How Much Memory (RAM) is Enough? All you need to know.

RAM concept.

RAM (Random Access Memory) is one of the fundamental components of modern computers.  Once upon a time, memory came in mere megabytes; now a single memory stick may measure several gigabytes.  The right amount of RAM allows for quicker addressing of tasks, multitasking, and better performance in terms of frame rate (although the GPU handles most of this) and other noticeable UI issues, like lag when loading or switching between programs. This, then, begs several questions: if memory is so important, how much is enough?  Is there such a thing as too much RAM?  How do I know whether I have the right amount?  Stay glued to this blog, reader, for I will answer these and more…

So, how much is enough memory?  This depends on what the computer in question’s primary purpose is.  In the case of a home computer used for internet surfing and document creating, as is the primary purpose of this computer, the question becomes, “How much memory does my operating system require to efficiently, well, operate?”  This is typically an easy question to answer: a simple Google query or peek at the box (if it is still around, and if there ever was one (everything seems to be digital these days)) the OS came in will enlighten the user to the minimum amount required and, as well, the recommended amount.  The minimum amount required by any OS is just that: the minimum amount with which the OS can boot.  The recommended amount is typically 1-2 GB more than the required, and allows for faster responses and more capacity for multitasking on the computer in question.

Funnily enough, there is almost such a thing as too much RAM.  The thing is, each type of architecture (32-bit, 64-bit; Windows, Mac; XP, Vista, 7, OS 9, OS X) can access only a finite number of GB of RAM at a time, so more and more and more doesn’t necessarily mean a faster machine.  A 32-bit architecture may access up to 4 GB of RAM in theory, but the OS hogs some of this memory for its own processes, generally those that run in the background like Windows Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) and a few others of note.  So, a machine with a 32-bit architecture may only access between 3 and 3.9 GB of its installed RAM.  This can be seen quite clearly in the System section in the Control Panel.  “Installed Memory” contains two values, Installed Memory, obviously, as well as Usable Memory (the difference between the two is how much the OS requires for its own, mission-critical processes (those that never should be terminated)).  Anyway, too much RAM is simply a matter of dollars and sense.  It costs more money to put more RAM in a computer, and it makes no sense to put more than can be addressed by the machine at one time.  Check your OS’s documentation to find out how much RAM it supports, before you purchase more and find your computer does not speed up.

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5 comments

  1. feeling informed after reading this, i have a question. how do i upgrade or install more RAM into my aging laptop? any help would be appreciated :)

  2. John F says:

    Hello Stanley,

    The link below will be of some help to you.

    http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/how-to-tech/add-ram-laptop.htm

    all the best for the new year

  3. Anonymous says:

    Have to wait for my husband, he’s the tec. guy

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