What Exactly Does RAM Improve? Will It Make The Computer Noticeably Faster?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by iNew2Macs, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Apr 22, 2009
    Hey thinking of getting a Mac mini, but it has 1GB Ram, the employee recommended getting the $799 version. Because it has 2GB RAM.

    Now I know it makes it faster but is it really necessary if I only use one or two programs at time? Like iTunes and Safari.

    Ok, right now I have 1.5GB Ram and I have 606MB left (Vista). Im only using Safari.

    So do I really need lots of RAM if I only use one program at a time?

    Say I only use iPhoto with nothing else open, will having more RAM make iPhoto faster even if its only one program open?

    Thanks for the help, really appreciate it.
  2. macrumors 68040


    Sep 16, 2007
    Berklee College of Music
    What RAM does is prevent the computer from having to draw from the virtual memory. In this sense, it can make your computer "faster" (though it does not actually increase speed), in that it will prevent slowdown when running large apps and lots of apps. I noticed a huge difference in load time for Logic when I went from 2 to 4 gigs of RAM in my Macbook.

    Edit: So, in other words, the answer to your question is basically no.
  3. macrumors 65816


    Nov 25, 2004
    Korova Milkbar
    That's the one thing I don't like about the Mini: if you want 2GB's you have to pay an additional $200, as it's not set up for user installation (it can be done, but it's not as easy as everything else).

    This is a debate that can go either way. If you find it's too slow or not enough when using your applications, then it's going to be tough to upgrade it for possible future needs. Otherwise, with what you're doing you aren't going to need 2GB in any way. It's only going to help you that much more.

    Also, Safari I believe is more of a memory hog in Windows than in Mac OS X. After that, it's typical for Vista machines these days to ship with 3GB or more by default as Vista Home Premium and above require double the RAM of Mac OS X (and then sometimes the higher RAM offsets a slower processor speed in a typical low-end PC).
  4. macrumors regular


    Apr 16, 2009
    Inside A Mac Box
  5. macrumors 65816


    Jul 14, 2004
    Normally I would say that 1 GB is fine for light use. That said, if you leave certain programs open long enough (e.g. Safari), they'll consume any and all RAM that's available, so you will see a slowdown eventually. By 'slowdown,' I mean that it may take a few seconds to do something in another program (pause/play iTunes, browse iPhoto). Of course, if you get 2GB of RAM, it just delays the onset of this slowdown.

    The best thing to do if you're interested in performance is open up Activity Monitor and sort the list of open programs by Physical Memory size, then just occasionally quit and relaunch programs that are taking up too much RAM.

    All said and done, after seeing first-hand how 'light users' use their Macs, I would say play it safe and go with 2GB. If nothing else, it'll leave you some elbow room when future versions of programs and OS X require more RAM to run well.

    Actually, if you select the $599 model on Apple's website, you can upgrade the RAM to 2GB for $50. It's still much more than what you would pay to buy and install it yourself, but the added hassle of opening up the Mini may make it worth having the people at the factory do it.
  6. macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Does this actually do anything? I've always been under the impression that OS X keeps stuff from programs recently quit until another program needs it, after which it is re-allocated. Quitting and immediately restarting doesn't do anything...
  7. macrumors member


    Mar 29, 2009
    The reason that manufacturers ship computers with much more RAM lately is because it's so cheap, you can pick up 4GB RAM for $30 quite easily from your local computer store.

    Vista does by default use a fair amount of system memory (50%), however it only uses it for background services and caching (which can be disabled if you want) when the system is idle. As soon as the memory is required by an application it gets passed over.

    Paying an extra $200 for RAM is ridiculous, you should stick with 1GB. You'll never use the 2.

    After all, there's no point in having hardware lying around doing nothing.

    Additionally, restarting applications for high memory use is a poor suggestion on any level. The only applications that this may help are those with high levels of memory leaks, since any solid program will use the same amount of RAM out of the gate or after extensive use.
  8. macrumors 65816


    Jul 14, 2004
    Not necessarily. As an example, I could quit Safari (currently taking up 600MB), relaunch and reload all my tabs, and I would end up with several hundred more megs of RAM in the free (green) category.

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