How Much RAM Do You Really Need?

Most people know that their computer has RAM — but fewer could tell you just what is it and what it does. Here’s how to gauge how much RAM you need, how much your computer has and how to get the most out of it.

RAM is one of the most crucial specifications of your computer’s hardware, so it’s a very useful thing to understand. A working knowledge of RAM can give you an idea of just what your PC can and cannot run, so it’s particularly handy to know if you use system-intensive software like video editing programs The Best Free Video Editors for Windows Everyone takes videos these days. Yet powerful free video editors remain rare. We present the absolute best free video editors available for Windows. Read More or modern video games.

What Is RAM?

RAM, or random-access-memory, is a type of data storage that allows files to be written and read at short notice, no matter what order individual entries are being accessed in. Alternate forms of data storage — like hard drives and disks — can’t match this speed as a result of their physical and mechanical limitations. RAM allows your PC immediate access to the data it requires, which contributes to how fast and responsive it is How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead Suffering from a slow computer? You might not know why and maybe you're trying to fix it in all the wrong ways. Let us help you with tips for a real speed boost. Read More .


This makes RAM well-suited for temporary storage, used by software for data that needs to be accessed quickly and frequently. For instance, if you’re using a word processor to create a text document Don't Pay for Microsoft Word! 4 Reasons to Use Office Online Instead Microsoft Office Online offers free web versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Here's why you should give it a try today. Read More , it’s stored in your computer’s RAM while you’re editing it — the speed that RAM can be read and written to allows you to see your edits shape that document in real time.

There are two different types of RAM; static and dynamic. DRAM can offer access times of roughly 60 nanoseconds, whereas SRAM can cut that down to just 10 nanoseconds. However, DRAM is used more often because it’s substantially less expensive.

How Much RAM Do I Have?

To check how much RAM is installed on your computer, first open a new File Explorer window SkyDrive For Windows 8: The Cloud Storage And Modern File Explorer App Got Windows 8? Then you have SkyDrive and in combination with a Microsoft account, you get 7GB of free storage. SkyDrive is a cloud storage solution and also doubles as a modern file explorer. Read More . Then, find the icon for your system — it might be labelled ‘My Computer’ or ‘This PC’ or something of your own choosing if you’ve renamed it. Right-click that icon and then select Properties.


This will present you with a screen that gives you a rundown of all your computer’s specifications; look under the System subdivision for the entry marked Installed memory (RAM).

If you’re seeing an amount of RAM contrary to what you expected, it might well be thanks to a known issue with the Windows OS. Due to a longstanding quirk of the Windows system architecture, the 32-bit version only supports up to 4GB of RAM. Switching to the 64 bit OS should sort out this problem.

Note that if your graphics card doesn’t have dedicated memory, it will block RAM for its own use. Shared graphics memory reduces the available system memory.

How to Get the Most From Your RAM

Now that you know how much RAM your computer has installed, you can begin to ensure that it’s being used to its full capabilities. You can increase RAM 8 Ways to Free Up RAM on Your Windows Computer This article explains how to free up RAM on your Windows computer. Our tutorial shows how to optimize memory usage and more. Read More  in a variety of ways, and the correct method for any individual case will depend on the particulars of the software you want to run on your system, as well as your level of experience with computers.

One simple way of giving your RAM a boost is by supplementing it with a tool like ReadyBoost Need A Memory Upgrade? Outsource RAM & Speed Up Your Computer With ReadyBoost If you're looking to give your computer a quick & free speed boost, try ReadyBoost. The Windows feature adds additional memory to your system. All you need is a compatible flash drive. Read More . Included as part of the Windows OS since Vista, ReadyBoost can use a USB drive as a bit of additional memory. It’s not as effective as buying more RAM, but it’s an easy and quick alternative that’ll reap decent results — particularly if you’re using a slow computer.

