Do I really need 8GB of RAM?

“Here’s a question that I’ve been asked a lot lately in one form or another: ‘Do I really need 8GB of RAM?'” Adrian Kingsley-Hughes reports for ZDNet.

“Well, instinctively I’m going to say ‘YES,’ and say it very enthusiastically,” Kingsley-Hughes reports. “The difference between a machine with 4GB of RAM and an identical machine with 8GB of RAM is like the difference between night and day.”

“But do you really need 8GB of RAM? Well, maybe not,” Kingsley-Hughes reports. “See, the truth is, it depends. If you’re a hardcore gamer or you use a memory-intensive application like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro, then you definitely need lots of RAM (I’m now starting to look at 12GB as the minimum for running Adobe applications, given that they are now 64-bit and can really chew through RAM). If you’re in the habit of having multiple applications from a suite like Microsoft Office open, then having lots of RAM is a huge advantage. If you’re the kind of person that has lots of applications running simultaneously, then 8GB of RAM might be for you.”

Kingsley-Hughes reports, “Note: Even Mac users running these sorts of applications can benefit from 8GB of RAM!”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Why limit yourself to just 8GB?

About this Mac

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

58 Comments

  1. Well, if you’re a Windows user, anything less than 8GB just crawls. On the Mac side of the world, however, even with 2GB, you’re still zipping along swimmingly with most stuff. Obviously, 12-megapixel images in Photoshop will take a bit more time to open, process and move around, but the OS knows how to be frugal with memory, unlike those other guys…

    1. No. 2GB is actually below the Apple-recommended minimum. Mac Pros starting shipping with a 3GB stock configuration just to be able to boot the OS and not much else a few years ago. Everything requires RAM, even the web browser due to packet buffering. I installed 16 GBs and my Mac Pro became a completely different machine. Everything is better. 2 GB is just far too little RAM to execute most tasks on either Mac OS or Windows systems as both OSs soak up quite a bit and have since Leopard and Vista.

      1. My 2009 MBP had 2GB of RAM until just a few months ago, when I updated it to 8GB. It ran just fine with 2GB. My upgrade essentially amounted to future-proofing.

        1. There you go. Real life experience. 2GB is enough for some and probably most users.

          When a screen is 1600 X 1200 (<2MB) then 2GB is equivalent to 1000 screens of data. Or, 166 12MB PS images. Granted, PS (PhotoShop) is a hog and does a lot of processing and uses a scratch pad, but still…..

          I dont think I have ever run out of RAM even with 2GB. I think RAM is just an up-sell.

          1. Definitely not true my parents Mac mini ran snow leopard great with 2gb of ram but was constantly lagging and every new app took forever to open. They now have 8gb and the mini runs better than it did with snow leopard.

            1. Same experience here with my new mini. the stock 2gb was not enough, especially when using Safari (all the time). Put in 8gb and everything is fine. Besides for the $40, is it really a question?

      2. umm…thats not true. When I look at the tech specs for Lion on Apple’s website the required memory is 2GB. My mom had an iMac running Lion with 2GB for a while and it worked just fine. She has since upgraded.

        1. My 2008 white MB worked fine with 2GB on Snow Leopard, but was like treacle with Lion. Opening an application from the dock would result in nothing happening at all for 5 – 8 seconds, and then finally things would start. Opening Safari would take 14 seconds start to finish. I upped the ram to 4GB and the time is now 4 – 5 seconds. Same sort of thing with Word, Excel, Mail, etc. It’s so much faster now.

    2. Concur with sjezebel. 2GB on a 2006 Macbook, after awhile it just will crawl when switching programs, and that’s just with Safari, iTunes, iCal, a few other things, and OSX (Snow Leopard) itself.

      No, it’s not the age of the processor. When Safari and Safari Web Content processes take up 500MB of real (not virtual) memory after an hour or two of normal surfing, the number of temporary beachballs and virtual memory swap hits are nuts. I have to quit and restart Safari every day or two, then things are snappy again for awhile.

      This even after the recent Safari update which said it addressed some of these memory issues. And I upgraded to a 7200 rpm drive and have over 100GB free, I can’t imagine how slow it would be with the stock 5400 rpm one.

      I abuse Firefox on my work laptop (Windows) far, far worse (up to 2 dozen tabs open), yet it takes several days of daily use before it bloats to 400 MB real RAM.

