PDA

View Full Version : How do you know if you "need" more RAM?


dotnina
Dec 13, 2004, 02:50 AM
I've been noticing some choppiness with my 1.5GHz / 512MB Powerbook lately when I have a lot of apps open. I don't have anything "fancy" open -- nothing like Photoshop or anything -- but I'll have Mail, iCal, iTunes, Firefox, Preview, Word, Quicksilver, Newsfire (newsreader), and Adium all open.

For a few weeks now, I've been running Activity Viewer's memory pie chart in my dock. On a typical day, I have 30-50% of the pie colored yellow, meaning that much memory is "active." About 20% is red ("wired"), 20-25% is blue ("inactive") and the rest -- it varies from about 5% to an almost invisible sliver -- is green for "free."

I've downloaded "Do I Need More Memory" and it typically says I need about 15MB more memory. (Sidenote: I don't know whether to trust this program, because someone on Versiontracker has written a long rant criticizing how the program works, and some of his / her criticisms seem right on.)

So, perhaps on the basis of the memory pie chart in my dock, do you think I "need" more memory? I have 2x 256 MB chips currently, so if I do upgrade, I'd need to probably just sell those and upgrade to 1 gig (right?). Like any other poor starving college student, I don't want to spend the money unless I know I'll really get something out of it. I guess my question is, will I see an improvement in performance? Do you only see improvements if you're a Photoshop or FCP junkie, or would you also see it in "everyday" tasks? For anyone who did upgrade to a gig of memory: do you regret it, or was it money well spent? Sorry to be the 99999th person to post about RAM, and thank you in advance! :)

caveman_uk
Dec 13, 2004, 03:11 AM
It depends what apps you use. In my experience on a MDD dual Powermac with 1GB of RAM is that OSX idles with nothing else open at around 250-280MB. A few apps basic apps will take you near 500MB. The only time I've had anywhere near all the memory used up is when I start Virtual PC (using over 300MB on its own) and Photoshop running at the same time.

So I reckon the minimum you need is 512MB. 768MB would cover you 90% of the time and 1GB would be plenty unless you use really greedy apps like Motion.

Applespider
Dec 13, 2004, 03:45 AM
Yes. I think it was worth the cash to upgrade the RAM. I guess it depends on how much you get the RAM for and what else you might spend the cash on.

I had 2x256 like you. I got one of the Fry's/Outpost.com 1GB sticks for $160 so I have a total of 1.25GB now - the other stick I kept just in cash.

I get fewer beachballs now and although I only 'play around' in Elements/iMovie etc, the renders etc work much faster.

sebisworld
Dec 13, 2004, 04:08 AM
I used to have the very same setup as you have. It was a pain, I usually have tons of applications open and after like an hour, my PowerBook would slow down to a crawl. I updated to 1 Gig and it seems like a totally different machine right now! I would definitely do it, you can start by replacing one of those 256 sticks with a 512 and when you have more money, go ahead and replace the other. You will not regret it.

maya
Dec 13, 2004, 04:54 AM
I've been noticing some choppiness with my 1.5GHz / 512MB Powerbook lately when I have a lot of apps open. I don't have anything "fancy" open -- nothing like Photoshop or anything -- but I'll have Mail, iCal, iTunes, Firefox, Preview, Word, Quicksilver, Newsfire (newsreader), and Adium all open.

For a few weeks now, I've been running Activity Viewer's memory pie chart in my dock. On a typical day, I have 30-50% of the pie colored yellow, meaning that much memory is "active." About 20% is red ("wired"), 20-25% is blue ("inactive") and the rest -- it varies from about 5% to an almost invisible sliver -- is green for "free."

I've downloaded "Do I Need More Memory" and it typically says I need about 15MB more memory. (Sidenote: I don't know whether to trust this program, because someone on Versiontracker has written a long rant criticizing how the program works, and some of his / her criticisms seem right on.)

So, perhaps on the basis of the memory pie chart in my dock, do you think I "need" more memory? I have 2x 256 MB chips currently, so if I do upgrade, I'd need to probably just sell those and upgrade to 1 gig (right?). Like any other poor starving college student, I don't want to spend the money unless I know I'll really get something out of it. I guess my question is, will I see an improvement in performance? Do you only see improvements if you're a Photoshop or FCP junkie, or would you also see it in "everyday" tasks? For anyone who did upgrade to a gig of memory: do you regret it, or was it money well spent? Sorry to be the 99999th person to post about RAM, and thank you in advance! :)

Most definitely you will see improvements with more ram and its worth the money. For some applications it takes awhile for it to release memory and some applications have leaks which only makes the memory ordeal worse.