Another method is to use Task Manager to keep an eye on which programs and processes are putting the strain on your system’s resources. To access this, right-click the Taskbar and select Task Manager.


The Memory column is what we’re interested in. If you see programs that you’re not using eating up plenty of memory, then it might be worth investigating whether they need to be running, or even if they can be uninstalled completely. Of course, this will vary on a case-by-case basis, but there are some non-essential startup items that most users can do without 10 Startup Programs You Can Safely Disable to Speed Up Windows Computer booting slowly? You probably have too many programs running at startup. Here's how to disable startup programs on Windows. Read More .

How Much RAM Do I Need?

Like many computer components, it can seem like the amount of RAM necessary to keep your computer running at a brisk pace is steadily increasing. Check the requirements of individual programs to make sure you’ll be able to run the software that you need to, but here are some broad pieces of advice on RAM requirements as of early 2015.

The baseline for RAM in a computer is 4GB; that’s how much you can expect from a budget model, and it’ll just about do the job — just don’t expect to be running high-intensity programs or to have several applications open at the same time without performance taking a hit. 8GB is closer to the current norm, and it’ll be enough to keep your computer fresh for the immediate future.

Note that upgrading to an SSD will significantly improve system performance as well.

If you’re looking to run recent video game releases, you’ll need to have sufficient RAM.

For gamers wanting to keep up with new releases What Does RAM Do for Gaming and How Much RAM Do I Need? Wondering how RAM affects your gaming PC and what kind of RAM you should buy? Here's an explanation of RAM for gamers. Read More , or if you need access to hardware-intensive programs like video editing software, then it’s worth having 16GB of RAM at your disposal. Anything beyond that is only really necessary for systems set-up for a particular purpose, or for users wanting to make sure their computer is as future-proof as possible.

If in Doubt, Add More RAM

If the RAM you have installed on your computer is less than what you need, don’t fret — these days, a RAM upgrade can be quite inexpensive, and the component itself is relatively easy to install How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step Is your laptop old, slow, and has the hardware never been upgraded? Working on a slow computer can be a real drag. Before you buy a completely new one, however, you should consider ways to... Read More . However, if you’re looking to buy more RAM then you’ll need to check how much your motherboard can handle — it’s much more of a hassle to replace that component, and a waste to purchase RAM that your system can’t use.

Will You Be Adding More RAM?

There’s a whole host of different elements that go into constructing a computer perfectly suited for your needs, but RAM is one that you can’t afford to ignore. It’s good practice to know how much RAM you have available to you, and what processes are using it at any given time — doing so can mean the difference between a machine that can handle anything you throw at it, and a sluggish, stuttering system.

Do you have any tips or questions about RAM? Let us know about them in the comments section below.

Explore more about: Computer Maintenance, Computer Memory.

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  1. Cheryl
    April 25, 2018 at 11:42 pm

    How MUCH Ram can a computer use? Is 16GB the max today? I heard someone says they have 24GB...they are online gamers.

  2. Arijit Mondal
    June 4, 2017 at 4:25 am

    Sir, i have 2GB of ram. If i buy a 4GB graphics card will it create any kind of problems. If yes then whats are the solutions for that...??

    • CrankShade
      June 30, 2018 at 9:55 pm

      There won't be any problems. GPUs have their own RAM built in specifically for graphics. It is separate from RAM sticks.

  3. ComputerScientist
    February 11, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    I'm glad people are tearing the author apart for saying Windows is the reason the 32-bit OS can only address 4 GB of RAM, as if running Mac OS X you're suddenly going to be able to use 64 GB of RAM on a 32-bit system. MUD has a lot of decent articles, but it's stuff like this which makes me think some authors either have some bias, or some fundamental lack of understanding when it comes to computer science and technology. I take everything I read on MUD now with a grain of salt, any new information I discover on this site, I'm going to have to independently verify.

  4. desterii
    October 20, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Why does Firefox take a gigabyte of RAM to do all the same things I used to do when I had a computer with only 128 megabytes of RAM?

