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How to know if you need more RAM

Jeffbx 6,143 2,278 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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Last Edited by Jeffbx July 31, 2012 at 05:47 AM
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191 Comments

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Joined Aug 2007
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#181
Do the test I described on the first page on this thread before you spend your $$ on more RAM. If you're not using the 8 that's in there, bumping to 16 will not make any difference at all. More RAM does not give you more speed unless you're already using all the memory you have.

But based on the age of your machine, if you really want a speed boost I'd recommend first swapping the HDD for an SSD - that'll make a significant difference in speed.
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Joined Feb 2004
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#182
Quote from Outrun1986 View Post :
I have a Dell Studio XPS 8100 desktop from 2010 which runs ok for now but I have a bit of money and I am thinking I might want to upgrade it from the 8GB it currently has to 16GB. 16GB is the max ram it can hold I know that much but i don't know how many slots I have and what is currently in those slots. For example I probably wouldn't want to upgrade if I had to purchase 2 new 8GB sticks because I only have 2 slots and there happens to be 2 4GB sticks in there. I often open about 70-80 tabs at once in chrome because I am entering sweepstakes and this makes entering them very fast.
Run Crucial's memory scanner: http://www.crucial.com/usa/en/systemscanner, and it will tell you how many slots you have and how many are in use. However, did you follow the steps in the OP / wiki to determine if you would even see any benefit from upgrading your RAM?
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Marshall: Have the rest of you guys figured out by now that mmathis is the smartest guy on SlickDeals?
#183
Yes i did follow the steps, I seem to be using 60-80% of the ram for a light to medium task (which for me is about 5-6 GB with another 2 or so in "standby" mode), so I will have to look into this further. But I agree its pointless to spend money on ram unless your machine will actually use it.
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#184
My computer always slows down whenever i start internet on it.I have increased my pc ram and also have graphic card in it and always clear the cache memory but still the problem is coming.Can any one tell me what problem can there be ?
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Joined Aug 2007
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#185
Quote from jimyford View Post :
My computer always slows down whenever i start internet on it.I have increased my pc ram and also have graphic card in it and always clear the cache memory but still the problem is coming.Can any one tell me what problem can there be ?
It could be.... so many different things.

What are the machine specs? How old is the machine? What OS? What browser/version? Who's the internet provider? What's the connection speed? How long since last reload?
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#186
Simple push ctrl+shift and monitor the graph with the most common software and applications u use regularly. If is borderline 70-80% u might need more ram or a faster computer.
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#187
Quote from techtraders :
RAM is just for increasing a performance of computer and now a days RAM price is very cheap .
CHEAP is not neccessarily good.... Today "Cheap" is usually garbage!!
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#188
Quote from Dude111 View Post :
CHEAP is not neccessarily good.... Today "Cheap" is usually garbage!!
It's cheap compared to other components. Cheap in that sense.

Even very high quality, high amount of RAM will on average cost notably less than a high quality, powerful GPU, CPU, MB, PSU or heck, in some cases even the Case. Big Grin

With RAM being as cheap as it is, I don't see it as a place where to save money when putting together a rig. But on another note, it's easy to add additional RAM later, so it's something you can save on early, and add as needed.
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#189
Quote from boltman2007 View Post :
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.
not sure if you're still on here, but i coukd use some help.. .I'm lost with this stuff ...I need a laptop to work from home. I have a list of minimum requirements.
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#190
Chang ur OS to some Linux OS , e.g Ubuntu, Debian,etc. It takes a little RAM and CPU than Window. Just try it and u never worry about ur pc usage laugh out loud
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#191
Well...if your gaming with today's games your probably going to need 16 gb....12 would probably suffice but most kits only come in 4, 8, or 12 gb kits. I was running rivatuner statistics on Assassins Creed Unity and it was eating up nearly 7gb of memory. Now I don't know if my 2gb virtual memory graphics card is included in that or not, but thats a lot of memory and was not on the highest settings. These games are so detailed now your going to need that extra memory...if not now then certainly in the near future.
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#192
Speaking of change, another is the increased usage of virtualization in consumer OS. Remember Windows 8 comes with Hyper-V.
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