Memory Upgrade: Is It Time To Add More RAM?

Our Test System

In order to generate comparable results, we used the same test system for both kinds of operating systems. We installed the OSes by transferring both 32- and 64-bit Windows 7 versions (with updates and drivers installed) to the system's SSD. The Phenom II X6 CPU was overclocked to 4.0 GHz for maximum CPU horsepower, and it was still stable enough to survive a 24-hour test run with all the RAM slots populated. All tests with 12 GB of memory were performed using a 2 x 4 GB and 2 x 2 GB combination of RAM modules.

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CPUAMD Phenom II X6 1090T (Thuban) @ 4.0 GHz
CoolingProlimatech Megahalems + Noiseblocker Multiframe M12-PS
RAM4 x 4 GB Kingston HyperX 1600 CL9, 2 x 2 GB Kingston HyperX 1600 CL9
MotherboardMSI 890FXA-GD70
Hard driveSuper Talent Ultradrive GX2 (System), 1 TB Western Digital Caviar Blue (Programs)
PSUAerocool V12XT 800 W
CaseSilverStone Raven RV02
VentilationZalman fan control for 1 x Noiseblocker Multiframe S3 120mm and 3 x SilverStone 180 mm
OSWindows 7 Ultimate x86, Windows 7 Ultimate x64

  • doyletdude
    Hmmm... i'm concerned because i use triple channel so i'm currently at 6gb, which is under recommendation however to upgrade to 12gb might be to much, especially since i've heard that using more RAM slots negativley affects overclocking stability.
  • Lutfij
    awesome read for the masses, thanks Tom!
  • hmp_goose
    I, too, run an X58 chipset, with Win7-64, and don't know what this article is telling me . . .
  • holygigi
    Finally a good read on Tom's, not a news about a rumor that a fruit company might provide a tease about something shiny.
    I use 8GB for about 2 years now, the best thing about it (and I didnt find this covered in the article) is that alt+tab-ing out from a game to windows and back to the game is almost instant. Even the hungriest game uses about 3-3.5 GB. Windows again about 2.5. So you always have 2GB free. Even though I dont have a SSD yet, after the initial slower start of an app (browser, anything), going back to it is instant. For me this is the real benefit of having more ram. The marginal (if any) FPS increase is not the main selling point. Multi-tasking is.
  • takeapieandrun
    Personally, I would say 6GB is nice balance between capacity and cost. 4GB of RAM can become limited at times, but IMO 8GB is a little too much.
  • dogman_1234
    Nice article. I finally learned something i can be able to use later in my computing life.

    My questions are as followed:

    1) I am aware SSD's are a applied RAM set. So how can one use your system RAM to store files after shutdown as well.

    2) How can one add more memory to the GPU? I can see a noticeable jump in GPU RAM, or GMP as they put it.
  • rags_20
    Is the RAM loaded on an actual model of the truck?
  • coffee_man
    i use triple channel but i only got 3 gb of ram, is better to add more ram or buy an ssd ?
  • Niva
    Come on guys, the article and recommendation are pretty straight forward. They're recommending a minimum of 8 Gb and if you have less you might want to consider upgrading.

    That being said, if all you do is interwebs and some gaming you should be careful where you spend your money. Big ram is for programs that use a lot of ram, if you're doing heavy 3d modeling/animation, large photoshop files now that CS5 actually has 64 bit products it's justified. For games it's a crapshoot.

    I say stay with 6 Gb unless you see your ram usage over 50% regualrly.
  • quizzical
    So basically, the conclusion is that slow hard drives are slow, which really doesn't say anything about system memory. What happens if you try running the programs off of a good SSD? Having an SSD in your system, but not putting any programs or even the swap file on it seems like a rather strange configuration.