Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

There is no one answer on how much memory you really need for Windows XP, but we'll look at a few things to consider when deciding.

I am thinking of buying a cheap computer system with a 1.8 ghz Intel Celeron processor, 256 MB RAM, and an 80 GB hard drive. This does not come with Windows XP. My main concern is installing Windows XP. If the computer has 256 MB RAM will Windows XP install without using every bit of it, or will it use only a certain amount leaving extra.

As is so often the case, "it depends". Windows XP will work with as little as 96 megabytes of memory - I know, because I have such a machine.

The real question is will it work well, and that ... depends.

My 96 Meg machine works 'ok' because I don't ask it to do a lot. It's an older machine running Windows XP Pro that I've dedicated to being a glorified MP3 player, and nothing else.

I wouldn't think of installing Office on it, for example.

But I could.

And therein lies the difficulty in answering your question with absolutes: Windows will happily pretend it has more memory than it really does by using your hard disk as virtual memory. Office would install and run, but it would run very slowly.

The problem is that the more you try to do, the slower Windows becomes as it spends more and more of it's time dealing with virtual memory and less and less time running the application you're attempting to run.

Now 256 Meg is a fine machine that will run most applications without much problem. Office, for example. But I wouldn't expect it to be able to run a lot of applications simultaneously and still remain speedy. So if your demands aren't too high, the answer is certainly, go for it.

I will tell you this, however: if I were to purchase a new machine, which I did recently, I would start with 1 gigabyte of memory and make sure it was expandable to 2. Today 1 gigabyte is plenty of room - probably more room than most people need. But applications grow. Operating systems get bigger. Heck, most people's own usage grows as they discover more and more things to use their PC's for. Making sure that you have lots of memory and the potential for lots more is perhaps the single biggest thing you can do to increase the usable life of your computer.

Similarly, as I've said before, Windows loves memory. It's by far the most cost effective investment to speed up a slow machine.

Article C2303 - March 12, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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31 Comments
craig owen
April 26, 2005 5:24 AM

Brand: Dell Condition: Used
Processor Speed: 366 MHz Chip Type: Intel Pentium II
Hard Drive Capacity: 6.2 GB Memory (RAM): 128 MB
Screen Size: 13 inches Primary Drive: CD-ROM
Features: USB

will this b enough 2 run windows xp smoothly while using a samsung data cable with it. fanx alot.craig

Leo
April 26, 2005 9:07 AM

As stated in the article "it depends" on what you plan to do with it. That is a fairly slow, small machine, so don't expect it to do too much.

xleo
July 23, 2005 11:45 AM

pentiumII 366mhz: with that configuration I wouldn't recommend XP but stay with win98...!

XP will run fine as smooth on celeron 1800 and 256mb ram

XP you need at least 128mb to be ok but I have seen great improvement with 256mb, but going to 512mb wouldn“t do much for normal surfing and office suite, but if you scan, edit pictures and video, play games then you might consider 512.

fernando
September 27, 2005 7:34 AM

I have a Pentium II 400 MHz with 192 M of storage , and it's really slow. I Had a W98 and moved to XP .
To start it takes more than 5 minutes .

I use Office and Internet , but not simultaneosly .

I'm thinking on returning to W98
What do you think .??

zoro
September 29, 2005 10:49 PM

The answer is "YES" Fernando 98 runs far far better than xp with less ram and pentium 2 processor ..xp needs a minimum 512mb of ram (according to me) to run very smoothly.Whatever u do "DONT" go for windows ME cos its a crap.

Leo
September 30, 2005 10:46 PM

I'd consider adding more RAM.

Rj
November 28, 2005 1:54 PM

I am running XpHome edition on a
Acer
Intel Pentium 2
267MHz, 224 MB of RAM

And it runs smooth as silk for basic web surfing/chatroom/cam and run Frontpage 2000 on it.

Have an anti virus, firewall even on it.

It's pushing it, but it can be done with basic surfing, runs fine on cable modem. Dial-up may be an entire different story.

bill
February 9, 2006 4:51 PM

just put tablet xp s/p1 on a dell latitude cpia runing only 64m it will not load i take it i nead more memery .

