Home > Articles > Hardware > Upgrading & Repairing

Is 8-12 GB the "New Normal" for RAM Size, or Should You Go Bigger?

  • Print
  • + Share This
With 64-bit operating systems standard these days, and RAM dirt-cheap, upping the memory ceiling on Windows PCs is mostly a matter of choosing 8, 12, 16, or more GB. Find out about some important considerations and the uses to which this RAM will support.
Like this article? We recommend

There's no disputing that PC memory is dirt cheap nowadays. You can purchase 8 GB notebook SO-DIMMs right now for under $50 each (204-pin DDR3) and 8 GB desktop modules go for as little as $5 less (240-pin DDR3).

There was a time when the cost of memory and the maximum size of memory modules limited how much you might stuff into your favorite notebook or laptop. And for a long time, 4GB represented an excellent sweet spot in the trade-off between memory capacity and memory cost. But that's just no longer true.

If you look at preconfigured notebook PCs for sale at the moment, you'll immediately notice that 4 GB is standard for low-end notebooks, and 6―8 GB standard for mid-range to high-end notebooks and desktops. In fact, many of the Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge notebooks offer 8 GB as a standard configuration and permit users to install as much as 16 GB of RAM for power users in need of maximum working space.

The top end for desktops, whose larger motherboards often feature more than 2 memory slots quickly jumps to stratospheric levels when systems with 4, 6, or 8 memory slots combine with 4 or 8 GB memory modules. If you do the math, that puts the low end at a mere 16 GB and the top end at a whopping 64 GB.

Right now, in fact, my production Windows 7 desktop includes an Asus P6x58D-E motherboard whose 6 memory slots each feature a 4GB G.Skill DDR3-1333 memory module, for a total of 24 GB of RAM.

Figure 1 SIW.exe shows a 6x4GB memory configuration

I also have a Windows 8 test desktop with an Asus P8Z68-V Pro whose 4 memory slots each incorporates an 8GB G.Skill DDR3-1333 memory module, for a total of 32 GB of RAM.

Figure 2 SIW-x64.exe shows a 4x8GB memory configuration

What's All That Memory Good for?

It's not unreasonable to ask why somebody might want to run a PC with 8, 12, 16 or more GB of RAM. Aside from bragging rights, what does access to that much memory really provide? Aside from the most obvious answer—lots of fast, snappy workspace—the most productivity-enhancing answers include the following:

  • Room for multiple, sizable virtual machines: Because Windows 8 includes Hyper-V, you can not only allocate large memory spaces to VMs but also endow them with more than one CPU per VM. Although Windows Virtual PC (a likely choice for VMs on Windows 7) limits VM memory to 3.625 GB in size (3,712 MB), it doesn't take long to chew up substantial amounts of RAM with two or more such machines active at the same time.
  • Many, many open browser tabs and windows: Until recently, my production PC was a speedy 4 GB QX9650 quad core. Though it was fast enough, I routinely found myself running low on RAM because my work style is to have both Chrome (left-hand screen) and IE (right-hand screen) open, with anywhere from 4 to 12 tabs open in each browser.

    Since I raised the memory ceiling, I haven't had the slightest concern about the number of open browser windows or tabs on my desktop (a quick check in Task Manager right now shows I am using 449 MB for Chrome and 197 MB for IE: a negligible portion of my overall RAM).
  • A plethora of open applications: Right now I have 20.21 of 24.57 GB of RAM available, even though I'm running two instances of Windows Explorer, Outlook and Word 2010, Task Manager, System Information for Windows (SIW.exe, technician's version), and two open RDP sessions (one to my Windows 8 desktop machine, another to my Lenovo T520 notebook PC).

    Even though I've already exceeded my limit for the old 4 GB rig, I can still open a couple of VMs and as many more applications as I might need or want. With 12 GB or more to work with, most users will be able to concentrate on the work at hand, rather than juggling memory resources.
  • Use a RAM Disk to further speed applications: If you have more than enough RAM installed on your system (an amount I define as "at least 4 GB more than peak memory usage for normal work scenarios"), you can allocate some of that memory to a RAM-based disk structure for Windows 7 or Windows 8. Essentially, this involves setting aside a fixed amount of RAM that becomes unavailable for other use, where you can store files or applications to access them at memory speeds.

    Though SSDs are fast, RAM remains as fast as secondary storage gets on a PC. If you have memory to burn, a RAM disk is a good way to burn some. Try one or all of the following products: LTRData's ImDisk (free), DataRAM RAMDisk (free version supports up to 4 GB, licensed version more than 4 GB), or StarWind RAMDisk (up to 1 GB with multiple instances; free). The upside of a RAM disk is extreme speed, but for some of these tools (ImDisk and StarWind RAMDisk) you have to manage RAM disk contents yourself (copy in stuff before use, copy out stuff after use, to preserve and maintain contents). The commercial version of DataRAM RAMDisk automates initialization upon start-up and copies contents during shutdown, which definitely makes it worth its $19-39 licensing fee in my book. For notebook PCs with plenty of RAM, a RAMdisk is an especially good tool because the battery has to keep RAM running whether you use it or not. Using a RAMdisk instead of an SSD or hard drive can even help extend battery life.

For RAM, More Is Really Better!

Given how cheap memory is these days, it's a shame not to stock new machines up with as much as they can accommodate. As is usually the case for available resources, once you have lots of RAM at your disposal, you'll soon figure out interesting ways to use it. And soon, no doubt, you'll clamor for more. And with technology on a continuous upswing, it's just a matter of time before 16 GB memory modules become available for notebooks and desktops. You might just choose to double up at that time, if your desktop or notebook PC will allow it.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020