RAM (Random Access Memory) is the storage location for active application on your computer. Before the program is loaded into RAM it resides on your computers hard drive. Loading these resources into your RAM occurs when a program is launched.
All modern operating systems allow for multitasking which means that multiple programs can be opened at once and the user can switch between them. These multiple programs are held in the RAM of your computer, allowing for quick switching without having to reload the program from the hard disk drive.
This means the number of programs, documents, browser tabs, etc, you can have concurrently open is directly tied to the amount of RAM in your system. Loading up a web browser and logging into facebook can easily use 400MB of RAM (0.4GB).
Below I give my recommendations for how much RAM is required for some general use cases. These recommendations are of course the same for both Desktops and Laptops.
Existing Computer System – Minimum
4GB is the minimum amount of RAM I would recommend for a modern operating system such as Windows 8/10, Mac OS X Lion onward, or Linux using GNOME or KDE.
A computer using one of these operating systems will load with 2GB of ram, but will leave the user without enough memory for more than 1 or 2 applications.
If your existing machine is only being used for general applications such as documents and browsing the internet, 4GBs of RAM should be enough till you buy a new computer.
New Computer System – General Use
If you are looking to get a new PC or Laptop for surfing the internet, writing documents, or other tasks such as light photo editing; 8GB of ram will handle these tasks well with a level of future proofing.
New Computer System – Gaming or Production
If you are a gamer or work with high definition video production, large file Photoshop manipulation, or are a heavy multitasker; 16GB of RAM is recommended. This will allow for plenty of headroom for these resource intensive applications.
New Computer System – Professional, CAD, Simulation, etc.
Professional software applications can hold large active data sets. The performance of these applications can be directly tied to the amount of system RAM. 32GBs of RAM is pretty typical for workstation applications. Current generation workstations are available with up to 128GB of RAM.
What happens if my computer runs out of RAM?
If your computer has more applications open than can fit in your available memory it will start to swap. Swapping involves moving information from RAM to the hard disk. The swapping process is very slow due to the lower bandwidth of hard disk drives. If a program needs information in the swap space, this information needs to be loaded from the hard disk back into RAM before it can be used.
Sizing the RAM in your system to your use case and minimizing the number of unused applications left open can prevent excessive use of the computers swap.
If you are interested in a RAM upgrade or a new system to enhance your workflow, get in touch with UberNerd for a quote.