Alrighty, here's my issue. I've got 256MB of ram, and I'm not really satisfied with it, so I'd like to upgrade.
Now I've installed hard drives, optical drives, PCI cards, video cards and all that jazz, but never RAM. The problem is I have no idea what kind of RAM I need or what will be compatible.
I know it's dual channel, because there are two chips, but I don't know how to discover anything else, or even if I need to discover anything else. Maybe someone could help?
I would assume your system to be a Socket 478 Pentium 4, using DDR RAM? Use CPU-Z (http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php) to identify your system and the type of RAM you are using. It would be better if you can post the details of your CPU & RAM info from CPU-Z here for us to know your current system.
256MB RAM isn't enough for a typical XP system. Min is 256MB so you're barely making it. You'll notice that the RAM used if you have more than 256MB is always more than 256MB... so an upgrade is advisable.
Dual channel RAM slots are made to enable similar type RAMs to run in tandem to get better performance. Dual channel motherboards usually support up to 800MHz dual. If so, you'll want to upgrade your RAM as a pair. I'll suggest the ones where you can buy in pairs like Corsair, Kingston high performance RAM. But they are a bit pricey/exp.
If you r looking for an economic upgrade, maybe you can go for Apacer or economic versions of branded RAM maunfacturers. The minimum would be DDR400 since you'll be able to hit 800MHz with them. 2 x 1GB RAM would be nice but 2 x 512MB can also do the trick. In order to use dual channel, you'll have to slot them in as a pair. If your motherboard only has 2 slots, that's not a problem, but if there is 4, you'll notice that they are grouped in pairs of 2. You'll have to slot in the pairs in Slot 1&3 or 2&4.
I guess you won't be overclocking your system so you won't have to bother much about the RAM latency, delay, cycle time etc. But basically, the lower the value the better. You can play with the settings in your BIOS but only if you know what you are doing as you may crash your system or kill your RAM.
Thanks dz9c and Kelvin, I analysed my system and I figure I'll probably upgrade to 1GB (2x512), although I'm not going to do anything crazy expensive because I'll probably get a new system within the next year or so.
I would reccommend going with 2 512Mb sticks of Corsair ValueSelect then. It is by far the best budget RAM.
I believe Newegg has it in 1Gb kits for relatively cheap if you are willing to order online.
Yep all good advice, these guys have most of the bases covered. Just make sure you check to see what the max memory size and speed (if applicable).
your 256 is very small by today's standard and I recommend 512 minimum and 1 gig even better.
Also: One other issue you may be having is your video card. Sometimes upping you video card will also increase performance.