ArronStandish
July 18, 2006 1:02 PM

Brand: emachines
Conditon: used
Processor Speed: 667 mhz
processor Chip Type: Intel Celeron
Ram: 128mb

will this be enough to run Windows xp with a macintosh emulator?

Leo Notenboom
July 18, 2006 4:05 PM

No. That's barely enough to run Windowx XP (I recommend 256meg ram MINIMUM, preferrably at least 512meg). Processor's a tad on the slow side also.

danny
October 6, 2006 1:53 AM

i have 434 cpu
96 mb of ram
windows xp
how do i get more ram or make it faster

Jake Blackah
October 29, 2006 8:31 AM

I have an 'intel inside pentium II processor' with 398MHz and 384MB of RAM. And I am running on Windows XP.

My mouse jumps and ANY software being used to play audio media jumps when ever I open up simple applications such as

WORD
FIREFOX (or any internet web browser)
WINDOWS LIVE MESSENGER

anything really.
whenever I click on a link on the internet or a song to play or to open/close something I have this problem.

My question is:

Would EVERYTHING run smoothly if I added an extra 128MB of RAM (to make 512)?

Or would I need to get a more modern:

MOTHER BOARD
PROCESSOR
AND A TOTAL OF 1GIG OF RAM

In order to make everything run more smoothly?

Ollie Beale
October 29, 2006 12:29 PM

Well a new motherboard would be rather expensive, especially if you're using a laptop.

Obviously the more RAM the better, I recently upgraded my laptop RAM from 256MB shared (with the graphics card)to 712mb??? anyway I definatly added 512mb to it, I found the improvement brilliant.

However other factors could include, how old the computer is, if this is a old computer getting some new RAM could be an expensive option. If this is the case a new computer would be just as cheap.

How good the processor is, if the processor is poor, which it certainly appears not to be, then getting a new motherboard is logical solution, but, again this can be VERY costly.

Something i would suggest is to try un-installing the media and then re-installing it, this, I think is the most logical solution, and the cheapest to first try, once you've done this try other i deas in the following order:

1)Using task manager, under the processor tab, try cancelling the most memory consuming programs. (BE CAREFUL!!!)

2) Try using a program called Free RAM pro, this is a gd bit of software that can utilise memory usage and optimise the current programs, this can be effective all the time and can solve alot of probllems and crashes (I use this alot)

3) If this doesn't work try buying some more RAM, this can be expensive or cheap. install this and, hopefully, everthing should run smoothly.

4) Get a hammer!!! (just jokin') perhaps consider getting a new computer.

Something I would like to point out is if you choose to get a new computer, windows VISTA is being relaesed soon, getting this could be leave you far more technologically upto date. Although, as with all new Microsoft OS's security will be poor, but this will surely become less of a problem as time goes on.

Hope you have good luck.

I really would suggest getting Free RAM pro, even if you're not having probs with your computer, an essential tool for any computer!!!

Venkatesh
December 22, 2006 1:00 AM

Hi,
I would like to install Windows XP my system configuration is NS Geode GX1 300Mhz, 128MB SD RAM with 4GB CF Disk. While installation Iam getting a message "Your system is low on Virtual Memory. To ensure that windows run properly,increase the size of your virtual memory paging file." Hence how do I increase this and when since my disk is blank and Iam doing fresh installation. Pls advise me.
Thanking you,
With Best Regards
Venkatesh

Leo Notenboom
December 22, 2006 8:28 AM

That system does not meet Windows XP minimum requirements.

Akshdeep Dhma
June 1, 2007 11:56 AM

I have a Dell Celeron 400+ with 512mb of memory and a 50 gig hard drive. Will i be able to run xp . And if i will be able to will it run smoothly and what would it the performance be like? Will i be able to play sims or run office on it?

Leo A. Notenboom
June 1, 2007 12:45 PM

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Sounds reasonable for a basic XP box. As for the Sims, that depends more on
your video card.

