How Much Memory Do I Need?
Whether you are buying a new computer or upgrading an existing one, memory or RAM is an important consideration. Buy too little memory and your entire system will be slowed down, overworked, and some programs may not run at all. Buy too much memory and you're wasting money. To determine how much memory you need, let's look at the hardware and software you have (or plan to buy) and how you intend to use it...
Upgrade Your Memory?
A computer that doesn't have enough RAM memory will run like a car with a bad cylinder. So how much memory do you need? Let's start with software. The applications that you use frequently have minimum and recommended memory requirements. Generally, the minimum gives barely tolerable performance.
Add up the recommended memory requirements of all the software that you are likely to use simultaneously. Here are a few popular applications and their minimum/recommended memory requirements:
|Adobe Photoshop CS||128MB||1GB-1.5GB|
|Half-Life® 2: Lost Coast||256MB||1.5-2GB|
|Microsoft Office 2010||256MB||512MB|
|Internet Explorer 8||64MB||256MB|
|Mozilla Firefox v3.6||64MB||246MB|
The operating system you choose has its minimum and recommended memory requirements, too. Windows XP requires far less memory (512MB minimum) than Windows 7 (2GB minimum). Linux beats them both, depending on which distribution of Linux you choose. Mac OS X users need at least 2GB of memory. Add the recommended memory requirement of your operating system to the hardware and software totals.
The size of documents, images, and other data files that you work with is also a consideration. Many applications hold data files in memory while the data is being used; accessing and changing data are as fast as possible this way. If there is not enough memory to hold an entire data file then part of it will be stored on your hard drive until it is needed. Swapping data in and out of RAM takes significant time and is hard on the electromechanical parts of the online storage device. More main memory means less data swapping; faster, smoother data manipulation; and longer hardware life.
Other Memory Considerations
Another thing that consumes a fair amount of RAM memory is the driver software associated with each component of your system. A driver is a software program that enables the hardware device to "talk to" the operating system. The more hardware you use, the more driver software you will have loaded into memory. Printers, scanners, fax machines, network adapters, monitors, cameras, even keyboards, mice, game controllers, and other input devices all require drivers. The amount of memory that a driver needs varies from one manufacturer's device to another. To get a more accurate tally of the amount or RAM you need, check the specs of each device and add up their memory requirements.
Gathering all the memory requirements described above can be quite a chore. So for a quick rule of thumb, here are some recommendations of how much memory different types of computer users generally need:
|If you are this type of user:||You need this much memory|
|Casual user: Web browsing, email, listening to music||0.5 to 1.0 GB|
|Frequent user: the above plus word processing, photo viewing, simple games, video viewing||1.0 to 2.0 GB|
|Power user: the above plus photo editing, video editing, real-time multiplayer online games such as Halo, multitasking||2.0 to 4.0 GB|
|Professional User: high-performance gaming, large documents, high-definition video editing||4.0 to 8.0 GB|
Here's an even quicker rule of thumb... for most users, 2GB of RAM will serve you well, and is required for the latest operating systems, such as Windows 7 and Mac OS X. But if you can spare an extra $50 or so, upgrading to 4GB is likely to make your computer run smoother and faster over the long haul. See my related article Memory Upgrade for some tips on finding and installing the right RAM in your computer.
Got something to say about memory upgrades? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 10 Aug 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How Much Memory Do I Need? (Posted: 10 Aug 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved