How Much Computer Memory Do I Need? Beginners Guide to RAM (Random Access Memory)

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How Much RAM is Enough?

The desire for speed is natural, isn’t it? We humans would never get enough of what we have and that is totally understandable. Most of the computers we are working on today are adequate enough for our modest requirements. The older computers are really a problem with the kind of weight we throw on our computers with their modest 64 MB and 128 MB memory capacities.

The latest computers do come with impressive RAM specifications that should suit us well. However, for computer aficionados and users who run applications that are computing thirsty, it becomes important to know how much of computing memory is required. For a new computer, the smallest of the memory modules you are likely to find are in the multiples of 256 MB, 512 MB, 1 GB ( 1024 MB) and even 2 GB.

Think of a computer’s memory as a bucket full of bits. When you start your computer and fire up applications like your browser, the word documents or spreadsheets, you are taking control of some of these bits directly and a part of the active system memory (RAM) is going to be at your service. However, when you demand more or if the applications you fired up are heavy on system resources, the memory starts swapping data with something known as Virtual Memory. Each time Virtual Memory kicks in, your computer would start working slow and you’d be frustrated. That’s because the Virtual memory utilizes the mechanical hard disk for storage and retrieval unlike the RAM which uses pure electronic storage.

Your system would groan, cringe and even give up when it runs out of RAM or when it feels burdened. So how do you save yourself from this possibility? The single most effective way to ease you out of this situation is to “add memory”. But if you are doing it just for the sake of having more, then you don’t really need it and you’d be tying up some cash in this unnecessary purchase.

For most software (like the OS you use, the email software, and other common applications you use) vendors specify the amount of memory required that would be ideal for use. They mention the bare minimum requirement and then the recommended requirement to keep your computer on a safe level at all times. Look at the following examples:

Microsoft XP - 256 MB (Bare minimum); 512 MB (Recommended)

Windows Vista - 1024

Word Processing and email - 256 MB

Games - 1024 MB or more

Understand that applications like Games, Graphics, Video Editors and some anti-virus software are resource hogs and you would need a minimum of 2 GB RAM if you wanted all of this on your computer.

The best way to estimate your requirements is to take the most wanted applications for your use and then add up the recommended memory as specified by each of those software vendors, double that figure and round it to the next available memory capacity.

This post is part of the series: RAM - Random Access Memory.

RAM is so important for a computer that it deserves a series of its own. This mini series is all about RAM – what it is, how it works, how it fits into the overall scheme of things and the various types of RAM. It will also cover the upgrade information that you might find useful

  1. Random Access Memory - How Computer Memory Works?
  2. Random Access Memory - How Much Memory Do You Need?
  3. Random Access Memory - How to Add More Memory
  4. Random Access Memory - Types of Memory