How much RAM does your system have? A top-of-the-line workstation PC may have 32GB, and a cutting-edge PC may have 64GB. The average workstation today is closer to 8GB, while an old laptop may only have 2GB or less. None of these come close to 1TB!
Ten years ago, you’d be well off with 128GB of storage. Today, hard drives are pushing limits of 24TB and beyond. Will we see that pace of growth in RAM as well? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s interesting to think about, isn’t it? Let’s consider what we could do with 1TB of RAM.
What Does 1TB of RAM Look Like?
You may have seen this make the rounds on social media:
What you’re seeing is a server with 16 memory banks, each one outfitted with 3 memory modules: a 1 x 32GB stick and 2 x 16GB sticks. That means 64GB per bank, which comes out to 16 x 64GB = 1,024GB of total RAM. This image is actually a few years old, and servers with 1TB of RAM are increasingly more commonplace these days.
Here’s an example of a more modern system with 1TB of RAM:
How much would a system like this cost?
It’s hard to say because most 16GB and 32GB RAM sticks are made for server specifications and can’t be used in regular desktop systems. But for comparison’s sake, Amazon has a Crucial 16GB Single DDR4 Module on sale, and you’d need 64 of them to reach 1TB of RAM. The total cost would come in just shy of $10,000.
But even if you could afford it, desktop systems have limited RAM slots in the motherboard: an average motherboard may have two or four slots, and more expensive ones may have eight slots. Server motherboards can go up to 16 slots (anything more is enterprise-grade).
So as of this writing, assuming a maximum of 16GB per stick and a motherboard with eight slots, the practical upper limit for desktop memory is around 128GB. We’re still many years away from having 1TB of RAM at home.
But let’s ignore that and have some fun anyway.
What You Could Do With 1TB of RAM
The good news (for us) is that RAM has diminishing returns: at a certain point, adding more RAM to a system doesn’t provide much extra value. Most computer apps don’t use much RAM at all, so as long as you have enough for day-to-day activities, you should be fine. But if you had way more RAM than necessary, here are some things you could do.
1. Open a Thousand Tabs
With 1 TB of RAM, you may finally be able to open more than 10 Chrome tabs! Jokes aside, there are reasons why Chrome and other browsers hog so much memory.
When we compared Firefox and Chrome, we found that 15 tabs (all pointing to MakeUseOf’s homepage) required ~520MB of RAM in Firefox and ~750MB of RAM in Chrome. And our site is far from the most memory-intensive site on the web. If your tabs are pointed to games, interactive media, social media, etc. then you can expect each tab to hog much more.
But with 1TB of RAM, who cares? You can open thousands of tabs without batting an eye. How awesome would that be? With smart tab management tactics, it wouldn’t even bog you down.
2. Buffer Hundreds of Videos
When you stream videos on the web, the browser has to download the first few seconds before it can start playing. Then, during playback, it keeps downloading more and more of the video as a “buffer” in case your internet momentarily chokes up. Buffering helps prevent stuttering.
But all that video data needs to be readily accessible, so buffered videos are stored in RAM. If you run out of RAM, it gets stored in virtual RAM: a section of your hard drive that’s set aside as an overflow area when physical RAM space runs out.
With 1TB of RAM, you could buffer dozens or even hundreds of videos (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, etc.) ahead of time to play at your leisure. Normally this is a bad idea because loading data from virtual RAM to physical RAM is slow, but if you have 1TB of RAM, this won’t ever be a problem for you.
3. Keep Every Single Game Loaded
Modern PC games load all kinds of data into RAM when starting up: textures, models, music, sounds, etc. Startup can be a slow process, though, because all that data needs to be loaded from your hard drive. That’s why it can take a minute (or even longer!) to launch games.
With 1TB of RAM, you could launch every single game on your system and never close them. The data would stay loaded in RAM and you could switch between games whenever you want. Even if you took a break and weren’t playing anything, you could keep them open. They’d be instantly available when you got back in the mood.
This also applies to other memory-intensive apps: digital audio workstations, video editing suites, high-resolution photo editing software, etc. Leave them all open all the time!
4. Run Many Operating Systems at Once
Did you know you can run operating systems within operating systems? I literally mean, for example, running macOS in a window on a Windows PC.
Or you can run Windows within Windows, or Windows within Linux. These so-called virtual machines are possible through the magic of emulation and virtualization.
There are many reasons to use virtual machines, such as testing out a new operating system inside a secure sandbox. You mainly do this using either VirtualBox or VMware Player (see our comparison of the two).
But the problem with virtual machines? Each instance uses up a portion of your system’s resources, and RAM is one of the most limiting factors when running several virtual machines. With 1TB of RAM, it’s no longer a concern. That much RAM lets you spin up dozens of instances without impacting overall system performance.
5. Turn It Into a RAM Disk
A RAM disk, or RAM drive, is exactly what it sounds like: a virtual drive on your system that uses a portion of your RAM for storing data. Setting up a RAM disk is as easy as installing SoftPerfect RAMDisk on Windows (or equivalent software for Mac or Linux).
RAM disks are great because RAM modules are blazingly fast. Whereas a modern HDD can transfer data up to 120MB/s and an SSD can transfer data up to 550MB/s, RAM modules can go up to 6.4GB/s — more than 11x faster than SSDs!
The RAM you set aside for the disk becomes unavailable for normal RAM use, but if you had 1TB of it, that wouldn’t be an issue at all. However, RAM disks do have a couple of other downsides, which you can learn more about in our overview of RAM disks.
Do You Really Need That Much RAM?
It’s too bad we won’t have 1TB of RAM available for home use anytime soon. But the good news is, we really don’t need that much. For day-to-day activities, an 8GB system should more than suffice. If you’re a power user, aim for 16GB. To prepare for the future, get 32GB (although we don’t recommend future-proofing PCs).
For now, you just need to maximize whatever RAM you already have. For that, see our quick and dirty guide to RAM. You should also know the difference between more RAM and faster RAM, and which one is more important for you.
What would you do with 1TB of RAM? Let us know in the comments!