How Much RAM Is Enough?

I’ve been reading Jim Canfield’s terrific Purchasing Your 2022 Computer series of articles with interest but noticed some confusion in readers’ comments regarding the amount of RAM required. Posing the question “how much RAM is enough” is akin to asking “how long is a piece of string” –– it is totally subjective and depends entirely on the individual’s specific requirements.

When it comes to performance and responsiveness RAM is certainly an important factor. However, many users looking to buy a new PC are working to a budget and, while it’s all very well to recommend the ultimate hardware, the purchasers’ budget and specific requirements are, to outsiders, often an unknown quantity. So, recommendations need to be tempered with a degree of common sense.

NOTE: What follows is pertaining to your average everyday computer users excluding gamers and others with specialist interests.

How Much RAM Do You Need?

I’ve always tried to build my machines with a certain amount of future-proofing in mind, generally with slightly higher specs than my own usage demands. As far as RAM is concerned I believe it’s always best to go with more than is needed rather than what is adequate.

Manufacturers are still producing new PCs with 4GB RAM and Microsoft recommends a minimum of 2GB RAM for Windows 10 and 4GB for Windows 11. Any wonder then that so many people buy computers with 4GB RAM which, by today’s standards, is patently insufficient. Although the lower pricing might be attractive to potential buyers and despite Microsoft’s recommendations, you definitely need more than 4GB RAM.

For your average everyday user, I would suggest 8GB RAM as an absolute bare minimum and recommend 16GB provided the budget allows. Do NOT buy a new computer with less than 8GB RAM. My advice to anyone considering buying a new computer in the not too distant future:

  1. Make sure it includes at least 8GB RAM and the amount of RAM is upgradeable so you can add more later if you want/need to
  2. If your budget allows, buy a new PC with slightly higher specs than you actually need
  3. If the new computer comes with Windows 10 installed, make absolutely certain it is upgradeable to Windows 11, regardless of whether you intend to upgrade or not

Technology Moves Along

One of the issues when buying a new computer is that one never knows what technological advancements are around the corner. I started with Windows computers that came with 64MB of RAM. Later moving to machines with 512MB RAM, then 1GB RAM, and then doubled that to 2GB RAM — which I thought back then was the duck’s nuts. Now I’m running machines with 16GB RAM. To emphasize even more how advancements in technology alter one’s thinking, here are the specs for my two machines — one around 7 years old and the other just 6 months old:

  • Seven Years Old: Intel i5 -4460 CPU. 8GB RAM. Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD plus 1TB HDD
  • Six Months Old: Intel i7-11700 CPU. 16GB RAM. Intel Optane 512GB NVMe plus 1TB HDD

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