If you’re wondering whether 4GB RAM is enough or whether you should go for 6 or 8 (or more) in a new PC, you’ll probably go off to Google and start researching. You’ll find that in general, people say 4GB is plenty although it’s almost standard today (2011). Last week, i upgraded to 8GB…
4GB to 8GB = Double the performance?
Ok, so the performance jump isn’t as dramatic as that, but it’s noticeable. Files & folders are quicker to respond. Applications open quicker. Startup & shut down times improve. You ask yourself why couldn’t it always have been that way? We’ll be asking that exact question in 5, 10, 15 years time and beyond. We’ll always want computers to do stuff faster. People will always die wishing they had the technology the current generation has. That’s just technology evolution.
If you happen to be wondering what the hell RAM is, it’s like your brain’s short term memory…. if we compare a human brain to a computer, this is how it we’d describe it;
Brain = CPU (processor – the thing you see on most computer TV ads – any time ‘intel’ is mentioned they need to play this stupid little sound clip at the end).
Long Term Memory = Hard Disk / Hard Drive. We all know what that does. It stores stuff. That’s where you save stuff to. Nowadays it’s not all that important as most of our stuff is stored online.
Short Term Memory = RAM. Not as well known as the other two but just as important. Let’s say you want to run word and excel whilst browsing the web. You’re asking your computer to basically do a whole bunch of stuff at once. You flick between things expecting those programs to be open. RAM allows the computer to do that.
When will i ever use 8GB RAM?
That was a good question up until applications starting being designed for 64bit operating systems and utilising multiple core processors. Here’s how much RAM i was using with chrome, photoshop, illustrator and few background apps open (like google talk, skype, itunes & ultramon).
5.62GB in use. This wasn’t a task specifically designed to use up as much RAM as possible, this was me doing the stuff i normally do on a day to day basis. I just noticed i had a lot of stuff going on so thought i’d check in on RAM usage. What’s interesting is that photoshop is allocated about 1GB more than it’s actually using and that’s where the 64bit / greater than 4GB RAM really comes in useful.
I’m not an average user by any means but i’m pretty sure average users will be able eat up 4GB without realising it in the not too distant future. Of course your system doesn’t just crash when it effectively ‘red-lines’ RAM usage… like a car being revved in to oblivion it won’t just explode and fall apart… there’s all sorts of smart limits and techniques employed to to prevent things from just collapsing when pushed to their limits.
If you look at your RAM usage now and see that it’s maxed out, there’s no need to panic. If you don’t shut things down, your computer will take that decision for you and kick out the stuff you’re not using or it thinks you don’t want to use. It commonly swaps RAM for hard drive space without you even noticing in a bid to speed up & accommodate whatever it is you’re doing right this millisecond.
The only time you’ll realise there’s a problem is when you get BSODs (blue screens of deaths) or applications start crashing. That’s a ‘smoke coming from the bonnet’ sign. Either something is broken or you’re pushing your machine too far and doing things it was never built to do.
Not all RAM is the same
So you think you’ve found the right RAM… maybe your motherboard can handle DDR2 800mhz RAM like mine. You currently have 667mhz RAM and think you’re smart upgrading to 800mhz. Yeah, you might be smart but RAM isn’t as hassle free as it sounds to upgrade smoothly. One thing that nearly caught me out was voltages. My old RAM was used 1.8v. On a standard motherboard, you can increase / decrease voltages of RAM slots but on my Dell PC, you don’t have that luxury. The BIOS won’t allow you to *shakes fist*.
So get the voltages wrong and your new RAM could be useless, at best it might throw you random errors and some sticks might work, others mightn’t. Good luck trying to diagnose the problem 😉
RAM these days is cheap. Well, the older stuff is. If you bought a computer before 2009-ish, you’ll most likely be using DDR2 RAM which is much cheaper than DDR3 RAM. That’s because it’s inferior of course but double your RAM (no matter how slow it is) and you *will* see a performance increase. If you’re working with a computer daily, for hours on end like i am, it’s a wise investment, especially if you can’t afford a new high end system.