You probably actually have 512 MB of RAM (memory) installed on your computer. This is usually plenty of RAM for the average XP user, although if you are working with pictures or video you may need more.
There is another side to the equation, however, and that is having too many programs running at once. You see, programs open up into RAM. If you run out of room in RAM then you will experience big slow downs on your computer. So, adding RAM would help, but so would shutting down some programs. For most people this means telling programs not to auto start when you start up Windows. Keep the autostarting programs to a minimum, thereby freeing up your RAM to do what you need it to.
Go to:Start > Run
" (without the quotes) Click OK
Click on the Startup
tab. Here you will find a list of programs that start when you boot your computer. Uncheck any you don't want to start when you boot up. (You still will be able to start programs through their shortcuts or by going to Start > All Programs
. Unchecked programs just won't start automatically at bootup and won't be running in the background.)
You can Google entries or use the Bleeping Computer Startup Database HERE
to research the various startup entries, as sometimes they can be a bit cryptic.
There may be more to your situation, however. There could be hidden software running on your computer. Malicious software, such as viruses, adware, spyware, and the like. You must be sure that your computer is free of this type of software altogether.
Another thing that can eat up resources on your computer and make it run slow is corrupted software. Such as your Antivirus being corrupt, or AOL software, or HP software. (those are some common ones). Do you receive any error messages when the computer starts up? This might indicate a problem with some software.