Suffice to say, next time I'll be shopping for RAM
If anyone's got any tips on freeing up RAM, it'd be greatly appreciated.
Use Sisoft Sandra to make certian you get the right type of RAM. Also it may be worth paying a little extra by taking it in to a shop for them to do it for you; inexperience in putting in RAM can damage motherboards, and it's often not easy.
Feeeing up RAM : just before the comp starts loading windows you can go into the scary looking BIOS setup by pressing 'del', F2 or F10 continually. You then may get the chance of reducing the amount of RAM the video card steals (if it is a shared-memory card, as many are). Often you only need 8megs but the BIOS is set to somehting silly like 64. [This isn't the same as the AGP setting, so ignore that]. some games may suffer though, so it is a trade off, but I don;t play games myself.
Then uninstall "Real" audio and Quicktime and install their alternatives if you can, which don't burden the comp with background programs. Also if confident uninstall your wireless software, then download and install the driver only version. But make sure there is one before you begin. The same can be done for printer drivers (if you can sacrifice the extra, usually redundant, functionality). Uninstall 3rd party firewalls and use window's one instead, much more efficient and simpler: 3rd party firewalls are usualyl a gigantic pain and unnecessary. Find an anti-virus prog that doesn't hog memory. Avast! does a free-for-home-use that is small and doesn't cause me problems (currently using 24megs).
Launch "Task manager" by right-clicking the taskbar. Add cpu and memory columns to the manager's process list. Look for cpu and memory hogs. The free microsoft download "Process Explorer" is even better for this, and it is worth watching the authors video on how to use it.