How much RAM does your Windows PC really need? (December 2019 edition)

The bottom line is that you probably need more RAM than you think you can get away with!
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Here is a definitive guide to how much RAM your PCs need.


This is the minimum system requirement for the 32-bit version of Windows 10, and while I've managed to get Windows 10 systems to run on this much RAM, I really don't recommend it.

1GB of RAM is just enough for basic operations like web browsing (although don't expect to run a browser with dozens of tabs open), email, word processing, and light image editing.

At this level even these basic tasks are going to be painful. Yes, I know, it wasn't that long ago that we were managing with a new megabytes of RAM, but times have changed. Life it too short to waste time on running systems with such limited RAM capacities.

Read more: Want 1.5TB of RAM in your PC? It will cost you!

Build your own $20,000 Windows 10 workstation


This is the minimum system requirement for the 64-bit version of Windows 10. And while this will indeed work, chances are that there are going to be times when you yell a lot of bad words at your computer (it's amazing how many people blame "Windows" for their problems when in fact it the problem is not enough RAM).

With 2GB you should be able to do pretty much everything with your computer that a computer is capable of doing, such as gaming, image, and video editing, running suites like Microsoft Office, and having a handful of browser tabs open all become possible. Sure, the shortage of RAM is going to be a bottleneck on your system, but 2GB is enough to get some real work done.

2GB is also just enough to run a hardcore suite of apps like the Adobe Photoshop (or so says Adobe, I wouldn't want to try it), but to be honest, if you're paying that sort of money for software, you probably should invest in more RAM!

The bottom line is that if you've got a system with 2GB of RAM and it feels slow, add more RAM. If you can't add more RAM, then nothing else you do will speed it up.


If you're running a 32-bit operating system then with 4GB of RAM installed you'll only be able to access around 3.2GB (this is because of memory addressing limitations). However, with a 64-bit operating system, you'll have full access to the whole 4GB.

The difference in performance between a system with 2GB of RAM and one with 4GB is like night and day. Even on a 32-bit system that limits the RAM to a little over 3GB, the performance boost is well worth the cost. Not only do applications run faster, but you can also run more applications simultaneously, which comes in handy if you run suites like Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Cloud (say you want to run Microsoft Word and Excel, or Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom).

If you have a 64-bit operating system, then bumping the RAM up to 4GB is a no-brainer.

All but the cheapest and most basic of Windows 10 systems will come with 4GB of RAM.


Now we're into performance territory. If you're serious about your PC, then I consider this to be the new default. If you're buying or building a machine dedicated to photo or HD video editing and rendering, or just want a fast system, then 8GB of RAM is the minimum you should consider to avoid frustration.

This is the amount of RAM recommended by Adobe for users running Creative Cloud applications.

8GB of RAM is not expensive. Sure, get the OEM to fit it into a new system and you're likely paying a premium (especially if that OEM is Apple), but from an aftermarket supplier, this can be had for under $40.

8GB is the minimum amount of RAM new Macs ship with.

Note: You will need a 64-bit operating system to make use of this amount of RAM.


Is there a case for more than 8GB of RAM? Sure there is, but the bang for the buck trails off.

The time when more than 8GB of RAM becomes useful and starts paying for itself is when you're running several resource-heavy applications simultaneously -- especially image or video processing (even 4K video), CAD, or 3D modeling. Try running Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and After Effects side-by-side on a system with 8GB of RAM, then bump that up and feel the difference.

Having more than 8GB also comes in handy if you make extensive use of virtualization tools such as Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware Workstation, especially if you run multiple virtual machines simultaneously.

Note: You will need a 64-bit operating system to make use of this amount of RAM.


You're now deep in the realm of heavy lifting. A workstation with more than 16GB of RAM will be a do-anything system. This is the sort of system that will be able to run multiple resource-heavy applications or virtual machines simultaneously.

Remember that 64-bit Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education will support up to 2TB of RAM, while the 64-bit version of Windows 10 Home is limited to only 128GB.

Note: You will need a 64-bit operating system to make use of this amount of RAM.

Bear in mind that how much RAM your system supports, along with the type and speed, will depend on your motherboard. Consult your PC/motherboard manual, or, if your PC was manufactured by an OEM, use a system checker such as the one found on Crucial.com to find out what RAM is compatible with your system.

Must-have tools you need for repairing PCs, smartphones, tablets, and much more

Editorial standards