Leo
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Sam
July 17, 2007 2:19 PM

If I had more than sufficient ram, say 1G or even 2G, how much RAM should Windows XP Pro, Service Pack 2 use?
My concern is that there is still room to fine tune the many settings allowed by Windows to run more efficiently. I have installed CacheManXP, turned off virtual memory, and minimized my auto-starting programs, and it still says my system is using about 575MB after booting up. My laptop runs about the same at about 530MB.
This seem very high. If you have any suggestions on optimizing windows, specifically the speed at which programs load and switch between each other, that would be much appreciated.
I believe I have exhausted the usual suspects (Disk Clean, Defrag, Registry Cleaner, Boot optimization, Cache management, Deleting unused fonts, Not requiring file explorer to confirm network drives, turning off many Windows Event monitors, disabling hibernate, No desktop image, etc.) but my systems, both are purchased within the last year, still feels very sluggish.

Jarrod
October 3, 2007 1:01 PM

I'm not too cpu smart so this is why i'm asking ....i have an older compaq presario(about 4 yo.) and whenever i surf from page to page my cpu slows down and even freeze up and i would like to know how can i prevent this and/or do i need more memory...please help!

swpesan
January 9, 2008 1:10 PM

Quick question: I have 6gb or ram in my computer but the IT person at the store where I purchased said that when I go to properties in "my computer" it is normal to see that it states that I have far less than what I physically have in my computer. He also said it had to do with windows XP and it being a 32-bit system. He said even though it states 2.81gb or RAM, your computer is using all 6 gigabytes.

Leo A. Notenboom
January 10, 2008 2:59 PM

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A 32 bit operating system will not use 6 gigabytes of RAM.
Have a look at this article:
http://ask-leo.com/why_doesnt_windows_show_all_4gigabytes_of_memory_i_have_installed.html

Leo


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george
May 19, 2008 11:45 AM

i have a notebook pcg-8411 w win98, should i upgrade the ram and install XP, i just need it for online surf and play Mp3s, ???

Lucy
February 8, 2009 8:12 AM

I have an HP Pavilion04 , I can't even find it on any lists. It has 128 MB memory, and only6.42 mb left, I can't defrag anymore(needs 15 mb to defrag). I'm thinking of adding more memory, but not sure if it will work? How much should I add? I use a lot and want to keep stuff I have on here.I can't delete any more programs, with out deleting photos of things I want to keep. I can't add Adobe(had to remove it cuz it was taken up tioo much room)Put Spybot on cuz I thought maybe I had virus or something but not much comes up - only pups from Funweb. It's running very very slow,what do you suggest?? I can't do much of anything any more, just e-mail mostly.. help!!

You appear to be confusing memory (RAM) and disk space. Memory is not defragged, disk space is. It's unclear now exactly what you have.
- Leo
09-Feb-2009

keresztesi zoltan
February 23, 2009 11:02 PM

hi guys i guess ibm pentium 4 would be fine if you wanna buy a good desktop this is one of the best brand iam great fan of ibm.

asif
May 31, 2009 6:34 AM

how much sapce required of installation of window operating syes of 98, xp & win2000

JH
June 30, 2009 2:38 PM

256 MB is way too little for XP if you want to get anything done. It is the MS MINIMUM after all, and that is the minimum. I had a laptop with 512MB RAM and it spent more time (when running an app) using the PF than anything else. I'd recommend at least 1GB for XP, preferably 2. After all, RAM is so cheap nowadays (about £10 per GB)

Neohom
December 11, 2009 11:01 PM

Ram is cheap but not for sdram or older types of ram.

Phil
December 18, 2009 7:50 AM

My system looks like this: Dell desktop w/ 1.7 ghz proc., 1.5 TB storage, and 768 MB Ram. Has room for 256 MB more RAM - how much difference do you think that would make? I don't run games but do play music and video files. I'm thinking $30 is cheap to try but would like your opinion. Thx!

zhi wen
July 28, 2010 3:09 PM

just want to share, I used to have a 300 MHz machine running window xp pro, forgot how much memory it has, I only use it to download bt movies and it works fine and never give me any blue screen.

brian
April 26, 2011 12:32 PM

you need pentium 2 233 MHz or better
64 mb ram
at least 1.5 gb harddrive(barbones) 2gb normal

walter hartland
September 14, 2011 10:21 PM

2 gb of ram what does it do is 4 gb better than 2 gb

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