How Much RAM Do I Need

Ever wonder "how much RAM do I need?" While there's no hard and fast answer, more is always better, and your exact needs depend on how you use your computer.

Think about what tasks you perform to determine how much RAM you need.
What you do with your computer is the basis for determining how much RAM you need. If you use your computer to do homework and surf the Web, you don't necessarily need a lot of RAM. However, if you're building a high-end gaming system, you're going to want enough RAM to run the most intense games, so your requirements are a little more strict.

Your operating system makes a difference in your RAM requirements.
The operating system you run makes a big difference in your RAM requirements. Windows Vista is much more memory-taxing than Windows XP, so you'll need more RAM to perform the same tasks on Windows Vista than you'd use with an XP machine. Generally speaking, a good amount of RAM for a Windows Vista machine from a practical performance standpoint is 4GB.

How much RAM do you need for Web surfing, e-mailing and basic Office functions?
E-mailing and basic Office functions don't require a lot of RAM, but Web surfing is getting more and more memory-intensive as people get more creative with Web sites that will tax your resources. A basic system only needs 2GB, or conceivably 1GB running just Windows XP.

How much RAM do you need for running several programs at once?
When you're multitasking, you need more RAM to avoid lag. If your programs stall, or you experience delays waiting for programs to start up or switching from one window to another, you might want to consider adding RAM to your system. Conceivably, you could get by with 2GB of RAM on a basic system, although you'll get noticeably better performance if you purchase RAM to bring your total to 4GB.

How much RAM do you need for video editing and intensive processes?
Video editing requires a lot of RAM, as does computer drafting and other system-intensive processes. 4GB of RAM is a minimum for these tasks, but, with new RAM protocols, it's a good idea to go for more. 6GB gives a little breathing room, while 8GB provides a nice cushion for system-intensive use.

How much RAM does a gaming system need?
Gaming systems are tricky. For a low-end gaming system, you'd want a minimum of 4GB of RAM, although you wouldn't get peak performance. Purchase RAM to bring you to a total of 8GB if you want a real gaming system. Some motherboards even support up to 16GB or 32GB. If you can afford it, why not go for broke? Adding RAM gives you a much broader window in which you can push your system, and, for gaming, you want that window to be wide open.

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