It's amazing how the small things can light up your life. I just upgraded my old Dell desktop to 4 GB of memory - all by myself! This may not sound like much, but as we used to say when nobody could get the video-feed projector to work, I'm a software type: I don't do hardware. What I do, however, is Read The Fine Manual. To give the Dell his due, Dell publishes excellent, detailed online manuals including step by step instructions on how to swap out your system memory and put in new stuff; and I printed them out and followed them, and LO! I have subsecond system response again! What a pleasure!
I suppose I could have stopped running Rosetta@home in the background. In fact, a couple of times lately, I did - I don't know what kind of proteins they're analyzing this week, but even as I type this, the 2 jobs Rosetta jobs running are taking up 650 MB of memory, all by themselves. On the 1 GB of memory I had before, this hardly left enough to bring up WinXP, much less actually DO anything. So whee! I have new memory, I have a newly fast box, and I didn't fry anything in the attempt!