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.
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