COLUMN - Last week, I discussed how to use a free utility called Belarc Advisor from www.belarc.com to produce an audit of a Windows-based computer.

As promised, today I tell you more about how to use this information.

Windows Version: Under “Operating System”, you’ll see “Windows 10 Home” or similar text. Pay attention to the next bit. This will be something like (x64) or (x32). This indicates whether the Windows version installed is a 32-bit or 64-bit version. The number is important, as 32-bit systems cannot use more than four gigabytes of system memory (also called RAM), while 64-bit systems can use many times this amount

Memory: Most current systems ship with a 64-bit version of Windows 10 installed, but a 32-bit version is still supported and available. These is usually specified for backwards-compatibility with older software programs

I’m often asked to recommend a suitable amount of system memory for Windows computers and my answer usually is get as much as you can afford. Typically, I specify a minimum of four gigabytes of RAM for an entry-level PC doing basic data entry and web browsing. Go for 8GB if possible and, if your budget can stretch to it, 16GB is fantastic.

Windows systems have a much longer useful life if they either start out with lots of RAM or are upgraded, as they are better able to cope with new updates and increasing resource requirements of the latest software.

It’s usually much cheaper to buy plenty of RAM while a system is still fairly current. Once a specification becomes dated and a new version becomes popular (which can happen in just a few months to a year), it can be quite expensive to source as suppliers will typically only stock the latest technology.

If your Belarc Advisor audit report under “Memory Modules” indicates your system has an available slot, the next step is to find out what type of memory your computer uses. I’ve got a sneaky quick way of doing this.

Crucial is a global computer memory manufacturer and supplier of RAM and SSD upgrades for PCs, and its Crucial Advisor utility at www.crucial.com/usa/en/advisor can scan any PC to provide information and pricing on compatibly memory from Crucial’s vast online store.

The trick is to print or save the quote (which will be in US dollars so remember to factor in potential import duties, etc) and, more importantly, the detailed memory specifications including the maximum memory supported by your system. Armed with this you can shop around at a local computer store or online suppliers to find the best deal for memory of an identical specification.

To use the Crucial Advisor, simply visit the address above, click the “I Agree” box on the right of the page, then click the large blue “Scan Computer” button. This downloads a “CrucialScan.exe” file which you should run to scan your system. The results appear in a new page on Crucial’s website.

Results: Other indicators to look out for in your audit results include the amount of free disk space, the type and speed of hard drive in use, the number of missing software updates and the versions of key components inside your computer. I’ll cover ways of improving these elements in an upcoming column.

Finally, computer hardware manufacturers often update their individual components such as disk drives, graphics cards and processors and a special type of software that is stored on these devices to help with their operation, called “firmware”. A firmware update (especially one for something called a BIOS) is occasionally required to fix bugs, improve performance, or add support for new technology. These updates are difficult to reverse if they go wrong, so you should seek expert advice before attempting them.

The Mercury