If anyone out there is thinking of trying out one of the “RAM optimizers” that are heavily advertised on a lot of the tech sites, you might want to read this excellent dissection of these scam-filled products by Mark Russinovich. Every last one of these applications can actually hurt your computer’s performance by forcing the operating system to move actively-used information from the machine’s very fast RAM to its very slow hard disk-based virtual memory file, and as a result, you take a big hit as your applications have to copy that information back into RAM once they need it again. Most importantly, the peddlers of these applications rely on people having a belief that there’s some intrinsic, universal benefit to having a huge chunk of empty RAM hanging around… but most programmers will tell you that this is an untenable generalization, especially when there are tasks that are running which could benefit from having access to that fast RAM. (For a good example, look at a memory usage map on most any Unix machine, and you’ll see that the physical memory is almost always in use to the tune of over 80%. That’s because the Unix operating system has always understood the value of using the much faster RAM as much as possible to complete tasks.) Sure, some gamers want access to every last bit of memory to run their super-complex shoot-em-ups, and maybe this is the class of user that needs these products… but you’d think that the game programmers would then just build the functionality into their games, no? Seems logical to me.

(And do you think these RAM-boosting scam artists told the folks over at Download.com that they stole their download icon?)

OK, I’m done being a total geek for now.