The right amount of RAM for your PC

What is the right amount of RAM or Primary memory for your computer?

This is a question that bugs most of us. The right amount of RAM we need is not set in stone. The requirements vary widely. For some even 8 GB of RAM is overkill while for some, even 32 GB may be inadequate.

There is no shame in accepting that you can get by with less memory. We can always remember that the memory serves a purpose. It should not impact my system performance. And system performance depends on a few factors.

They are (usually) the following –

  1. What kind of applications I use?
  2. Why I use them for?
  3. What is my primary usage pattern? Do I game or do video editing? Or am I a regular office user?

Having a 16 GB rig may give you bragging rights (it should not) but they make absolutely no sense if all you do with your system is to watch YouTube videos. You are better off spending the extra (after investing in 2x4GB sticks) on a soundcard or something similar.

But that said, how do you exactly know if your memory requirements are fulfilled or you need more?

How to check out the right amount of memory I really need?

We need to get a little deeper in this case.

First we need to know what helps if we add more memory.

This is the simplest thing to do. Memory is inexpensive and will provide you with a lot of performance boost. Do remember that the gains in performance will reduce with every increment though. For instance, the gain from a 4GB to 8GB memory stick is much more than that from 16 GB to 32 GB. In fact, unless you are engaged in heavy duty photo and video editing, you don’t require anything more than 16 GB. Even gamers will need no more than 8 GB on an average.

Of course, before you go ahead and add more memory, it is important to check if the existing one is working fine or not.

Press Win + R and type in ‘mdsched’ and press Enter.

mdsched right amount of RAM
The Restart Now option is recommended.

Once this is done and you know things are good you can move on to the next step. If some issues are spotted, you may need to replace the stick with a new one. Don’t go ahead and double your RAM right away now. Unless that is absolutely required.

Check your usage to find your right amount of RAM

This is a good question. The simplest way to know if you are running out of memory is to check if your applications are getting slow to start and run. This test can turn out to be pretty subjective. Without knowing all the factors affecting your PC, it is difficult to come to a conclusion. It is better to check the memory utilization using the Task Manager. You can also install Process Explorer to get a more advanced tool to check how much memory your applications are using.

process explorer to find the right amount of RAM you need
One of the most comprehensive process explorers out there

For optimal usage, a Windows PC today should have at least 4 GB of primary memory. But that may not be sufficient depending on your requirements. Here’s how you can find out if you need to upgrade with another stick of RAM or not.

  1. Fire up the Task Manager or the Process Explorer and go to the details tab to check for the processes running there. These steps are more or less similar for all Windows versions going back to Windows XP and before.
  2. Right click on the column headers on Task Manager (if you are using it instead of the Process Explorer) and select columns as shown below.

    right amount of ram
    Select the columns as shown herein
  3. Click on OK and check the results.
  4. You are in trouble if the PF (Page Fault) delta is varying wildly. That means the operating system is trying and failing to properly transfer the process instructions from the page file to the primary memory and vice versa. These will make your processes go to ‘Process not responding’ state. That is not good.
  5. Check the Performance tab. If the memory is close to about 90% of the memory requirements all the time, it is time for adding a new stick. Don’t use memory cleaners – they only force the primary memory to dump its contents to the page file to clear itself up. It slows down the processes and leads to unnecessary disk read and write cycles.

A simpler alternative is to check the Performance tab.

If the memory utilization is above 90% pretty much all the time, it is time to add more memory to your system for optimal performance.

Simplest way to know the right amount of RAM you need
Simplest way to know the right amount of RAM you need

It should not go above 70% under regular load. If it does, add about half more at least.

For example, if you have a 8 GB DDR4 stick installed and you see that about 6 GB of it is used up already, consider adding at least a 4 GB stick in.

That should be the minimum. However, memory now is quite economical. Adding another stick of 8 GB is possibly a better idea. This is especially true if your memory slots are limited.

Of course, adding additional memory may not be an option due to a variety of reasons. You can try out any of the light weight Linux distributions that won’t force you to give up on general functionality.