about a problem (report a problem) more than once?
Can I track which reports I've sent or which solutions have been found?
Can a solution fix more than one problem?

Help someone with a computer problem using Windows Remote Assistance
You can use Windows Remote Assistance to connect to someone's computer and help him or her with a computer problem, even if you're not nearby.

How do I get pictures from my camera to my computer?
What if the import dialog box doesn't appear? What if connecting my camera doesnt work? What about removable memory cards? Why can't I choose which pictures to import?.

Get help with your computer using Windows Remote Assistance
When you're having a computer problem, sometimes you might want help from someone else. You can use Windows Remote Assistance to invite someone to connect to your computer and help you, even if that person isn't nearby. (Make sure you only ask someone that you trust, because the other person will have access to your files and personal information.)

Troubleshoot file and printer sharing
If you're trying to connect to another computer, make sure that computer is on, that you have enabled file and printer sharing on both computers, and that file and printer sharing can communicate through your firewall.
If that doesn't solve the problem, look for a specific problem in the following list.

Turn Direct Memory Access (DMA) on or off
You must be logged on as an administrator to perform these steps.
Direct memory access (DMA) is usually turned on by default for devices such as hard disks and CD or DVD drives that support DMA. However, you might need to turn on DMA manually if the device was improperly installed or if a system error occurred.

Troubleshoot Windows installation problems
Here are solutions to some common problems with installing Windows.
I do not have a product key. I get a message saying there is a problem copying files. My computer won't start from the Windows installation disc. My computer stops responding during installation and displays a blue or black screen or a screen that doesn't change. An error message appeared during installation. A program or a device doesn't work since I upgraded to Windows Vista. I need help installing or upgrading to Windows Vista. My computer loses power during installation. My monitor does not display a clear image, or has no image, since I installed Windows. My computer cannot play sound since I installed Windows. I can't upgrade to Windows Vista from my language version of Windows XP. I can't find the answer to my problem in this topic.

What can I do with Speech Recognition?
You can use your voice to control your computer. You can say commands that the computer will respond to, and you can dictate text to the computer.
Before you get started using Windows Speech Recognition, you need to have a microphone hooked up to your computer. Once you've got the microphone set up, you can train your computer to better understand you by creating a voice profile that your computer uses to recognize your voice and spoken commands.

Turn off a computer: frequently asked questions
Here are answers to some common questions about turning off a computer.
How do I shut down (turn off) my computer?
Why doesn't my computer shut down?
How does the Lock button work?
What is sleep?
If I'm not planning to use my computer for awhile, should I shut it down or put it to sleep?
Is my data safe while my computer is asleep?
What is hibernation?
What is hybrid sleep?
What is the difference between sleep and hybrid sleep?
How can I wake my computer from sleep or hibernation?
Won't sleep eventually drain my mobile PC battery?
How can I prevent my computer from automatically sleeping or hibernating?
What happened to the Restart and Shut Down options from Windows XP?
Can I change what happens when I click the Power button on my computer?
Why can't I find the Sleep or Hibernate option on my computer?

End a process
If you notice a process reducing your computer's performance because it either uses a high percentage of central processing unit (CPU) resources or a large amount of random access memory (RAM) you can use Task Manager to end the process. Try closing your open programs to see if the process ends before using Task Manager to end the process.