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 credit: Andrew Mason