I am also not impressed with the 10.3.5 and 10.3.6 updates they have cause me to rethink before I hit the software update button.

OS X in itself uses about 128-256 of ram running and keeping them active will only make matters worse if you have 512 doubling it you will see a hugh improvement in speed. :)

Sell the 256 sticks on eBay, I wish they had a memory trade in program, I have learned my lesson from now on I am maxing the memory on all my hardware (expensive yes when its a notebook, however worth it when you are limited to 2 slots).

I say put in a 1 Gig stick and leave the other free for future upgrading when the 1 gigs get cheaper. :)

Chip NoVaMac
Dec 13, 2004, 05:56 AM
A helpful tool is Do I Need More Memory (http://www.hillmanminx.net/dinmm/). You run it while you use your programs. It gives you a good idea as to how much RAM you need over what you already have.

will
Dec 13, 2004, 06:32 AM
Current versions of Safari seem to be using a lot of memory. I have five tabs open just now (in one window), and Safari has 133M of real memory in use. Now, it has been running a while, but that seems insane to me. If I open the exact same tabs in Firefox it's using just 46M. I'll try a fresh start of Safari after posting this message, and open the same tabs again, to see how much of a difference that makes.

After the restart Safari is using just 24M for the same tabs. It seems it clings onto lots of real memory over time.

This machines is a 867MHz PPC7455 with 640MB of RAM running 10.3.6.

wPod
Dec 13, 2004, 08:17 AM
OS X LOVES RAM!!!! The more ram you have the better. I started with 256 in my PB 867 and not to long ago put in 512 more (replacing a 128 mb stick so total is 640mb) the improvement was noticable!!! but i also noticed the RAM quickly filled up, leaving 'only a sliver' open. i think 1 GB would be nice, but i also think OS X would fill it up again. it just runs programs more efficiently when more data is stored in RAM. so, you will deffinitly enjoy an improvement in more ram!!!

fonch
Dec 13, 2004, 08:18 AM
The best way I've found to discover if I need more RAM is a free program called MemoryStick. It displays a bar of RAM usage and you can set it up to make a sound when you get a pageout (your computer accesses your harddrive in lieu of RAM because you don't have enough). If you get a lot of pageouts when running your usual programs, upgrade the RAM. You can read about it and download it here: http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/13636

My two cents is this: unless your editiing video and photos on your computer, 768MB should work fine.

HiRez
Dec 13, 2004, 09:11 AM
What Caveman said is right, IMO: 512 is an absolute minimum for a usable OS X. 768 is a borderline decent amount for running an handful of small to medium apps, but probably won't be enough when Tiger comes out. Therefore, I highly recommend you get at least 1 GB of total RAM.

dotnina
Dec 13, 2004, 11:38 AM
Wow wow wow! Thanks guys! Great feedback. :)

I think Iím pretty much convinced then. Since the Fryís RAM has received so much praise, Iíll probably go with that.

So, just a few more questions: is it a good idea to keep one of the 256 sticks around, just in case? If I wanted, could I use a 1 gig stick from Fryís with 1 of the original 256 MB sticks? Should I be concerned about compatibility between the Fry memory and the Apple memory? Applespider, you mentioned you did this. I take everything went fine?

wordmunger
Dec 13, 2004, 12:08 PM
Well, memory isn't particularly cheap right now, so I'd suggest going with 2, 512 MB DIMMs. In fact, you could just get one right now, and if you're satisfied with your performance, save the rest of your money. I'm quite happy with my performance with 768 MB, but I typically run 5 or 6 apps at a time at the most. Then down the road (when prices, hopefully, are lower), you could get another 512 or 1 GB stick.

I'm surprised no one here has mentioned Crucial. That's where most MacRumors folk recommend. I just looked up prices on crucial.com, and it's cheaper than outpost.com (fry's online store). Are the physical Fry's cheaper?

dotnina
Dec 13, 2004, 12:19 PM
wordmunger -- I agree, memory does seem pretty expensive! Is it always this expensive? I was pretty surprised when I first started looking at prices a while back.

