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How to know if you need more RAM

Jeffbx 2,262 July 24, 2012 at 06:28 AM
I see so many people asking this question or just way, WAY overpurchasing RAM so I thought I'd post this. There is a very simple & quick way of seeing if you actually are running low on RAM before buying 16GB (this is for Windows 7).

First, use your computer! Fire it up and launch all of the apps that you generally have going. Open a few browser tabs, get your email going, etc. Try to do an average session - don't open every app on your machine. In the example below, this is my laptop that's running Outlook, IE with several tabs, Chrome with several tabs, Notepad, Windows Explorer, a couple of chat apps, Dropbox and Snag-It.

Launch Task Manager (ctrl-alt-del & then 'start task manager'; OR right click task bar at the bottom of your screen and 'start task manager')

Switch to the 'Performance' tab
Click the 'Resource Monitor...' button at the bottom of the window, and it will pop up a window that looks like this.

There are 5 different sections of memory usage on the bar graph, but only 3 of them are really important to you.

First one (in grey) is hardware reserved - this is RAM that hardware uses & there's nothing you can do about this, so not important. This amount will generally be pretty low.

Third one (in orange) is 'Modified'. Also not very important because this amount is generally low, but this is RAM that's in use by low priority tasks that can be quickly released for other use.

The green section is important - this is the total amount of physical RAM that your machine is currently using (ignoring the swap file). In the graphic below, the machine is using 3GB of RAM.

The next important section is dark blue (labeled 'Standby') - this is actually not labeled well, as this is your free or available RAM. This is memory that's available for use by whatever application needs it next. In this example, there's 3GB of RAM just waiting to be used.

Finally, the light blue section labeled 'Free' - this is also kind of misleading, as this is more like wasted RAM, not free RAM. The memory in this section is the amount that Windows is just ignoring because it has no use for it. It's not being used & it's not ready to be used by anything - it's just sitting there doing nothing.

So, if someone were to show me this display & ask if they need more RAM I'd say no way, as a matter of fact you already have too much installed. I'm only actually using 3GB with another 3GB on standby and 2GB doing nothing at all. As it's running now, having 4GB in the machine would be fine, and having 6GB would give me a safety buffer. It's got 8GB installed (see the line highlighted in yellow), so I'm wasting 2GB because Windows simply has no use for it.


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Last Edited by Jeffbx July 31, 2012 at 05:47 AM
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Helen Reddy, standing by
1,485 Reputation
#3
That was an awesome explanation. Sadly or happily, I dunno yet, that example looks almost exactly like my Resource Monitor. A lil less "Modified," a quarter less "Free", about the same amount of "In Use," and about the same amount of "Standby."

I'll have to plug away at a few games to see how much that changes up.
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#4
To add on....

Keep resource monitor going and start trying to max out your computer by loading big apps and watch the graph.... if it never pegs out then you have enough ram.

Windows 7 is very effective with usage of Ram...I have 4 gigs and usually over 50% of my ram is available.
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#5
Quote from Jeffbx View Post :
Launch Task Manager (ctrl-alt-del & then 'start task manager'; OR right click task bar at the bottom of your screen and 'start task manager')
Since your trying to teach some here I'll add in another trivia piece to perhaps teach you something too. My favorite way to get the task manager is ctrl - shift - esc. You can do it with one hand Smilie
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#6
People are overpurchasing RAM because it is cheap now.
Hardware RAM is faster than Swapping.

1985 - 512KB (from $210 to $440)
1989 - 4MB (from $753 to $1023)
1993 - 4MB ($110)
1998 - 16MB ($58)
2001 - 128MB ($39)
2003 - 512MB ($39 to $89)
......................................
2012 - 4 GB ($20)
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#7
Quote from nizzy1115 View Post :
Since your trying to teach some here I'll add in another trivia piece to perhaps teach you something too. My favorite way to get the task manager is ctrl - shift - esc. You can do it with one hand Smilie
:-)

I always found it really annoying to hit ctrl-alt-del and then select task-manager. Had no idea it could be done directly
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#8
I over purchased because it was cheap. Of course, I bought way too much than my version of Win7 could handle.