    1. I have an SSD and (had) 4GB RAM. Aperture 3 grabbed 4 GB physical RAM within minutes of launch.

      The SSD was nearly useless as my computer screeched to a halt, but adding RAM fixed everything.

    2. What moo said. Remember also that SSD only has so many write cycles, wasting them on virtual memory swapping is silly.

      RAM is far cheaper than SSDs. Get more RAM.

      1. Right now, RAM is very cheap. You can get 16GB (4x4GB) for the current iMac for under $100, or for half that amount, you can get 8GB (2x4GB) to add to what’s already installed.

        So, if I had a recent iMac that could take up to 16GB of RAM, I’d probably upgrade to at least 12GB, or even max it out.

        So get the extra RAM, if your Mac can take more RAM. Mine is kinda getting old (although it can run Lion and works very well) and it’s maxed out.

    1. Never buy ram from apple.
      I bought 16gb of ram for my iMac (same model as MDN’s) for about $125-140 or so.

      My 4gb that came with the iMac I need to sell one of these days..

      I think apple wanted like 350-400 extra.. Over the 4gb standard.

        1. Via Apple’s online store, going from 4 to 8GB on a 2.7 GHz 21.5″ iMac is $200, and to 16 GB is $600.

          It’s been years since I looked at RAM upgrades, and before I checked I thought a single iMac 4GB module would cost $100.

          Not even close!

          Kingston lists 4GB RAM module at $34. OWC sells them for $27. Yes these are for 2011 i5/i7 iMacs. 4 of these sticks would be less than $110 from OWC.

          I REFUSE to accept the argument that it costs almost $500 (half a grand!) in labour (almost 1/3 of the $1499 iMac itself!) to uninstall the stock RAM, then install 4 sticks of 4GB RAM into an iMac. It takes a competent tech no more than 10 minutes to install and test.

          Bottom line is Apple seriously overcharges for extra RAM and installation, and this is an ammunition point when some people say Macs are overpriced.

          1. Ouch. I just bought 16GB of RAM for my new i7 iMac for $99 – good, brand-name stuff, too. Four sticks took me all of ten minutes to install, and I sold the 4GB that came with the Mac for $30 on the Bay. So 16GB cost me $69.

            It’s niiiiice having 16GB.

      1. Unless you use the Genius Bar for repairs. The first thing they do is remove any non-Apple memory as part of the diagnostic process. Then, when your machine is fixed, they hand you the memory in a little plastic bag (and you have to go home and install it yourself…kind of a pain).

    1. As much as I think Gates is a tool and thief and…a lot of other nasty stuff I shouldn’t say in a public forum, that statement is taken out of context. Back when he said it, he meant for the computers at the time, and he was right.

    1. Can anyone else remember when 32 MB was a lot? And cost an arm and a leg? It’s crazy how cheap RAM is now – even compared to a couple years ago – old PC133 and DDR ram is more expensive than brand-new DDR3 – crazy. So, as usual… Buy as much as you can afford. My Quad Core i7 MBP runs great with 8 GB – using Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Windows XP via VirtualBox, 3 web browsers, FTP client, iTunes, Mail, and usually Word or Excel – hardly ever slows down.

      1. The worst…at the peak of RAM prices, I paid $800 for a 2MB external memory hookup for my Amiga 500, which came with 512k. That was more than the Amiga itself originally.

        1. Yeah, and I don’t even want to THINK about how much I (we) paid for an A590 20MB (yes, MB) hard drive when I was running an Amiga BBS! But, that seemed like unlimited space at the time, and added 2MB of RAM to it which bumped the Amiga up to 3MB (!) of RAM. 🙂 No one can complain about the price of current tech, that’s for sure.

      2. My older mini is a dual core but limited to 2 gigs of RAM. It wasn’t exactly slow but when I put in a larger hard drive I went with a hybrid Seagate. 7200 RPM with 32 MB cache a 4 gigs of solid state. The pages pop up instantaneously now. Boot time is super fast. More ram would be ineffective. But then I don’t use this mini for any heavy apps. For those who cannot add more ram I recommend a hybrid drive.

  2. When I first installed Lion on my early 2009 Mac Mini with 2 GB of ram it ran but not great. Upping the ram to 4 GB (for all of $26, including shipping from Crucial) made it a whole new machine, it runs Lion great now.

    1. I have a 2009 MBP that had 4 GB and Lion ran OK, but I just got an awesome deal on Corsair 8 GB RAM from Newegg for $26. 🙂 Now my MBP feels like a brand new laptop!

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