The RAM I'm looking at is the famous $149 1 gig stick of RAM at Fry's, as discussed here (http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=86495). Since the 1 gig at Crucial is close to $500, I've ruled that out completely. :)

maya
Dec 13, 2004, 12:35 PM
That is a very good price for 1Gig of ram. I believe I am going to snag that up unless there is an even better deal around. :)


Note: I called Apple in regards to having PC2700 ram in an iBook there said it will work and as i thought as much it will lower the clock speed, no big deal that is as expected. :)

daveL
Dec 13, 2004, 12:55 PM
A few observations:

All modern Unix systems, OS X included, have virtual memory subsystems that will *always* use the real memory capacity of the system. A system that has been running for a while will never have much "free" real memory, unless you have lots of real memory and only run a couple apps. The memory paging algorithm works on a least-recently-used basis. The "inactive" real memory represents memory pages that were used at some point, but haven't been referenced lately. When there is no longer any "free" memory, the "inactive" real memory pages will be used, oldest reference first. It's only when there are no "free" memory pages and no "inactive" memory pages that you'll actually start to see real memory pages swapped out to disk (virtual memory). The reason VM is handled this way is that there's really no reason to leave real memory pages lying around unused; what good does that do? The OS can't know which pages may be referenced again and which ones won't, so it may as well use all the real memory pages it has and just reuse the old ones when it needs more.

Anyway, as other posters have said: Your real memory needs depends on your application usage. If you have a number of heavy apps open, and use them off and on, more memory will help. This doesn't really sound like what you do, however. I bought my wife an iMac G5 recently, and the only reason I upgraded it from 512 MB to 1 GB was to accommodate Virtual PC. Otherwise, with her usage patterns, the extra memory would likely have been a waste.

As far as Safari goes, it is very aggressive about caching Web pages. If it's taking a lot of memory, you might want to close tabs or windows that you no longer need or just close it every now and then.

With regard to apps with memory leaks, all the extra real memory will do is delay the amount of time it takes for the app to consume all the memory pages. You can spot apps like this using the 'top' command in Terminal. If you see the real memory usage of the app forever growing, it's likely that is has a leak; close it and restart it occasionally to recover the memory and submit a bug report to the publisher.

HTH

wordmunger
Dec 13, 2004, 01:25 PM
wordmunger -- I agree, memory does seem pretty expensive! Is it always this expensive? I was pretty surprised when I first started looking at prices a while back.

The RAM I'm looking at is the famous $149 1 gig stick of RAM at Fry's, as discussed here (http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=86495). Since the 1 gig at Crucial is close to $500, I've ruled that out completely. :)

Wow. Hard to go wrong with that. Sounds like a plan.

Applespider
Dec 13, 2004, 05:24 PM
Applespider, you mentioned you did this. I take everything went fine?

All seems to be fine here. Shows up as 1.25GB of RAM and hasn't caused any problems that I've noticed.

m a y a It's interesting that Apple told you there would be no problem. I'd picked that up from reading here but when Mum bought her iBook in the Apple Store in SF, I thought I'd just check if I could put one of my now unnecessary 256MB sticks into her iBook. The genuis looked highly alarmed and insinuated all sort of dire fates for Mum's iBook if I did - with the result that Mum won't let me up her memory to 512. So... has anyone here tried it? Adding a stick of 2700 PB RAM to a 2100 iBook?

jestershinra
Dec 13, 2004, 05:51 PM
Open up terminal and type 'top' (w/o the quotes).

VM: 7.84G + 87.9M 61212(361) pageins, 3305(0) pageouts

If the bold number in parentheses ever exceeds 0, your Mac is gasping for RAM. The number outside the parentheses is total pageouts (since restart) and the one in parentheses represents P/o's in the past second.

A pageout is your Mac using the hard drive because it's run out of RAM. It's good to avoid these.

Mechcozmo
Dec 13, 2004, 06:12 PM
Open up terminal and type 'top' (w/o the quotes).

VM: 7.84G + 87.9M 61212(361) pageins, 3305(0) pageouts

If the bold number in parentheses ever exceeds 0, your Mac is gasping for RAM. The number outside the parentheses is total pageouts (since restart) and the one in parentheses represents P/o's in the past second.

A pageout is your Mac using the hard drive because it's run out of RAM. It's good to avoid these.

