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How to know if you need more RAM

Jeffbx 2,262 July 24, 2012 at 06:28 AM in Computers (3)
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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#16
Quote from Frogstar View Post :
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.
Heh, I have 16 GB of RAM and I only just maxed it out earlier this week. Running two VMs, half dozen Explorer windows, several large text documents in Notepad++, custom Java app, Chrome, Firefox and a compile (C code, using MS's compiler and gmake) running in the background. LMAO






Still, the pagefile is not harmful to keep around and potentially harmful to turn off, even if you have more memory than you can use. It has to do with Windows' memory architecture and claims to the contrary just don't understand the way Windows looks at memory.
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#17
photoshop frequently maxes out my ram ( or most of it), I have 16gb and like to "stitch" together panoramic shots - other than that though, it almost never gets close to maxed (even when running games like sc2 and D3)
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#18
Good Efforts well put,
Thanks for sharing.
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#19
1) good job on getting a sticky, maybe we need this for viruses also.
2) a few good post though here, maybe moving it in to all in to a wiki so its in one place?
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#20
i use premiere pro and photoshop and after effects and it routinely eats up my 16gb ... i'm ready to double.
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#21
Quote from mrbobhcrhs View Post :
1) good job on getting a sticky, maybe we need this for viruses also.
2) a few good post though here, maybe moving it in to all in to a wiki so its in one place?

Thanks, good idea - done!
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#22
Quote from RockySosua View Post :
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).
Ok seriously, who are the people that actually know what a swap/page file is also believe that it is faster than real RAM? Crazy
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#23
Quote from Ram|bunc|tious View Post :
Ok seriously, who are the people that actually know what a swap/page file is also believe that it is faster than real RAM? Crazy
Here's an excerpt from a recent post, illustrating a deep misunderstanding of ram, pagefile and Windows in general.
Quote :
do not disable your pagefile. In Windows' memory architecture, RAM is a performance optimization for the hard disk.
"RAM is a performance optimization for the hard disk" Confused Confused Confused
No matter how hard I try to twist that sentence around to make some sense, the only thing that comes to mind is the mechanic telling the lady that the rhemofram has worn out and and in turn affected the kadiddle and that if she doesn't change them right now, the heart gear will surely blow.....
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#24
Thanks.. I am having 853 MBs on standby. Meanwhile, I am getting notifications from AVG that my browser is running high on memory. So, I can conclude that I don't require more memory.

But, will adding more memory help or enhance speeds? I use Kingston 2GB 1333hz. Will it make a difference if I add 2GB more of G.skill ram 1600?
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#25
I am one of those who generally runs out of RAM regularly, but that is because I administer and develop for multiple operating systems and will often have 8 or more VMs open at a time, or else I am booted into Windows and editing HD video. For the average user having the 18GB of RAM that I have is just stupid and there is no call for it. The two scenarios that I happen work with are about the only ones I know where you need more than 8GB of RAM.
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#26
Quote from Bobby_Pro View Post :
Thanks.. I am having 853 MBs on standby. Meanwhile, I am getting notifications from AVG that my browser is running high on memory. So, I can conclude that I don't require more memory.

But, will adding more memory help or enhance speeds? I use Kingston 2GB 1333hz. Will it make a difference if I add 2GB more of G.skill ram 1600?
All RAM in the machine runs at the speed of the slowest chip, so adding faster RAM in addition to the existing RAM won't make any difference.

You would have to replace all of your slower RAM as well to see any speed increase, and that increase would be pretty marginal - meaning it would be measurable, but probably not noticable.
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#27
Quote from Bobby_Pro View Post :
Thanks.. I am having 853 MBs on standby. Meanwhile, I am getting notifications from AVG that my browser is running high on memory. So, I can conclude that I don't require more memory.

But, will adding more memory help or enhance speeds? I use Kingston 2GB 1333hz. Will it make a difference if I add 2GB more of G.skill ram 1600?
When AVG gives you that warning, you can NOT conclude that you don't require more memory.
It has nothing to do with that. It is what it says it is, a notification of a program that is using large amounts of memory, nothing more, nothing less.
Jeffbx has explained about the ram speeds, but bear in mind, that if your machine is a bit short of memory, which it appears to be if you only have 2 gigs, then you could use another 2 gigs, regardless of which speed you choose.
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#28
What's annoying me is Chrome using so many processes, including for each plugin.
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#29
Quote from Parafly9 View Post :
What's annoying me is Chrome using so many processes, including for each plugin.
I agree.
I like some of the Firefox features and that's why I put up with the massive amounts of resources it takes, but when it comes to speed and working flawlessly, IE works the best for me.
Bear in mind, that if IE is all messed up with add-ons, hijackers, toolbars, cookies, etc, it may work like krap, but properly maintained, I think it's the best.
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#30
Quote from RockySosua View Post :
Here's an excerpt from a recent post, illustrating a deep misunderstanding of ram, pagefile and Windows in general.

"RAM is a performance optimization for the hard disk" Confused Confused Confused
No matter how hard I try to twist that sentence around to make some sense, the only thing that comes to mind is the mechanic telling the lady that the rhemofram has worn out and and in turn affected the kadiddle and that if she doesn't change them right now, the heart gear will surely blow.....
I'm sorry, but the reason you don't understand it is that you have failed to read the information I have provided you. From Microsoft themselves:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ericlippe...emory.aspx

But hey, if you can't believe one of Microsoft's principal software design engineers (who regularly works close to the hardware, since he's in compiler development, where memory is kind of important...) then who can you believe?

Oh right, some random person on a deals site that fixes computers by not really caring how they work under the hood.

Quote from Ram|bunc|tious View Post :
Ok seriously, who are the people that actually know what a swap/page file is also believe that it is faster than real RAM? Crazy
No one ever said it was faster. I said that the pagefile is crucial to the memory architecture of Windows, but Rocky just doesn't realize that. He'd rather continue to spout false/bad information than learn how Windows actually works and why his advice is bad.

I also informed him it was a gross oversimplification of the way Windows handles memory, and that it's useful for understanding why a pagefile is useful even if you're not using all of your physical RAM.

When you look at RAM as a performance optimization for disk, you understand that programs can allocate much more memory than there is RAM available. Windows accomplishes this through the pagefile. So even if you have 16 GB of RAM, you could open a 64 GB file, for example, because Windows can allocate enough memory in the pagefile to fulfill the application's request.

Again, this is an oversimplification of how memory allocation works but I used it just to illustrate the most obvious case of why turning off a pagefile is bad. You don't know how all the programs on your system were written, and one of them could attempt to allocate more memory than is physically available. Without a pagefile, that operation will fail, potentially with disastrous consequences. Why turn off the page file? It's not harming anything.
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