    • ktcli
      October 4, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      In a word, Evolution. You system that had 128MB RAM was probably built circa 1995-2000 when the demands and capabilities of internet browsers was very basic and limited. As time passed, the usage, capabilities and speed of the internet and related/dependent technologies has increased exponentially. As a result, browsers internet became more advanced and sophisticated to deliver better performance for end users and applications. This growth requires more "horsepower" to get the job done and like any task, you need the right tools to get the job done. On another note though, modern browsers are memory hogs because they are running so many background processes, some necessary for performance and handling media-rich websites but also the constant data gathering they do for both marketing and research. There are plugins/add-ons that will kill non-active tabs, thus lowering the resources your preferred browser uses.

  5. Anusha
    September 25, 2016 at 6:52 am

    How do i check hw much ram can my motherboard support??

  6. jack spretzen
    July 23, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    UPDATE: I just got a 486 computer and am shooting for 64mb ram and that is gonna smoke the 386 fur sure.

    • FromTheEighties
      January 27, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      If you hit "turbo" on the front of the case, you can increase from 66 mHz to 100 mHz and your computer will be crazy fast. it's awesome. I was able to run scandisk on my 20 megabyte hard drive in under twenty minutes finally!

      • David
        September 22, 2018 at 4:30 pm

        What is this "turbo" you speak of? Surely this is wizardry!

  7. jack spretzen
    July 23, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    On my 386 I am running 16 kb of ram but plan to up that to 64.
    The thing will be screaming fast then.

  8. Raymond
    June 30, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Good day to all. How much RAM do I need if I want to use my computer for trading futures (TOTALLY DEFERENT THAN TRADING STOCKS) and I will have about 8 to 12 markets to look at and operating with 4 monitors. Thank you

  9. alsen
    April 6, 2016 at 3:44 am

    Use a GiliSoft RAM disk to boost performance and speed up access to data. Unlike your system hard drive, a RAM disk contains no moving parts to generate noise and heat. Because your computer's memory is so much faster than the hard disk, a RAM disk greatly improves application performance.

  10. Dick
    February 21, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    How much ram do I need to play flash games

    • Ian Christopher
      April 3, 2016 at 9:46 am

      2 gb is enough

  11. Anonymous
    October 9, 2015 at 9:32 am

    do ram copy the address form hard disk or loads the whole program

    • Anonymous
      October 13, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Rather depends what you're running. Windows (ALL versions of Windows), as far as I'm aware, constantly accesses the disk all the time. I believe when you access a program, it will be loaded into RAM....but is then returned to the disk when you're finished with it.

      If you're like me, and running Linux, things CAN be different. I run 'Puppy' Linux; which has the unique distinction (along with Knoppix, which it was derived from, Damn Small Linux, Tiny Core, Kolibri, and one or two others) of loading the ENTIRE operating system into RAM, and then running entirely in RAM, until you shut down.....when you write back to a special file, called a save-file.

      This makes it awesomely fast....even on a low-end system. I run it on a 13-yr old Dell laptop with a P4 and 1 GB RAM.....and it's easily as fast a later system with more RAM, faster CPU, etc., running Windows.

      I run it on my main system; a 10-yr old Compaq Presario desktop; dual-core Athlon 64 X2, 4 GB RAM, & a 512 GB SSD; it FLIES!

      • MarylandBill
        March 31, 2016 at 6:40 pm

        Of course the problem with Puppy Linux is also that it is run entirely in RAM. In my experience, you tend to run into memory problems with it more quickly than you would with a more traditional light weight distro. Running Fatdog64 (a 64bit pup of Puppy), I find that gmail and facebook can both hog a lot of the free memory and make my system really slow... and it has 4GB).

