Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

Summary: Well, do I?

TOPICS: Processors, Hardware

Here's a question that I've been asked a lot lately in one form or another:

Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

Well, instinctively I'm going to say 'YES,' and say it very enthusiastically. After all, more RAM means you can do more with your PC. I've been running systems with 8GB+ of RAM since I first got my hands on a 64-bit copy of Windows Vista (I toyed with 64-bit versions of XP but had too many problems so I was forced to stick with the 32-bit flavor).

The difference between a machine with 4GB of RAM and an identical machine with 8GB of RAM is like the difference between night and day.

Note: Those with triple-channel motherboards have the option to go to 6GB or 12GB or RAM.

But do you really need 8GB of RAM? Well, maybe not ...

See, the truth is, it depends. If you're a hardcore gamer or you use a memory-intensive application like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro, then you definitely need lots of RAM (I'm now starting to look at 12GB as the minimum for running Adobe applications, given that they are now 64-bit and can really chew through RAM). If you're in the habit of having multiple applications from a suite like Microsoft Office open, then having lots of RAM is a huge advantage. If you're the kind of person that has lots of applications running simultaneously, then 8GB of RAM might be for you.

Note: Even Mac users running these sorts of applications can benefit from 8GB of RAM!

If you don't fall into any of the above categories, then I think it's safe to say that you don't really need 8GB of RAM and you're probably fine with 4GB or even 2GB.

So, what do you need to be able to run 8GB of RAM?

64-bit operating systems aren't hard to come by. It seems that over the past year or so, PC OEMs have embraced 64-bit Windows. A quick scan of the big names suggests that either PCs are shipping with a 64-bit version of Windows, or, for machines such as netbooks, a 64-bit version is available for no extra charge.

RAM is also cheap. You can pick up an extra 4GB of DDR3 1333 for for around $25, and I've seen two 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM modules go for under $40. RAM is without a doubt the best bang-for-the-buck upgrade you can carry out on a PC.

Unsure what RAM your PC takes? A trip over to Crucial or Kingston will set you on the right path.


Image creditAndrew Mason

Topics: Processors, Hardware

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  • Check out your current memory usage

    As mentioned there's no point in running 8GB if you're not even using 4GB. I usually use Task Manager to see what the memory usage is with everything running. It's become a bit more complex with the later versions of Windows as they steal memory in the anticipation of using it, but it is still possible to work through the numbers.
    I don't know if there's any apps out there that will monitor memory usage. Any suggestions?
    • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?


      "I don't know if there's any apps out there that will monitor memory usage."

      Try Process Explorer by Sysinternals.
      • Process Explorer even not needed, because if you are not iPad-level user

        @CobraA1: ... of browsing, and you have a torrent client running, and you watch videos, then [b]4 GBs is nothing: the system crawls horribly[/b] -- totally agree with Adrian that this is what you call "night and day" difference.

        8GB will dramatically improve life of any more than very basic computer user.
      • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?


        Even though AKH meant his comments directed for Windows users primarily, he did mention Mac systems in passing. On the Mac, the OS X built-in app, Activity Monitor, will display and track memory usage.
      • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

        @dderss I can browse, run a torrent client, and watch 720p videos just fine with 2GB. I don't think the fact that I'm running Linux makes the difference either. ;-) Now if I have a LOT of browser tabs open my system will need a few hundred megs of swap space, but other than that 2GB is perfectly usable. More will never hurt you, though, as modern OSes (>XP) use all free memory for system and HDD caches.
      • RE:RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

        Uhhh... use task manager... you know... that thing that every Windows PC has...
        Lukas Stavrou
    • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

      Exactly. Go to the Resource Monitor and see what is actually used. I have comfortably run PhotoShop, Outlook, Windows Explorer, Word, and several other apps concurrently on 1.5 GB of RAM. And I'm a power user. Most people wouldn't know what to do with the number of apps (at the same time) it would take to fill up a significant amount of RAM. So, if you have 2 GB, you're probably fine. If your computer "seems slow," let's check Resource Manager before we conclude more RAM will magically speed everything up. (You probably would be better off with a faster HD/SSD.)
      • Cache

        Let it chew on that HDD cache......
        Sorry, but I have a notebook gaming system and do a lot of interactive MSO stuff..... bumping my RAM to 8gb made a world of diff and seriously lightened the impact on my HDD......

        better on an SSD too....
    • RAM is so cheap it's hardly worth checking

      I've been using 8GB on most systems for a while. My new ones all have 16GB because it's so cheap.The only place I know I can use it is my development box, where I run multiple Hyper V machines, but I put that much in my new home sandbox too (just because I could).
      Schoolboy Bob
    • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

      @keebaud@... Depends. If you have a computer with a SSD drive like the MacBook Air, no, you don't really need 8GB RAM.

