Memory: The Poor-Man's Upgrade
Back when I used to build and over-clock my own PC's Memory was called the poor-man's upgrade. For much less money than replacing your CPU, which usually involved replacing your motherboard and all the hassle that entailed, you could max out your memory and keep your PC's performance contemporary for another 12 months or so. These days it's just not cost effective to build your own PC but it's still useful to be able upgrade your desktop when required.
My current desktop is the case in point. I tend to buy off the shelf PC's and then add to them as required. I expect a PC to last me about 3 years or a little more. My current workstation is a HP Core 2 Quad 4 CPU running Vista 64 that I bought a little over 2 years ago. I know a lot of people complain about Vista 64 but I actually like it. It has been tweaked in the past couple of years. To drive my main monitor, a Dell 30" LCD that I love, I had to replace th video card. To power the video card I had to replace the power supply. I've added a couple of extra internal hard drives to it to keep up with my ever expanding photo archive and I'll add another before I'm done.
For most people and most tasks this PC would fly but most of the programs I like to use are memory hogs. Sketchup, Lightroom, Sony Vegas, PhotoShop among others can each eat 2-3gb of memory. My PC came with 4gb so I should have been OK but Vista itself is resource hungry even without any of those other multimedia programs running and I noticed the memory usage often topping out at over 90%. I guess at that point the virtual memory (disk space) takes over but it is much slower so I was starting to experience performance issues waiting for these programs to respond or slow performance as the programs themselves were running sometimes.
To update my PC I took advantage of a Black Friday offer and bought 8gb of 'gamers' memory (basically memory with heat sinks attached from what I can see) the maximum my motherboard supports for around $150 shipped from NewEgg. It took a little fiddling and repositioning of one of the machine's hard drives to fit the new, chunky memory into the compact tower that houses my PC but I did wrestle it into place and it seems to have done the job. I can now run Lightroom, Sketchup and Google Earth at the same time and the memory usage doesn't reach 70%. I guess that means I'm not using scratch disk as much because all those programs seem to be running stutter free again.