Conclusion - 8 GB Improves Efficiency And Comfort
Our testing brought us to a clear conclusion: if you often use several memory hungry applications simultaneously, then there's really no way around upgrading your system to 8 GB. Working with applications, and especially switching between them, is much more efficient than with a typical 2 GB configuration. Also, it would even be feasible to run a modern 3D game that already takes up more than 1 GB of memory by itself while having another application with a large memory footprint running in the background. Thus, load times in Windows are a thing of the past, as is the constant swapping of Windows components to the hard drive. The best part is that such an upgrade is not even expensive, as 8 GB of memory is already available for as little as $198 Compare Prices on DDR2 Memory.
Experienced users can give their systems another little performance boost by deactivating the paging file. However, you should always keep an eye on the system's status, as you may otherwise suddenly find yourself confronted with a system crash.
Large memory sizes are especially worthwhile when virtual machines are used, such as those provided by VMware and Microsoft Virtual PC. With enough RAM at their disposal, users no longer have to stop the individual VMs, but can simply switch between them instead.
Nonetheless, even veteran users should expect to encounter a few setbacks when using 8 GB of RAM. Be prepared to encounter driver problems, and not just on exotic hardware. Some system tools may also spring a nasty surprise on you. On the other hand, falling memory prices should allow 64 bit systems to spread fairly quickly, which in turn should mean that driver issues will be sorted out fairly quickly.
Those who don't own a 64 bit version of Windows but have a 32 bit full retail version can order a 64 bit version directly from Microsoft, and will only have to pay shipping and handling fees. Users with an OEM version of Vista aren't quite so lucky. Here, it depends on the goodwill of the PC vendor, as Microsoft does not offer direct upgrade support for such versions. In the worst case, the user will be forced to spend more money to buy another license.