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I think I do pretty much what is typical of the common user - internet, MS Office apps, some minor games, etc. - and the performance monitor shows I only use about half of my 4GB of RAM. Are the people who go to 8 or even 16 GB doing something really advanced (such as video editing or high end gaming) which requires that or, when it comes to RAM, is it "more is better" regardless?
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I think I do pretty much what is typical of the common user - internet, MS Office apps, some minor games, etc. - and the performance monitor shows I only use about half of my 4GB of RAM. Are the people who go to 8 or even 16 GB doing something really advanced (such as video editing or high end gaming) which requires that or, when it comes to RAM, is it "more is better" regardless?

Most people, doing one thing at a time, will be quite comfortable in 4 gig.

If you do a lot of high-res graphic editing, or sound editing, then you may want 8 gig, and if you do video editing then 16 or more would be helpful. Also a lot of servers, particularly database servers, go large.

If you do several things at the same time, you may need more memory.
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I only use about half of my 4GB of RAM. Are the people who go to 8 or even 16 GB doing something really advanced (such as video editing or high end gaming) which requires that or, when it comes to RAM, is it "more is better" regardless?

If you use a 32-bit OS, then you literally can't use more than 4GB.

If you use a 64-bit OS, then a lot more memory can be accessed by the OS. You can run multiple virtual drives/programs in memory, for example.

Pricewise, it makes sense to buy two 4GB sticks (under $30-$40) or two 8GB sticks ($55-$75). That leaves room to add two more sticks later (when prices drop) if you can use them. The reason systems come with a total of 4GB or 8GB of memory is to permit them to charge customers stupidly high prices to "upgrade" the low-capacity memory and thus make a fatter profit.
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Are the people who go to 8 or even 16 GB doing something really advanced

In late 2003, I assembled a computer with a mother board that would take 2 Xeon processors, and had memory slots enough for 16 GBytes of RAM in it. I put in 4 BBytes. Years passed, price of RAM went down, and I stuck 4 GBytes more RAM in it before they stopped making that kind of RAM modules. Those Xeon processors could handle, I think, 256 GBytes of RAM, but there were not enough slots for it.

Now in a 32-bit machine, an OS like Windows could not handle more than about 4 GBytes per machine. I happen to run Red Hat Enterpise Linux (RHEL), and that can run up to 256 GBytes on a machine, but no single process gets more than 4 GBytes. Actually, the OS kernel can get all it wants because it has access to the memory management reisters, though it can see only 4 GBytes at any one time.

My present machine happens to be 4-bit, so I run a 64-bit version of RHEL 6.3, but from a user's point of view, that makes little difference.

So what Linux does is gives up to 4G to each process that needs it, and a coupla G to itself (last time I looked, which was not recently), and uses most of the rest for buffering. At the present time, I am not doing much, so my processor and memory usage looks something like this:

top - 14:29:35 up 5 days, 6:35, 2 users, load average: 4.18, 4.33, 4.31
Tasks: 257 total, 5 running, 252 sleeping, 0 stopped, 0 zombie
Cpu0 : 1.5%us, 0.9%sy, 97.6%ni, 0.0%id, 0.0%wa, 0.0%hi, 0.0%si, 0.0%st
Cpu1 : 0.0%us, 0.4%sy, 99.6%ni, 0.0%id, 0.0%wa, 0.0%hi, 0.0%si, 0.0%st
Cpu2 : 2.4%us, 1.3%sy, 96.3%ni, 0.0%id, 0.0%wa, 0.0%hi, 0.0%si, 0.0%st
Cpu3 : 0.0%us, 13.7%sy, 86.1%ni, 0.0%id, 0.0%wa, 0.2%hi, 0.0%si, 0.0%st
Mem: 7981712k total, 5352752k used, 2628960k free, 479736k buffers
Swap: 4095992k total, 1568k used, 4094424k free, 2847776k cached

The processors are fully loaded, though running at the nice level most of the time, because I have BOINC running in the background.

It is using about 2 Gigabytes for programs and their date, about 3 GB for buffering (unwritten output) and Caching (recently read input). It keeps a lot of recently read stuff because it might as well. Unused memory is wasted anyway, so they keep stuff around. If I exit Firefox, for example, it probably hangs around in the cache for quite a while, so if I need it again, it does not need to read it in from disk. The kernel can just copy it to where it is needed in a memory-to-memory copy, or if it is really lucky, just point the memory mapping registers to it.
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jerryab gave you the numbers:

32-bit Windows can only address 3.3 gigs total so installing more than 4g is useless.

64-bit can use up to 192gigs. Here's a table:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa36...


If you have less memory than a program needs, it will address the paging file on your hard drive, using disk space as virtual memory. Needless to say that is a lot slower than physical memory.

So, all the way back to your question; if all you're doing is what you say you're doing then you don't need any more than 4 gigs of memory. If you have a 32-bit system, you can't use any more than 4 gigs anyway.

If you want to get into heavy gaming, Autocad, Video editing/sound processing or anything that needs to move huge amounts of data fast, then you need a 64-bit system with 64-bit programs, and all the memory you can afford. That will enable that data to move in and out of physical memory very quickly, and not go on and off your hard drive very slowly.

A caveat: you might have a 64-bit system with 32-bit programs. For instance, I have a 64-bit laptop with windows 8 on it, and an old version of Office that was designed for my old 32-bit system. That program is limited to the use of 4 gigs of ram again, no matter how much physical memory is installed in the computer.

Rip, long-winded.
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Thanks for all the great replies.

I'm running Win7 64-bit w/ 4GB of DDR2. Given how much stepping up to 8GB of RAM would cost (over $100, judging by eBay), I can't see doing that.

I'm just seeing more machines advertised with 4+GB of RAM so I got to wondering. Maybe some of its just due to the falling price of DDR3 and mfrs looking for some kind of edge.
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I'm running Win7 64-bit w/ 4GB of DDR2. Given how much stepping up to 8GB of RAM would cost (over $100, judging by eBay), I can't see doing that.


DDR2 Prices continue to climb while DDR3 is getting more and more reasonable. I picked up 8GB (2x4gb) for $19.99 before Black Friday.

I may have some DDR2 laying around if you're interested in it.

xSSMBB
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Are the people who go to 8 or even 16 GB doing something really advanced (such as video editing or high end gaming) which requires that…

I don't do any gaming, and rarely edit video.

I often have a half-dozen (or more) apps running simultaneously. My machine came with 2GB, and before I upgraded, switching between apps could be slow, as one was paged out to disk and the other loaded in from disk.

Now I have 8GB, meaning all those apps can be RAM-resident, without the virtual memory system paging anything out to disk.

So it's not that I'm apps that need huge amounts of memory. Rather, I'm running many apps which (in total) need huge amounts of memory.

(I occasionally run Parallels Desktop, a virtual machine app that does use huge gobs of memory, especially if I run 2 or more VMs at once. That's the only app I have that makes me wish I had more RAM.)
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I run Windows 7, Office 2013 and some other apps on machines with 1 and 2 GB of RAM. 1 GB..is almost enough, 2 is sufficient for 32 bit..at least for my office users (we don't let them install bloatware/iTunes/inkjet printers)

I keep most things 32 bit - and even on 64 bit Window I run 32 bit MS Office since macro portability from 32 to 64 bit is a bugger.
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