  12. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Before you buy ram especially for a older computer consider what you do with your system. If mostly just Facebook, email, Youtube and basic office work then 2gb to 4gb of ram is fine.
    Windows 10 which I use is good with 2gb of ram and in fact I used it with 1gb. Many Linux distros are also okay with 1gb of ram or less. Older systems tend to be more expensive to buy ram for also.

    Mavericks and later versions of OS X really need 4gb or more ram in my view. If you really
    want to see a speed increase a SSD is the way to go. Even in computers with Sata 1 or 2
    controllers you will notice a difference. Again though consider how you use your computer.
    Are you doing PhotoShop then consider 8gb or ram or more especially for large files. Video
    editing in some cases is the same. However I would say the average user would be fine with
    4gb ram and a SSD. Some of you may be using older systems with less then a gig of ram
    and XP. Try Linux instead.

  13. Anonymous
    July 28, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Hello guys I just need to ask a question. If i need to play clash of clans and just download a video editing and making software(like a screen recorder and editing software) and just download maybe basic Photoshop or flash player(not necessary) and you know just do normal work like word, excel and just browsing, then what ram size do you think i will require???
    And remember, the Photoshop and flash player are not necessary.

    Please clear my confusion.

  14. jeff
    May 20, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    well consider 3 games that I have played exceeded my 8gb of memory I'd say its necessary to have 16gb. gta 5 cod aw and dying light all 3 use a lot of ram

  15. martin
    May 8, 2015 at 10:34 am

    how much ram and hard drive do i need to run band in a box 2014 pc

  16. Smith Roy
    April 20, 2015 at 11:21 am

    I am using windows 8.1 with 1 gb ram and 120 gb ssd.With no problems :P, He says 4 gb...!

  17. BehindMySkull
    April 19, 2015 at 7:49 am

    For 32bit only 4GBs of RAM?!
    How can i change it to 64bit?

    • Anonymous
      August 26, 2015 at 10:03 am

      You need to make sure Windows is the 64 bit version when you purchase it

  18. Local Juice
    March 6, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    A file 322+Mb takes over 60sec to display.

  19. Local Juice
    March 6, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I am running an Asus k501, Pentium dual core, 64-bit, 3gb RAM, Win7

    Running Ulead (Corel) PhotoImpact X3, 200+Mb file gets slower and slower processing an image (vectorized image(s)) the closer and over 300mb file size.

    Better new 8gb+ RAM system, or attempt to increase RAM in this system?

    • Anonymous
      September 24, 2015 at 3:18 am

      Do you have an ssd harddri

    • Anonymous
      September 24, 2015 at 3:29 am

      Do you have a ssd harddrive if not I would recommend one that will help a lot plus maybe add more ram if you can go to atleast 4gb or more if your motherboard can handle it. I run a AMD 6 core processor, ssd 128gb, 16gb of ram and a 2gb graphics card handles anything I throw at it but I only ever use about 6-7gb of ram!

  20. jrandom421
    March 4, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    For me, I have 32 GB of RAM installed on my laptop and I use every K of it, running VMs in Hyper V that simulate whole System Center implementations. Sometimes even that isn't enough.

    • john
      April 28, 2015 at 6:43 am

      so, your operating system on your laptop is 64 bit...correct..?

    • William
      January 13, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      hey I am trying to learn more about hyper V and VMs and want to know if I clone a virtual drive am I able to use the cloned ram as a virtual ram disk similar to the ones created from your normal physical ram on the drive? I am trying to understand more about virtual ram disks and how to correctly use them. I have one computer with 8gbs memory and from what I read , but may be wrong, is that I can create a virtual ram disk with 4 gb or half of the mem already had but what I want to do is create the virtual ram disk and have it back up every 15 min so its not as volatile and to run large programs from it instead of from the c drive to free up space. Is this possible and another system I only have 3 gb ram and is it possible to create the VRD with that little? I have like 4 32gb usb flash drives and 4 16 gb and was going to try and use that for ready boost or a virtual ram disk if possible and I have a 1 tb toshiba external i am trying to use for ready boost or a virtual ram disk but cant seem to get it. I have it hooked to a old macbook pro running windows 7 only. I have snow leopard and boot camp but just use windows 7. If the blog owner or anybody could shed some light it would help a ton. I want to run video editing and creation as the final goal with limited resources. Also heroin withdrawal has been all naturally cured and that cure suppressed until now at

