The other day, the topic of RAM — and what’s the minimum amount needed now for a Windows 10 computer — came up in a Facebook IT consultant-based group I’m part of. Not long ago, for a nicely functioning Windows 10 machine, 4GB of RAM was fine. Then as we started to move more things to the cloud and turned to the Chrome browser to access websites, that was no longer enough. Fast forward to now, and the consensus is that the bare minimum is 16GB — primarily due to the new memory-hog de jour: Microsoft Teams.

Teams relies on the Electron platform and is actually a web-based application in the background. That means you may need to do some tweaking to get it to behave on lower-RAM machines. I recommend, among other Teams suggestions, disabling the Outlook add-in; disabling hardware acceleration; adjusting the page file settings; and, of course, adding more RAM.

As we move more applications to the cloud, the browser and its memory use becomes increasing important. (It’s been an interesting personal experiment for me to see which browser tends to behave better, and I’ve found the new Edge browser handles memory better than Chrome.)

Upgrade, or buy new?

When buying a computer, the decision about how much RAM to get can be deferred for desktops or serviceable laptops. If your computer can be opened, and can support more RAM, it can be upgraded to continue as a work horse for you. But for laptops and other devices where RAM is physically connected to the motherboard and can’t be upgraded, the price will dictate how much RAM you get.

Businesses usually have the option to lease their devices; thus, as needed, they can arrange for trade ins and upgrades. Consumers and home users don’t have the same luxury. So keep these new RAM numbers in mind when purchasing a laptop.

Several years ago, Microsoft promised that Windows 10 would be the last Windows version you’d ever buy. But it didn’t intend for us to keep running it on the same computer that ran Windows 7. I am a realist when it comes to computers: there comes a time when you need to upgrade. While you can replace an IDE hard drive with an SSD – you should – and you can attempt to add more RAM, there comes a time where other components are so old that it no longer justifies using an old system to run Windows 10.  

(It would help if Microsoft made the migration process easier, though I’m hoping as we move more of our data and records to the cloud, that process will get easier.)

What’s the slowdown?

To figure out what’s making a computer slow down, I use either Task Manager or Process Monitor. Task Manager is built into Windows; just right-mouse click on the System Tray to get to it. From there, click on more details, then select “Memory” to sort by the amount of RAM used by applications. For each one, you often can dig into what’s causing extreme memory use. Monitor this over time to review which application is the one taking up resources.

Why all this discussion of RAM? Because on May 11, we will close the door on Windows 20 1909 and you’ll need to run Windows 10c2004 or later to continue to receive security updates. And with just 4GB of RAM, using Windows 10 will be increasingly painful as we go forward.  

Patch Tuesday pause?

For non-business users of Windows 10, we are on the cusp of the security updates coming for this month’s Patch Tuesday. Thus, make sure you have paused or deferred Windows 10 updates. These two actions should ensure you do not get inadvertent updates.

First, select Start, Settings, Network & Internet, and then Wi-Fi or Ethernet (whichever connection you are using). Next, click “Manage known networks.” Click on the network you use, click Properties and turn on “Set as metered connection.” This tricks the computer into thinking your Internet connection is limited (i.e., you might incur charges) and thus will only download patches once you approve them.

The second action is picking a deferral date after the April 13 Patch Tuesday security releases arrive. Click on Start, Settings, Update & Security, then click on Advanced Options. Pick a date far enough in the future to give you comfort. I always wait at least a week — usually more.

Now click on Start, then on System and then on About. Determine whether you are still running Windows 10 1909. If you did not personally put a block on your system to keep it on 1909, Microsoft itself may have done so. If your machine is still on 1909, and you’ve noticed it getting slower and slower, it may be time to invest in a new computer.

Each time a feature release comes to its end of life is a good time to reevaluate your computer system. Have you upgraded to an SSD? Is there enough storage? And of course, do you have enough RAM on board, and can it be upgraded if not?

Because with Windows 10 2004/20H2, 16GB is the bare minimum I recommend.

So how much RAM do you have? Take the survey on and let me know.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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