Bought 24 GBs and can only use 16 GBs...oops. Oh well, better to have too much than too little.
Going to use the extra RAM for an extra desktop I'm going to buy.
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#9
Quote from evongugg View Post :
Hardware RAM is faster than Swapping.
BINGO !
You hit the nail on the head.
You can't believe how many people still believe the opposite and warn people away from going with no page file (swap file, if you prefer).
It's so elementary, that nand flash is a zillion times faster than your hard drive. Roll Eyes (Sarcastic)
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L10: Grand Master
2,262 Reputation
Original Poster
#10
Yes - there is no downside to purchasing too much RAM except that you're wasting money. And with RAM prices these days you won't be wasting a lot.

This is intended more for those who, for example, have 8GB installed and think that going to 12 or 16GB will give them a boost in speed, when in reality they have no idea whether they're even using what they have. More RAM only equals more speed when you're running out. If you already have enough, then more RAM only equals more money spent, and speed does not change.

As a general rule, 4GB is plenty for general computing. You can buy 6 or 8GB, but if all you're doing is email, surfing & office apps, then you'll probably never even max out that first 4.

If you're gaming, use the test above to see where you fall. The vast majority of games will also fall into the ~4GB category, but of course depends heavily on the game. Fire up your game, alt-tab out & run the test.

If you're playing with virtualization, then count on 4GB for the OS & 4GB for each VM. This is where RAM usage can get silly & you really need to load up.

Professional apps - photo/video editing, CAD, rendering, etc - use the test above. These apps can vary greatly.
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#11
Quote from Jeffbx View Post :
Yes - there is no downside to purchasing too much RAM except that you're wasting money. And with RAM prices these days you won't be wasting a lot.

This is intended more for those who, for example, have 8GB installed and think that going to 12 or 16GB will give them a boost in speed, when in reality they have no idea whether they're even using what they have. More RAM only equals more speed when you're running out. If you already have enough, then more RAM only equals more money spent, and speed does not change.

As a general rule, 4GB is plenty for general computing. You can buy 6 or 8GB, but if all you're doing is email, surfing & office apps, then you'll probably never even max out that first 4.

If you're gaming, use the test above to see where you fall. The vast majority of games will also fall into the ~4GB category, but of course depends heavily on the game. Fire up your game, alt-tab out & run the test.

If you're playing with virtualization, then count on 4GB for the OS & 4GB for each VM. This is where RAM usage can get silly & you really need to load up.

Professional apps - photo/video editing, CAD, rendering, etc - use the test above. These apps can vary greatly.
Doubt you really need 4GB for each VM....2 GB should be more than enough and 1 Gb would likely work too. Depends on the VM usage. However if you do plan on virtualizing 8GB would give you the necessary headroom whereas 4GB is cutting it too close IMO.
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#12
Quote from vivahate View Post :
:-)

I always found it really annoying to hit ctrl-alt-del and then select task-manager. Had no idea it could be done directly
You can also right click on the task bar and click Task Manager.
Adding the "Command Line" column is very handy to find out where tasks are running from (virus troubleshooting) and to see the parameters an exe was launched with




And ProcExp by Sysinternals is a great task manager replacement with a lot more features.
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-u...96653.aspx




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#13
thanks... even easier :-)
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#14
Don't forget AutoRuns to see what gets loaded at startup... another great MS SysInternals too for Virus hunts....or what loads and uses your ram.

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#15
Quote from Jeffbx View Post :
Yes - there is no downside to purchasing too much RAM except that you're wasting money. And with RAM prices these days you won't be wasting a lot.

This is intended more for those who, for example, have 8GB installed and think that going to 12 or 16GB will give them a boost in speed, when in reality they have no idea whether they're even using what they have. More RAM only equals more speed when you're running out. If you already have enough, then more RAM only equals more money spent, and speed does not change.

As a general rule, 4GB is plenty for general computing. You can buy 6 or 8GB, but if all you're doing is email, surfing & office apps, then you'll probably never even max out that first 4.

If you're gaming, use the test above to see where you fall. The vast majority of games will also fall into the ~4GB category, but of course depends heavily on the game. Fire up your game, alt-tab out & run the test.

If you're playing with virtualization, then count on 4GB for the OS & 4GB for each VM. This is where RAM usage can get silly & you really need to load up.

Professional apps - photo/video editing, CAD, rendering, etc - use the test above. These apps can vary greatly.
I'm a software developer, and even having multiple instances of Visual Studio open and a VM running, 8GB doesn't feel like too little.
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