  21. carson
    February 19, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    The good thing was obviously less RAM usage, great for people with low RAM. The bad thing was that instead of caching to RAM, Windows cached to the HDD (hard drive). The HDD is a LOT slower than RAM, so for people with lots of RAM, they complained that Windows wasn't making effective use of memory.

  22. Steve
    February 12, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Folks, with the first section titled, "What is RAM?", I would think we could identify the intended audience for the article. This clearly was not written for the avid computer nerd.

    Thank you for the article; it is a great place to start researching the topic.

  23. Gene baker
    January 24, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    This has really helped my i3 with 4 gb of ram thanks

  24. Andre
    January 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    But how can I read RAM on Task Manager ?
    I have 4GB RAM and: 1GB is system reserved, 850MB is buffored, 15MB is modified, only 10 MB is free, but 2GB in use (1GB by IE - 5 tabs open).
    Is it normal?

  25. Mykhaylo
    January 20, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I had a laptop with 512 Mb of RAM. In the era of Windows XP, it was pretty enough for daily usage (browsing, office work, etc.), but not enough for good gaming. And since then every year it was additional discomfort bonus of 'not enough' even for browsing usage. Several years ago, I changed my laptop to the newest, and right now I have 8Gb of RAM, and tell you, that it really fits me very good, but only for Windows OS usage. If we are talking about Android, then even 2Gb of RAM is prety enough for everything, even for all games. And I tell you that it will be enough even for the next 2 or 3 years.

    • Col. Panek
      January 21, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      Try Linux on that old laptop. I'd suggest Deepin or Zorin, or maybe Xubuntu or Lubuntu.

  26. Kevin M
    January 20, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Nice article but you may as well not cater to gamers. You did not even come close to getting to the nuts and bolts of what ram is, what and how to purchase it or even how to optimize it. For the rest of the users that purchased money pit computers then this article will help some.

    Like everything else Microcrap ReadyBoost is just another joke from these morons. Dont waste your time with it, all you will do is ruin a perfectly good micro drive.

  27. thoamas
    January 20, 2015 at 12:35 am

    A41202813GMAIL asked: "When Your Machine Is Sluggish With 4GB Of RAM, What Is More Important, Increasing RAM Or Replacing Your Processor With A Quicker One ?"

    Those are not the only options, and may not be the correct ones.

    Here's how to start telling what you might need in Windows: First, right click on your start bar and select "Start Task Manager". Once that is open, click on the "Performance" tab (good for Win 7, may be called something different in Win8). Let it run for a while. You'll see on top a rolling graph representing how much of your CPU is being used. On the bottom, the same, but graphing RAM use.

    If a user says their machine is "running slow", one of those will typically be very high. Make note of which it is, and then click on your "Processes" tab. If it's not already, click on the "Show process from all users" button at the bottom.

    Now, if you noted that CPU was very high, click on the "Memory" column at the top of the table. This will show you processes that are using a lot of RAM. If you see one with hundreds of MB used (or hundreds of thousands of KB used, same thing), start looking at the names of the processes and figure out what they're doing. As someone above pointed out, browsers seem to have a tendency to take up hundreds of MB after a while now. Other processes may have memory leaks as well, and grab more and more RAM they shouldn't need.

    Or, if you saw that the processor was running close to the top of the graph, sort on the "CPU" column. Look for processes at or near the top and see if one is a processor hog. NOTE: "System Idle Process" represents how much of the time your CPU(s) is not being used by a process; don't worry about it if you see it high -- that should be a good thing for performance!

