I am going to have to agree with the others that 256 MB of RAM should be sufficient. All three of my computers run Windows XP and all three have 256 MB of RAM.
With them, we run Word, Outlook, and many other programs. On two of them there is at least one web browser (I use Mozilla and my wife uses Internet Explorer), Outlook 2000, Trillian and a myriad of other applications open at all times. We also use Paintshop Pro (7 and 8), Homesite 4.01, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 and other applications on a regular basis.
My wife's computer was last rebooted 3 months ago. My current computer has been up and down all weekend but I only got it on Friday.
Now, both my current PC and my previous one had the following in common: AMD Athlon 1700 XP+ and 256 MB of RAM. However my current computer is twice as fast as my previous one. And here is why:
New Computer Old Computer
Processor 1700XP+ 13m 1700XP+ 18m
Memory 256 MB 333 DDR 256 MB 133 SDRAM
Hard Drive 30 GB 7200 RPM 40 GB 5400 RPM
Video GEFORCE 4 MX 32 MB ATI RAGE XL 8 MB
AGP 3.0 (8x) 2.0 (4x)
FSB 133 MHZ 100 MHZ
IDE ATA-133 ATA-100
Sure, I can "speed" the older computer up with more RAM. However, it is limited to 133 SDRAM and that is its crutch. It will never truly get faster. If your computer is sluggish, more than a lack of RAM, look at your other components and make sure they are working up to par. If you can't upgrade components, look at what you are loading. Turn off those applications and features that you don't need.
Some things that can save you processor power include:
- Switch on the Classic Interface or disable some of the eye candy if you want to keep Luna.
- Remove startup applications such as ICQ's Netdetect, MS-Office Quicklaunch, Corel's Dad, Norton System Doctor.
- Utilize built in taskbars instead of a third party utility.
- Eliminate unneeded services from starting.
- Turn of Disk Indexing.