How Much RAM Do You Really Need

Posted on January 27, 2016 By

RAMI recently upgraded my PC and found myself asking the question, “How much RAM do I really need?” Research on this subject for 25 minutes or show told me that the consensus from the gaming community is, “You really won’t use more than 4 GB.”

Well, I have been running with 4 GB in my office PC for 5 years now and over the previous 4 or 5 months I found myself managing memory because I kept running out of it!

Can you guess what was using up all of my memory? I didn’t guess until I started doing some monitoring and I was surprised to find that it was my internet browsing habits. I use chrome and being a successful IT Professional requires that I research. Good research requires cross referencing. How better to cross reference then to switch between browser windows or tabs? I could navigate from one site to another and then back again but that takes too much time.

I’m writing this article now in the middle of my work day with the purpose of seeing what I had open on a normal work day. The apps I’ve got running are:

  • Chrome
  • Windows Explorer
  • Rhapsody
  • MSN messenger
  • PS3 Media Server
  • Notepad
  • Task Manager
  • Outlook
  • Putty

I’m running these on Windows 7 Enterprise x64.

From what I’ve read on the internet machine I’d say that most people would be surprised to find that I’m currently using 5.62 GB of physical memory. Most might also be surprised to find that 2GB of that is due to my 25 open tabs that I’ve got in Chrome. The other memory eating process is dwm (aero).

I also run VMs every once in a while on my PC using Virtualbox and I had to limit the amount of RAM that I reserved for each VM. I have an XP vm required for company policy for some operations and a Linux VM for when I don’t have access to Linux on my corporate network. I don’t use them that often but when trying to answer the previous question I realized that the more RAM I used for my new system the more convenient it would be when running those VMs. I could also run as many Chrome and IE tabs as I liked without worrying about it. I don’t game much but when I have done so in the past I’ve been forced to close all of my Chrome tabs. There are extensions that let me “save” my tabs so that I can access them later without using up all of my memory but that was just another step required due to my lack of RAM.

So I had decided on a motherboard that allowed a maximum of 32 GB but only had 4 slots. I started pricing RAM with the realization that I’d need a minimum of 8GB and even then I could see myself using all of it in the near future.

When I finally started shopping I was pleasantly surprised to see how inexpensive RAM was from the last time I had purchased any. It had been several years so I expected it to be less but not 4 or 5 times less.

For the past month I’ve been running with 16 GB of RAM that cost me less than $90. That should tide me over for the next several years unless I find myself without access to a lab and have to create a bunch of virtual machines. I’m sure websites will start sucking more and more RAM as we “progress” online as well.

So how much RAM do you really need?

The answer for most is probably 8GB. You can get away with 4GB but I think in the next year or so with Windows 8 and the trends of how our websites are sucking more and more RAM, 4 GB won’t be enough. If you plan on running virtual machines then 16 GB should be the minimum. Or, if I am to be completely honest, you should just spend the extra $40 and buy 16 GB. I don’t have a crystal ball but history would show that memory prices can fluctuate. It is also important to note that the older memory, the more it will cost you because it is no longer being manufactured.

For example, my 4x4GB sticks of DDR3 cost me less than $88. The equivalent kit for DDR2 from the same vendor costs $319!

My 16 GB of RAM and my SSD should keep me happy for the next 4 or 5 years. Or, at least, until I can jack myself into the matrix.

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