    Once you've identified processes that are CPU or RAM hogs, **IF YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE** you can consider closing them, and see if performance for the ones you want around improves. If you *don't* know what the process is and what closing it will do to your system, you need to do some research to find out before you close anything. Closing the wrong process through Task Manager may crash your system and/or corrupt data in an open program. It is safe to close programs by the normal close/exit process in the program.

    Keep in mind that it's important to be running the latest version of a good anti-virus and anti-malware program. If you don't, your system can become infected, and once one of the bad guys has your machine, it's likely that other bad code will be loaded on it as well. Many of the people I work with who complain of slow performance have had significant infections that were stealing system resources.

    Also note that some programs put fairly high demands on your system for a while. An anti-virus program might slow disk access while it's doing a deep scan; running it while you're doing a defrag can mean that things get very slow... so consider whether changing scheduled tasks around might speed things up without having to buy anything. Running SETI@home can use a lot of CPU. All those background tasks like and such add their own load. Browser search bars and tool bars can make any browser painfully slow.

    Use the tools the OS provides to see what's going on. Take the time to understand what you see, and to know what it means on your system. And be careful not to do things when you don't know what you're doing. A knowledgeable friend or a online support group can be a tremendous help here.

    • Joseph Bellard
      January 20, 2015 at 3:30 am

      Your post made more since than any other comment on here. I'm not a computer geek and need simple to understand instructions fix speed issues. Thanks a lot.

    • A41202813GMAIL
      January 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm


      Thank You For Responding.

  28. Col. Panek
    January 19, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    You don't need more RAM, you need a better operating sytem.

    I'm running only 1.3 GB now with a few Firefox tabs open. I edit movies with OpenShot or KDenLive and never bump into my 3 GB limits, and I run a "heavy" Linux, Mint Cinnamon. It's great not having to lug around all that Windows baggage, plus antivirus. I've put Lubuntu or Puppy on machines with 256-500 MB. I ran a minimal Debian on a 14 year old laptop with 128MB and surfed the web with Firefox (one tab at a time).

  29. A. Lawrence
    January 18, 2015 at 5:06 am

    I run Windows 81. and 10 on two old Lenovo T61 machines with 2gb ram. However I am a avid Linux user and also use Lubuntu, Linux MINT Mate and two other distros which use less ram and CPU then Windows or OS X. If you have a aging system and 2gb or less ram consider using Linux. Lots of versions around. Windows 7 actually seems to use more ram then Windows 8. Those who have limited cash but want a faster system should consider a SSD.

    Some of you using XP will need to get TRIM working to make sure you get the most out of the SSD. My suggestion is cost is really a factor and you don't truly need Windows use Linux
    You experience fewer of the headaches Windows brings.

  30. Dan
    January 17, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I have a laptop that has 8GB of RAM. With Win7 it worked pretty well, and I rarely utilized more than 4-5GB. When I switched to Linux (XFCE), it never even went over 2GB. I do some media transcoding but I no longer play games except flash games online. Everyone has a use case that determines his RAM requirements.

  31. A41202813GMAIL
    January 17, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    When Your Machine Is Sluggish With 4GB Of RAM, What Is More Important, Increasing RAM Or Replacing Your Processor With A Quicker One ?

    Establishing A Parallel Between The Two Would Be Nice.

    Thank You.

