How Much RAM Do You Really Need?


The bottom line is that there is not just one single answer to the question of how much system memory you need. However, to help you decide for yourself, we put together the following criteria:

512 MB

There are a few situations where having just 512 MB system memory in your computer can be enough.

  • If you run your games at low quality settings (small texture size) because you have an outdated CPU and graphics card, or because you prefer FPS over visual quality.
  • If you only use one application at a time.
  • If it is your grandmother's computer.

If you are buying a new computer, even if it's a laptop, opt for more than 512 MB - you will never regret it.

1 GB

Indeed, 1 GB of system memory will most likely be enough for the average user and for people.

  • It will allow you to play new games at their highest quality settings, given that you have an adequate processor and a powerful graphics solution.
  • You won't have to shut down non-critical applications when you want to play a game.
  • You can (accidentally) press the Windows button while in a game without dying from a stroke during the seconds it takes to read Windows back into system memory from the swap file.
  • If you go from 512 MB to 1 GB, you will notice the difference all the time. Starting up Photoshop while working with Word, an Internet browser, e-mail client and Acrobat Reader will go so much faster, and switching between the applications is a breeze.

2 GB

Still there are situations where more than 1 GB is what you want.

  • If you are a professional user, you might need more than 1 GB for really heavy applications.
  • If you intend to do heavy multitasking, especially if you have more than one CPU or CPU core. Running RAM intensive games such as World of Warcraft, downloading files via high speed FTP or encrypted protocols, Bittorrent or any P2P program; decompressing large archives and playing large size video files in a window or on second monitor all at the same time can max out your system memory pretty fast - if your CPU can handle it.
  • survivor1940
    I am a little confused as to what ram would work better with the Asus P5KPL-CM motherboard running intel E5200 CPU. I will not be gaming.I know I can use up to 3.5 Gbs of ram on my Windows XP 32 bit OS.The question is which would perform better> 2x1Gb ddr2-800 pc2 6400 or ddr2-667 pc2-5300?
  • yugiteddy
    I use a Mac and a windows computer from IBM. I use the mac most of the time... it has 768 megabytes of ram.
    The Mac is a powerbook G4.
    Applications do crash but I like to do things quickly so that's why. With the IBM (Netvista), I don't use it that much, but sometimes I control it through RDC. The "Netvista" has 1 Gigabyte of ram.
    I don't really mind about the computers and the ram-I just care about that I can use them and that they don't crash each time I play a game.
    From someone, who is learning applescript.
  • usasma
    I've got 12 gB of RAM and I still experience slowdowns. Today it was due to numerous programs reading my hard drive - and even the RAID 5 array didn't help.

    Performance is achieved by striking a good balance between RAM, CPU, Hard disks, and the mobo.
  • my 256mb ram pc is working surprisingly take 2 minutes to load while my laptop got 2 gb ram and takes like 5mins to start 256mb ram system has been (like you were saying) balanced to do tasks throughout the system that are necessary only and working amazingly well.
  • 80725760