How much RAM is enough?

By | April 16th, 2009

The amount of RAM a Computer has critically affects system performance. The RAM needs are also changing with the new Windows and programs, and applications these days are taking more and more RAM space. With less RAM, the computers starts using the Hard Drive for temporary data, and thus, the system performance significantly decreases, and it takes more and more time to load programs.

The RAM should also not be too much more than your needs as the extra memory will be useless for your computer. Thus, to maintain a balance between selecting the RAM amount is of key importance.

The largest problem is that memory needs vary greatly from person to person.  For running casual programs, upto 1 GB of RAM is enough for most. But for some applications, RAM sizes as much as 8GB to 16GB are needed.

The amount of RAM needed also vary with the Operating System used. Here are some recommended sizes of memory for common Windows Operating Systems. Especially after Windows Vista, the RAM requirements have taken a huge jump. Here are some recommendations for RAM requirements for Windows Operating Systems.

RAM SHEET How much RAM is enough?


For detailed requirements for Windows, Click Here.

The base requirements for each Windows is enough to run it properly, but to get a smooth experience, the recommended configurations are the best. The Maximum RAM is the amount which after which there will be nearly no change in the performance on the system, and are best recommended for high end gaming systems and servers. You can check yourself if your Computer or Laptop is overworking, if the hard drive LED is constantly flickering it means that all of the resources are being used and you need more space.

This is also reflected by Windows Vista’s Experience Index for differenct RAM sizes.

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Windows Experience Index

As seen, above 2 GB,Windows scale the RAM as equal. Also, increasing the RAM above 2 GB has nearly no effect in te performance of the system, especially for a casual user.

The increased RAM however is useful for using professional applications.

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Business Applications RAM Benchmark

The area where the most RAM is needed is Computer gaming. Games these days have increased hardware requirements, and there seem to be improvement in performance no matter how much RAM is added. Thus, for extreme gaming, RAM sizes between 2 GB to 4 GB are recommended. Above this size, the effect of increased memory are minimal.

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FEAR Benchmark

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Quake 4 Benchmark

Most of the PCs are used for business applications. Some business applications are really RAM hungry, and eats up free RAM in instants. So, professional software usually need bigger RAMs to handle large amounts of data. A particular case is with Servers which benefits the most. Here are some professional software benchmarks for easy comparing the RAM system performance.

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PCMark05 RAM Benchmark

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3DMark06 RAM Benchmark

Another area where a lot of RAM is needed is File Compression. A large amount of data has to be temporarily stored to be sorted, and then compressed into a single file. It also benefits from total data bandwidth. In this case, a combination of RAM is installed running at same speed in Dual Channel configuration. The results however shows that there is not much disparity in speed with RAM sizes.

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WinRAR Compression Benchmark


The requirements have changed, games and software’s have become more demanding. Typically if you are a modest user a 1 GB DDR 2 ram would be sufficient for you, but it his highly recommended to use at least 2 GB of RAM. As far as gamers are concerned, they should look into the next frontier i.e. DDR 3 RAM. We say that because DDR 3 RAM operates at a higher frequencies which start at 800 MHz to 1600 MHz while DDR 2 has a range of 400-800 MHz. A computer professional using heavy tools and who has at least 10-15 tabs opened at a time or a person who plays games a lot a minimum of 4 GB and 8 GB recommended DDR 3 RAM would do the job.

Ram chart How much RAM is enough?

  • Maria

    Who did the translation into Finnish, Tarzan, a machine? The text is ridiculous!!

  • usman

    Yes Maria, the text is automatically translated. Please correct any mistakes.

  • Hosting Deals

    good article, I still using XP and have 2GB Ram on board. It says 1.5Gb of ram is fine for casual user. Some games require more than 2 GB of ram.

  • Ashish Kalmegh

    nice post
    I need to upgrade my laptops RAM

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  • Chris

    Absolutely fine for the average user. I personally use nearly my full 8gb of ram fairly often. I’m a 3d modeler/animator and I deal with some hefty scenes.

  • Milander

    Kind of a redundant question, more is always better…

  • computernature

    Another good question is if your computer memory does not cost much, how long will it stay at those low prices before a big jump in price. Example: DDR vs DDR2 in price, most times you may see DDR2 which is newer than DDR cheaper. Would it be a good idea to buy the memory while it's cheap. Going with at least 1GB – 2GB should fit most home users needs but if you can afford it, why not go a little higher like 2.5 or even 3GB.

  • David Gundling

    Is the recommended memory free memory or total memory? I define free memory as that which doesn't have an application loaded. For example one of my computers had 1GB but only about 53% was free.

  • chjawadm

    It's total memory attached to your motherboard.

  • Dave Gundling

    Thank you for the reply. Given your answer, why is it that people recommend that no more than about 15% of installed RAM be occupied after boot up for max performance?

  • chjawadm

    That argument has no basis. Now with Vista and Windows 7, you would have notice that the system uses 40-50% of RAM whether you have 1GB or 2GB or more RAM installed. The RAM windows is use is actually for increasing the performance, the free ram is there for loading new programs

  • Tim

    I am running XP and have 3 Gigs of RAM. It does all I need it to without a problem. I am a web designer and can run multiple programs with no problems. I noticed a big difference from 1 gig. However, for the casual user of XP 1.5 is all you need to get top performance.