    • Ararat
      February 13, 2015 at 7:48 am

      @A41202813GMAIL, In a 32-bit system the most RAM you can have is 4 GB (2^32 = 4,294,967,296 bytes or 4,294,967,296 / 1000^3 = 4 GB approximately; actually it is 4,294,967,296 / 1024^3 = 4 GB exactly). So, adding more RAM (more than 4 GB that is) in a 32-bit system won’t have any effect on the system whatsoever because the additional memory won’t be recognized and it is wasted. To have more than 4 GB RAM requires a 64-bit system to begin with. There could be a host of reasons why a machine is sluggish. Adding more RAM is usually the best way to go because the increase in memory capacity means more information is readily available in fast RAM for access than having to frequently go to much slower hard drive to load information into RAM for processing. Faster CPUs can only be effective if the communication lines (FSB or Front Side Bus or System Bus) linking the CPU to the rest of the system (i.e., RAM, Video, etc.) is fast enough to accommodate the increase in CPU speed. So, replacing the existing CPU with a faster one (assuming the motherboard supports it) can only be effective if the motherboard is fairly new so it can accommodate the features of the newer CPU.

    • A41202813GMAIL
      February 15, 2015 at 11:29 am


      Thank You For Responding.

  32. Ian
    January 17, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    What about the virtual RAM? You totally failed to mention that windows incorporates a "page File" for taking some of the tasks from RAM, by using some space on your HDD this can be a system managed size or you can set the amount generally around 1.5 x to 2 x physical RAM.
    With systems running 64 bit with over 8GB it can be feasibly turned off, but not recommended, as the biggest improvement that windows has done was the introduction of SuperFetch that caches the info from the most used programs into the page file.

  33. Sam
    January 17, 2015 at 11:12 am

    This was a very big help thanks.

  34. Adyel
    January 17, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I don't know why people say gamers need 16 gb ram, I played bf4, cod aw and many more high end games with 8gig. If you mean enthusiasts then that's different story

  35. Tarik
    January 17, 2015 at 2:54 am

    As someone who recently struggled with building a gamer PC , I would like to add that it's important to notice the difference of double channel memory and single channel memory (I believe there are triple channels too); I think that would make this a great article about RAM. In fact, I think that I don't fully understand that difference, so if you could add that too, it'd be great.

    • Ararat
      February 13, 2015 at 7:09 am

      @Tarik, you raised a good question and I will try to answer your question and clarify things for you. The motherboard chipset dictates what features your system will and will not have. It basically defines all the features that a given motherboard provides from the version and number of USB ports to the type of CPU to the type and amount of RAM and whether or not the motherboard supports single-channel, dual-channel, triple-channel or even quad-channel memory communication channels. The more memory communication channels the motherboard supports, the faster the system will run, assuming if you make use of these communication channels properly by installing memory modules (with exact same specifications) in pairs, in threes or in fours for dual, triple and quad-channel respectively. In dual-channel systems there are two dedicated channels of communication between memory and the CPU/Memory Controller and therefore, theoretically speaking, the memory bandwidth or the throughput doubles. In other words, twice as much data can be transferred between the two with every single memory access. The highway system is a good analogy. The more lanes the highway has the more traffic can go through in a unit of time, the faster you can drive and the less time it will take to go from point A to point B. If the highway has a single lane, the traffic will be backed up and it will take significantly longer time to travel the same distance. To install memory in pairs properly to take advantage of dual-channel feature, you would install one memory module in the first channel of the first memory bank and the other in the first channel of the second memory bank, and so on. In modern systems, the memory banks/modules are color-coded (like black and blue) so you would install matching memory sticks in matching memory slots in each bank.

      I hope this helps.

  36. Bruce E
    January 17, 2015 at 2:18 am

    "...type of data storage that allows files to be written and read at short notice..." Unless you are using a RAMDisk, files have little to do with RAM. Some programs may read a file into memory as a contiguous chunk of data but once some manipulation happens with that data, it may no longer have the same type of representation that the original file did. Other programs will restructure the data from a file into a completely different representation in memory. Even executable files themselves have pieces of themselves relocated in memory and do not appear in RAM as they did on disk.

