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How Much RAM Do You Actually Need?

There’s a quote often attributed to Bill Gates that goes something like, “no one would ever need more than 640 kilobytes of memory in their computer.” It turns out he never actually said that, but it got us wondering how much RAM do you actually need in modern times?

Let’s start with the kind of RAM that most of us are familiar with. It’s the main system memory living inside your desktop or laptop PC. It’s quickly becoming common for budget computers to come with 4 gigabytes of RAM. While mid-range machines often have eight, and higher-end PCs can include 16 gigs or even 32 gigs of memory. 

But is it worth paying a premium for that?

Quick Tips to Determine if You Need More RAM

If you suspect your computer needs more memory, consider these quick tips to determine if an upgrade is necessary:

  1. Slow performance: If your computer is consistently slow, especially when using multiple applications or opening large files, this could be a sign of insufficient memory.
  2. Frequent freezing: If your computer often freezes or crashes, particularly when using memory-intensive programs, this might indicate a need for more memory.
  3. High disk usage: If your computer’s hard drive is constantly active and you notice a significant slowdown, it could be due to insufficient RAM causing the system to rely on virtual memory (disk space).
  4. Task Manager: Open the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc) on Windows or Activity Monitor on macOS to check the memory usage. If the memory usage is consistently high (above 80%) while using your typical applications, you may need more RAM.
  5. Performance monitor: Use the built-in performance monitoring tools (Windows: Performance Monitor, macOS: Activity Monitor) to check for memory-related bottlenecks. Look for high values in memory-related counters, such as page faults and swap usage.
  6. Multitasking difficulties: If you experience significant slowdowns when running multiple applications simultaneously or switching between them, this could signal a lack of memory.
  7. Upgraded software: If you’ve recently installed new or upgraded software that has higher system requirements, it could be taxing your current memory capacity.
  8. Low available memory warnings: If your computer frequently displays low memory warnings, it’s a clear sign you need more RAM.
  9. Gaming performance: If you’re a gamer and notice stuttering, lag, or long loading times, it could be due to insufficient memory.
  10. Manufacturer’s recommendations: Check your computer’s specifications and compare them to the recommended memory requirements for your operating system and applications. If your RAM is below these recommendations, consider upgrading.

If you observe any combination of these signs, it’s likely that your computer would benefit from additional memory. Upgrading your RAM can improve performance, enhance multitasking capabilities, and prevent crashes or slowdowns caused by insufficient memory.

How Much RAM is Needed for For Day-to-day Tasks?

Unless you’re seriously cash-strapped, it’s worth getting at least eight gigabytes, even if you’re not planning to do anything with your computer beyond basic productivity like web browsing or watching YouTube videos.

Many common routine tasks are quickly becoming memory hogs. Even Google Chrome can eat into your RAM very quickly and take up a few gigs of memory if you have many tabs open.

While the browser does use a technique called “Tab Discarding” which removes unused tabs from memory and reloads them when you access them, you’ll still get a noticeably smoother experience for everyday tasks if you don’t skimp too hard on your RAM. 

How Much RAM is Needed for Gaming?

What if you’re building your PC for gaming? Well, the answer becomes a little more complicated. If you check the system requirements of big-budget titles these days, they recommend 16 gigs of memory. 

But the thing to keep in mind is that system requirements for games are often not validated well. It turns out that many games with the recommended requirement of 16 gigs of RAM can get by just fine on eight gigs with only a very marginal performance drop, if any. 

However, as games get more complex, this may not be the case in the near future. Especially as some games actively do use more than eight gigs of system memory, and only having eight gigs can also hinder your ability to do anything else while you’re playing a game, such as streaming. 

So, I would recommend 16 gigs as a sweet spot for gamers and especially streamers, unless you’re playing less resource-heavy titles.

Also Read: HDD vs. SSD vs. External SSD for Gaming

Role of RAM in Gaming

So, what exactly is the connection between RAM and gaming?

When you play a game, the data is stored on your drive. However, continuously retrieving data from an SSD/HDD is slow and inefficient – the last thing you want during gameplay. To address this, your computer transfers the game data to a component that allows for faster access, ensuring a smoother gaming experience. Accessing data from RAM is 20 to 100 times faster than retrieving it from an HDD.

It’s important to note that there is another type of RAM specifically related to gaming, known as video RAM (or VRAM). This is a specification found in dedicated graphics cards, and it’s responsible for rendering the visuals you see on your screen.

In essence, both RAM and VRAM handle graphics, but since VRAM is solely dedicated to this task, it effectively alleviates some pressure on your main Random Access Memory. As long as you have sufficient VRAM, your visuals won’t consume resources needed for other processes.

How Much RAM is Needed for 8k Video Editing?

If you are a professional video editor and 8K video editing is your thing, you might need more than 32 gigs of RAM to handle the heavy task. You may need 64 gigs of RAM to reduce the rendering time.

How Much RAM is Needed for 3D Modeling?

As for 3D modelers’ animators or scientists, their memory requirements are limited only by the size of the scenes or the data sets that they’re working with. If the files are huge, then you may need more than 64 gigs of RAM.

Do I need 32 Gigs of RAM?

Many of the motherboards have four RAM slots, making it easier to upgrade to 32 gigs of RAM if money is not the problem. 

But investing in this much is probably only worth it if you’re working with lots of data at once, such as large photosets or editing high-resolution video, especially if you’re multitasking like creating a high-resolution video with edited photos in it.

Furthermore, certain kinds of media files can take a lot of time to render. You’ll probably want to use your PC for other things while your content renders in the background, and this is where having 32 gigs of memory or more can come in handy.

Also Read: Gaming on Windows11

Is 128Gb RAM too much?

With 128Gb of RAM, you can run multiple high-end games and heavy RAM-hungry software simultaneously. In short, if you are multitasking with high-end games, running coding-related applications, video editing, and running a lot of virtual machines.

The price of a 128Gb RAM can be pretty high, and it can cost you about $1500+. While a 32Gb RAM only costs about $160+.

How Much Graphics Memory or V-RAM is Needed?

Even if two cards have the same graphics processing unit or GPU, they can have different amounts of VRAM, and benchmarks often focus more on the GPU itself than on how it performs across its various memory configurations.

So, remember that the primary purpose of the VRAM is to hold the graphics information that the GPU acts upon, meaning that higher resolution gaming and higher resolution textures will require more VRAM. 

This is also the case if you’re using certain types of anti-aliasing that involve rendering at effectively higher resolutions, such as super sampling anti-aliasing. Many mid-range cards come with 4 gigabytes of VRAM, which as a general rule, should do you fine. 

You’ll want at least six gigs of VRAM for 1440p and about eight gigs or more for 4k (2160p). Also read, if Dual graphics are worth it or not?

Just be sure to read the reviews for titles you want to play. Some particularly demanding games or especially third-party mods like high-resolution texture packs might mean that a card with slightly more VRAM would be a great investment if you want to play at high quality. 

Running out of VRAM can drop FPS because after it completely uses the VRAM, it will borrow some of the system RAM, which is usually slower. Certain games might become completely unplayable if you try to bump up the resolution too much.

Check out these reviews and comparison between different high end RAMs:

Garry Warner

I started gaming in my early age. I would play games with my dad on SEGA. I played the Golden Axe, Sonic the Hedgehog, Contra, Jurassic Park and many more. Since then I have played hundreds of games, and gaming has become a part of my life.