I've found I can generate around 2000 pageouts with normal usage. (Pro-User here, though). I have 768MB of RAM. I go by the general rule of:

1. After a fresh restart and 10 minutes of normal work, check pageouts
2. If they are over 5000 then think about it, 10000 is a must. 20000 must be painful to use.

maya
Dec 13, 2004, 06:15 PM
All seems to be fine here. Shows up as 1.25GB of RAM and hasn't caused any problems that I've noticed.

m a y a It's interesting that Apple told you there would be no problem. I'd picked that up from reading here but when Mum bought her iBook in the Apple Store in SF, I thought I'd just check if I could put one of my now unnecessary 256MB sticks into her iBook. The genuis looked highly alarmed and insinuated all sort of dire fates for Mum's iBook if I did - with the result that Mum won't let me up her memory to 512. So... has anyone here tried it? Adding a stick of 2700 PB RAM to a 2100 iBook?

If I am not mistaken there are other members here that have also used PC2700 ram in the iBook that uses PC2100 ram and it works great.

Only reason I can find that the Apple Genius would say that is because to make you spend money on Apple branded ram ;) :)

As long as its a SO-DIMM ram and the pins match it will work for you too. Another reason why Apple will squeeze they customers for all they are worth. Apple branded ram is no different from a 3rd part vendor ram. :)

Now if only Apple did not solder the 256 ram in the iBook I would love 2 gigs, PowerBook eat your heart out. :D

maxterpiece
Dec 13, 2004, 06:33 PM
I've found I can generate around 2000 pageouts with normal usage. (Pro-User here, though). I have 768MB of RAM. I go by the general rule of:

1. After a fresh restart and 10 minutes of normal work, check pageouts
2. If they are over 5000 then think about it, 10000 is a must. 20000 must be painful to use.

32,290 pageouts and 128467 pagins... I have a gig of ram in G5 1.6. everything is running just fine.

cleo
Dec 13, 2004, 06:53 PM
I've found I can generate around 2000 pageouts with normal usage. (Pro-User here, though). I have 768MB of RAM. I go by the general rule of:

1. After a fresh restart and 10 minutes of normal work, check pageouts
2. If they are over 5000 then think about it, 10000 is a must. 20000 must be painful to use.

Heh... I'm 6 days since a restart, but I've got 1516368(0) pageouts with nary a hiccup! I'm assuming pageouts pile up as time goes by, and you were giving a pageouts/10 minutes guideline? Or number of pageouts in general?

Pixeled_Apple
Dec 13, 2004, 07:24 PM
I just recently bought my first new PowerBook/1.5Ghz ; and asked the guy @ designwyse (in aus) to fit in 1GB of RAM. I have 1GB installed, it works like a charm.. I swear... I can run Safari; Preview; Motion; Activity Monitor; Console; Grab; Graphic Converter w/o any hassle at all.. (but Motion runs 0.10% slower [barely unnoticeable] ). So get 1GB of RAM; it'll giv u peace of mind! {unlike windoze pc's.. <vomit sound insert here> :p }

Mechcozmo
Dec 13, 2004, 09:50 PM
Heh... I'm 6 days since a restart, but I've got 1516368(0) pageouts with nary a hiccup! I'm assuming pageouts pile up as time goes by, and you were giving a pageouts/10 minutes guideline? Or number of pageouts in general?

In 10 minute from a fresh start.

I've accumulated quite a few pageouts myself (Virtual PC emulating XP and 98, and also running Basilisk II in XP :eek: ) but if you tend to, in NORMAL USE, have few pageouts, then you are fine.

(Damn beachball)

dotnina
Dec 13, 2004, 10:42 PM
Open up terminal and type 'top' (w/o the quotes).

VM: 7.84G + 87.9M 61212(361) pageins, 3305(0) pageouts

If the bold number in parentheses ever exceeds 0, your Mac is gasping for RAM. The number outside the parentheses is total pageouts (since restart) and the one in parentheses represents P/o's in the past second.

A pageout is your Mac using the hard drive because it's run out of RAM. It's good to avoid these.

Thanks jestershinra -- I love cold hard facts. :D

I have 1,021,871 total pageouts, and the number in parenthesis -- current pageouts -- is varying between 0-10 for the past few minutes, even though I don't have anything too special open.

It is definetely time for more RAM. :D