  37. Doc
    January 17, 2015 at 12:42 am

    "Due to a longstanding quirk of the Windows system architecture, the 32-bit version only supports up to 4GB of RAM."
    Actually, it's not a "quirk" of Windows; it's the underlying *hardware* architecture; even Linux or Mac OS (32-bit versions) suffer the same fate. A graphics card requires what's called a framebuffer - the memory that's used to display graphics on the screen, and in order for the CPU to have read-write access to this memory, a portion of the 4GB address space is mapped to the framebuffer. This is fine if you have 3GB or less RAM (or your onboard GPU "borrows" from your system RAM), but the framebuffer *will* use up some of that address space; with a 64-bit OS, that's not a problem, because the framebuffer can be memory-mapped anywhere; there's no more 4GB limit.

    There's also a bit of memory (384KB) between 640KB and 1MB that's used for the system BIOS and also for I/O space for devices (which allows the CPU to control hardware by reading and writing to them like they were memory) that's unavailable; DOS used the memory between these as "upper memory blocks," freeing up memory from the 640KB that Bill Gates was famously misquoted as "being enough for anybody," but Windows doesn't need to do that (it hardly uses any of the first 1MB, because of that block).

    • Ducky
      January 23, 2015 at 6:44 am

      Your framebuffer stuff is wrong and it's an entirely different issue. The reason it's wrong is because framebuffers are mapped to a RAM address. The framebuffer will use your RAM. It makes no difference whether you are using 32bit or 64. Hardware isn't really mapped to RAM it just happens to conflict.

      Every piece of hardware on your PC has a memory address so you can communicate with (check device manager) it. These are memory address mapped backwards from 4GB to minimize the chances of disrupting RAM. The problem is now that we have RAM addresses that encroach on the mapping. A coordinate on a map can only point to one place, something has to give, that something is your RAM.

      The key to understanding this is to stop thinking of memory addresses and RAM as the same thing because they aren't. RAM is just another piece of hardware that uses a memory address.

  38. Hildy J
    January 16, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    First, it's not a "quirk of the Windows system architecture" that limits RAM, it's a limitation of every 32 bit OS. Each byte of RAM has an address and computer instructions in a 32 bit OS can only refer to the first (approximately) 3 or 4 gigabytes of RAM. 64 bits allows 18 quintillion bytes to be addressed.

    As far as how much, for most people, lots of slow RAM is probably better than less fast RAM. In addition to storing what you're working on, it's storing as much of the open programs and processes as it can (including all the background processes and the OS). When it runs out of space, it writes some to your disk (this is the swap file). Avoiding those writes makes your workflow faster.

    • hugh
      January 19, 2015 at 11:42 pm

      right on

  39. likefunbutnot
    January 16, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Most of the office systems I support have 4GB and they're fine, but modern web browsers have a worrisome tendency to hit 2GB of RAM utilization with what I'd call a modest number of open tabs, so perhaps it won't be seen as fine for that much longer. PC Gamers are starting to see games that want more than 4GB for optimal performance.

    It would be better to say that very few people need more than 8GB. People in software development, technical computing or content creation usually need as much as they can get.

    To give an idea of how RAM needs scale, at least for IT operations:
    Most of my personal computers have 16GB, but I spent a fair amount of time running virtual machines for testing or training purposes. The software developers I work with each have laptops with 32GB (Thinkpad W-series - they whine about not having Macbooks any more but Macbooks don't support the RAM they need) and could probably use more. My big home desktop has 64GB, but it also has hot spare cloned images of servers I administer that I could bring online if I need to. The biggest single machine I run, a 32 thread box that's sitting in a data center on a 1Gbps internet connection, has 128GB RAM. Its little brother only has 96GB for 24 threads. Any of those machines can keep many thousands of web/database users happy.
    A professional acquaintance of mine maintains a fairly large Microsoft Exchange installation; the systems that do the heavy lifting of mailbox access (for a few thousand people) have 384GB apiece.
    The defining characteristic for needing staggering amounts of RAM, at least in my world, is having increasingly huge databases and/or partitioning things across multiple virtual machine images.

  40. michel
    January 16, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Readyboost never made a difference for me.