1GB, 2GB, 3GB ... more!

1GB, 2GB, 3GB ... more!

Summary: When might you need more than 2GB of RAM?

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TOPICS: Hardware
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My ZDNet blogging colleague Ed Bott wrote a good article the other day looking at how much RAM Windows Vista needs to run:

I’ve got a lot of experience with different PC configurations, and I can say with confidence that 2GB is more than enough for even the most demanding business user.

But when might you need more than 2GB of RAM?

Overall, I agree with Ed’s conclusions that, overall, 2GB of RAM should be more than enough for most Vista users.  I also agree with Ed’s points as to exceptions to this rule.  Those running virtual machines or 64–bit operating systems will certainly benefit from additional RAM.  But I feel that Ed has overlooked other instances where Windows users might need more than 2GB of RAM. 

[poll id=166]

Having extensively experimented with Vista on machines with numerous different RAM configurations here are some of my thoughts on times when it’s handy to have more than 2GB of RAM:

Note: Under 32–bit operating systems there is a physical limit on available RAM that will limit the available memory to around 3GB no matter how much physical RAM you have installed.  To break this barrier you'll need to install a 64–bit operating system.

  • Gaming I know that Ed concentrated specifically on business, so this doesn’t apply, but it’s worth pointing out that gamers will benefit from more than 2GB or RAM.  I’ve noticed significant performance gains on games such as Oblivion when increasing the available RAM from 2GB to 3GB.
  • Photo editing Another area where I’ve found that having more than 2GB of RAM is an advantage is when using a professional photo editor such as Adobe Photoshop.  In my experience here adding an extra GB or RAM to a 2GB system can dramatically improve productivity, especially if you work with large files.
  • Video rendering Just as with photo editing, I’ve found huge upsides to having more than 2GB or RAM is systems used for video rendering.  Sure, the improved performance isn’t huge (don’t expect a 50% increase in performance when comparing a 3GB system to a 2GB system, the increase is much closer to 5 – 10%), but given the low cost of RAM nowadays, if you’re going to be rendering video regularly, the extra RAM is worth it.

Given that 1GB of RAM costs around $80, if you’re likely to be pushing your PC hard, I’d rather have the extra RAM and not need it that often than need it and not have it.

Thoughts?

Topic: Hardware

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28 comments
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  • "Dude, Where's My 4 Gigabytes of RAM?"

    "Addressing more than 4 GB of memory is possible in a 32-bit operating
    system, but it takes...":

    ...hardware hacks... ...36-bit PAE extensions...
    ...software hacks like the AWE API...

    http://tinyurl.com/36uqqt
    ruped24
  • Rule #1

    There is no such thing as too much RAM. ;-)
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • RE: Rule #1

      [b]"There is no such thing as too much RAM"[/b]

      "if, ... , you're planning to stick with a 32-bit operating system for the next few
      years, don't waste your money on 4 GB of RAM. You won't be able to use it
      all. Buy 3 GB instead. Every motherboard I'm aware of will happily accept 2
      x 1 GB and 2 x 512 MB DIMMs." ;)
      ruped24
    • Wrong - Vista has memory address space issues

      See this 3 part series on Anandtech about RAM limitations in 32-bit Vista due to the Windows Vista Display Driver Model virtualizing video memory and thereby using up valuable virtual address space. RAM beyond 2GB is pretty much unusable when gaming. For gamers the best policy right now is to stick with Windows XP.

      Part 1
      http://www.anandtech.com/gadgets/showdoc.aspx?i=3034

      Part 2
      http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=3044

      Part 3
      http://www.anandtech.com/systems/showdoc.aspx?i=3060
      t_mohajir
      • Kind of a problem with that suggestion

        Turns out there are a couple of games I want to play but they are Vista only.

        Maybe if I go to vista I'll get 64 bit system.

        I suspect the future might see more and more Vista only. Only issue is it won't be like when I was running games on Win2K that were XP only. At least Win2K could have DirectX 9. XP can't have Direct X 10.
        voska
        • Ouch

          Didn't realize DX10 only games were that prevalent already. Well, if you take a look at the Anandtech article they do state that there is a Hotfix available. Might want to look into that.
          t_mohajir
    • Dumbest Post Of The Decade

      Ranks just below

      "640K is all you'll ever need"

      Keep trying.
      itanalyst
  • 2 Gig upgrade

    My Vista machine originally had 512 Meg in it but I picked up 2 1G sticks for $30 a piece but havent noticed a big speed boost in casual use. But then again that machine only has a 1.6GHz Celeron in it. I thought putting in a matched pair would open up dual channel operation but can't seem to find a way of learning wether dual channel operation is enabled or not.
    podstolom
    • If I am not mistaken....

      Memtest86 will report the dual channel status, or lack thereof, of your memory.

      http://www.memtest86.com/
      Hallowed are the Ori
  • 3 GB limit on 32-bit operating systems

    The note is incorrect. It states that under 32-bit
    operating systems, there's a limit of about 3 GB. This
    is not true.

    $ uname -a
    Linux greed 2.6.19.2 #1 SMP PREEMPT Thu Jun 28 14:30:16
    MDT 2007 i686 GNU/Linux

    $ free
    total used free shared
    buffers cached
    Mem: 4148740 3707356 441384 0
    304932 2932992

    As you can see, I am running a 32 bit operating system
    and am not limited to 3 GB. I also have a 768 meg
    video card in there.
    cthompson
    • So the limit

      is the OS not the hardware? ]:)
      Linux User 147560
    • So the limit

      is the OS not the hardware? ]:)

      Let me clarify, I thought / understood that the motherboard / CPU bus determined the maximum RAM size... now I am confoozed.
      Linux User 147560
    • RE: 3 GB limit on 32-bit operating systems

      1. Linux 2.4.x does support greater than 4GB of physical memory (ie. RAM)
      * It does this by supporting Intel's PAE (Physical Address Extension)

      2. Features which are in all Pentium Pro and newer CPU's.
      * Enabling PAE is a compile time option. ;)
      * The PAE extensions allow up to a maximum of 64GB of physical memory
      that the CPU (not a process) can address.

      http://www.spack.org/wiki/LinuxRamLimits
      ruped24
    • The topic was Windows, tool.

      Of course, in the ZDNet forums, no article about Windows is complete without at least one Linux tool popping up to inform the world how much better he is than the rest of us because he runs whichever mongrel breed of Linux happens to be popular today.
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • Aw... didums get hims panties in a Wahd?!

        Seems that the limit is most assuredly the OS since (as I have now learned) the Open Source OS is capable of bypassing this limit while Windows... isn't. Amazing! Something else Linux can do that Windows can't! LOL ]:)
        Linux User 147560
        • LOL

          "Panties in a Wahd."

          Nice.
          Hallowed are the Ori
          • LOL, good you got my sarcasm!

            You know I have been wondering if I should use that for a while... finally I said F*** it! Let's see if he has a sense of humor! ;) ]:)
            Linux User 147560
      • What's bothering you so much, envy?

        The poster was saying it's not hardware issue but OS issue used Linux to prove it. So you see Linux using all 4 GB and you get upset?
        voska
        • Huh?

          Why would I be envious/upset of something I could have for free if I wanted it?

          OK, I'll admit a bit of saliva might have escaped my mouth when he mentioned the 768MB video card, but envy of a free piece of software? No sir. Not today, not tomorrow, nor the day after.
          Hallowed are the Ori
  • Ram availability

    Does the socket for a stick of RAM cost so much that it is not reasonable to equip motherboards with sockets for the maximum amount of RAM the processor can use?
    Update victim