      When you run out of RAM your computer caches to the hard drive. With a conventional hard drive your computer will slow to a crawl, with an SSD drive you'll barely notice the difference.

      Unless your doing profession video and/or 3D work 4GB with an SDD is great. without an SSD I recommend 8-12 GB.

      Photoshop runs faster on a computer with an SSD drive and 4GB ram, than a computer with a conventional HD and 16GB ram.

      The charts to prove it...
      • The charts you provided are severely exaggerated.

        @studentrights ... These charts say that adding an SSD will increase your fps in Halo by up to 23 fps. Since when does your SSD effect fps. Loading times agreed, but 23 fps.

        These charts are completely bloated and unrealistic.
  • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

    My Powerbook 100 came with a 20 Megabyte <i>Hard Drive</i>!
    • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

      @dsf3g <br>My ZX81 came with 1Kb of ram and that was also use by the video chip.
      • My Commodore 64

        Had 64 kilobytes of RAM but of that only 32,764 were available.
    • We would dream of such capabilities;-)

      My vic20 had a cassette for storage, 5kb RAM (only 3.5ish useable).

      Loved the Sinclair as well, but they fell short when compared to the commodore powerhouses:-)
      Richard Flude
      • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

        @Richard Flude

        You are old, my friend. I also used and still have a Timex Sinclair and a Tandy 102 proudly displayed in my collection. My Tandy system had all the accessories. It has both the cassette tape drive (and tapes) plus an external 3.5" floppy drive (although the floppy drive capacity was only 101 K bytes at that time.) The Thermal paper printer, alas, is no longer part of the collection. It was stolen a very long time ago. In fact, I doubt if I could get any thermal paper that would work with it now.

        BTW, your post intrigued me so much, I dug out the original Tandy cloth carrying bag where I stored all my accessories and found a surprise. I seem to be the proud owner of a Realistic Solar Powered Electret Condenser Microphone that "never needs batteries". I don't think I ever used it! It's packed still in the original little Radio Shack shipping box. Apparently, this mic retailed for $29.95 back in the 1980's. (I forgot when I purchased it.)

        Ah, memory lane. I guess I've been a gadget collector for a long time.
      • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

        @Richard Flude <br>I see your Vic20 and quantam leap it, with my Sinclair QL, a Motorola 68008 16 bit @7.5 MHz and 128Kb of RAM and two micro drives. Now that was a power house. :-)
  • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

    Also VMs.

    If you use them, you need all the RAM you can get. In this case 8GB isn't a luxury, it's a minimum.
    • You're kidding, right?


      Hyper-V's dynamic memory support will allow a Windows 7 VM to boot with about 384MB of RAM (even when the maximum is much higher). If you're using even just Windows 7 with XP mode for a legacy application or two, 1GB is all you need for a single VM, and it isn't enough to impact a 4GB system. Hell, I once ran 3 Hyper-V guests (2 with dynamic memory, the 3rd with XP and 512MB allocated to it) on a 4GB host with Windows Server 2008 R2 in GUI mode.

      Now, if you're talking about running production-level VDI, then the minimum that Microsoft recommends for a Private Cloud server is actually 16GB.

      I don't honestly see a reason for an average home desktop to have 8GB of RAM though. For the everyday uses (web surfing, email, casual games, Facebook, listening to music or watching YouTube, etc.), you can do that on a low-end dual core with 2GB and half-decent video. Even AMD's newer Sempron single-core CPU's can handle that when you pair them up with an 800-chipset with Radeon graphics - much better than an equivalently priced Atom can anyway.
      • RE: Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

        @Joe_Raby Well, except that a lot of people aren't average =).