Modern PCs need plenty of RAM to deliver decent performance, especially if they're running 32-bit Windows Vista. A system with 2GB of RAM can easily run short if it's configured poorly, for instance. So you might install 4GB of RAM, only to discover the PC can only access about 3GB. Where's the memory gone, and are there any ways in which you can get some of it back? Installing 64-bit Windows Vista can make a real difference if your hardware is also up to the task (see the Microsoft help and support page), but if that's too drastic a step then there are other tAweaks that can help. Here's what you need to know.

1. Control Startup programs

The path to memory mastery starts by taking greater control over the programs you're running.

Browse the Start > All Programs menu and uninstall any software you don't use, then launch MSCONFIG.EXE and click the Startup tab to see what's configured to run when Windows starts. If you see something you no longer need, then uninstall the program or change its settings so it doesn't load automatically when you log on.

Application add-ons for browsers, Microsoft Office and so on can also consume surprising amounts of RAM. Check your current browser add-ons (Tools > Manage Add-ons in IE, Tools > Add-ons in Firefox) and disable (or ideally uninstall) any that you don't use any more.

2. Disable unwanted services

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