If you’ve spent much time on the Internet, you’ve probably seen a number of advertisements for ‘PC Accelerators.’ These accelerators are usually marketed as a kind of boost for your computer that increases its performance, speeding it up without the need for complicated new hardware. Computers with PC acceleration software will do everything faster than they did before, from starting up new applications to downloading files. Of course, how they work and how effective they are is a more complicated question that we’ll explore below.First, what exactly is a PC accelerator? Most accelerators are memory managers. One of the big bottlenecks for qualitative PC speeds (i.e. how fast a computer feels to use) is memory allocation. Modern programs are big and if your machine is low on active memory (RAM) your computer may be forced to use Virtual Memory. Virtual Memory is a trick designed by computer programmers that lets your machine use the hard drive like extra RAM. This is useful but hard drive memory is much slower than RAM, which can make it feel like your computer is slogging through molasses. Programs that are good memory managers can reduce the need to use virtual memory and increase the computer’s speed.One way accelerators do this is by monitoring your computer use. Accelerator programs keep a record of what files you use and how you use them. By analyzing this data to find patterns or habits in your usage, a good memory management program can anticipate what your needs are going to be and readjust the memory balances to improve performance. One example of this kind of acceleration software is actually built into Windows Vista. It’s called Super-Fetch and it constantly tweaks your computer’s memory settings to ensure that the right profile is available for your needs.Another way to improve system performance through acceleration software is to add more memory. Usually adding memory is a process that includes installing new hardware, often with a screwdriver and some patience. But programmers have developed a number of effortless ways to increase a computer’s available memory. Remember how hard drive memory is slower than active memory? This is because of the electronics of hard drive technology, which is good at storing a lot of data but not so good at delivering it quickly. Another type of memory exists that stands between RAM and hard drive storage technologies and you’ve probably already heard of it.Flash memory, like the kind found in USB memory sticks or MP3 players, is much faster at reading and writing data than a hard drive and much cheaper and easier to install than RAM. Using the right program, your computer can be tricked into thinking an attached flash drive is actually RAM, making it usable as faster Virtual Memory by the computer’s operating system. This makes a big memory stick into a performance booster for your machine. Windows Vista has the ability to handle these sorts of flash memory options built in to the operating system, but other OS’s may need a dedicated program to handle the procedure.PC acceleration is a complicated subject and the two methods above are just the beginning of ways to improve your machine’s performance without hardware upgrades. Several free versions of PC acceleration software exist for you to try out.