2012 Mac mini: 4GB RAM vs. 8GB

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by batting1000, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. batting1000 macrumors 604

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    #1
    So currently I have the base model late 2012 Mac Mini with 4GB of RAM + 500GB storage + 2.5 GHz i5 and I'm wondering if going from 4GB of RAM to 8 is worth it. Currently, the machine runs fine and it's undoubtedly usable, but a lot of times, many actions can take anywhere from 10 or 15 seconds to a minute to open things like System Preferences, Preview, Mail, Chrome, etc. and there's some lag when doing things like clicking the Apple menu in the top left...I can click it and move my mouse away and then menu will pop up a few seconds after....I often see the beach ball....Safari feels like a death sentence.

    I'll see friends on their MacBook Airs and they look to easily outperform my Mac mini. Now that I think about it, that's probably because they have SSDs, something I don't have in my budget to upgrade to.

    What's it like going from 4GB to 8GB of RAM and is it worth the money?
     
  2. grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    #2
    The 8GB kit only costs $60 from Crucial so it is definitely worth it.

    By the way, the 0.25TB SSD is only $124 but you would probably pay $50-$100 to have a shop install it.
     
  3. tibas92013, Jul 13, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015

    tibas92013 macrumors 6502

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    #3
    My Refurbished Mac Mini(Late 2012) bought with the exact same ¨specs¨as your Mac Mini in August, 2013,however, I upgraded the RAM from 4GB to 16GB last January. To be honest, I have not seen a marked improvement in speed performance and have the same ¨beach ball¨problem now and then.

    However, last month I bought from the Apple On-Line Store a Refurbished i5 Mac Mini(Late 2014),2.8 GHz, 8GB RAM,256GB SSD and Iris Graphics and what a ¨Speed Demon¨ in booting-up, opening applications, etc.,etc. ¨Once in a Blue Moon¨ have I seen the dreaded ¨beach ball on this ¨speed demon[.

    Recommend you upgrade to a SSD when-you-can!
     
  4. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

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    #4
    This is essentially what I have experienced with the same model, although not as severe. I had the base 2012 with 4 GB, and before I upgraded to 8 GB I noticed that applications didn't open as quickly and sometimes stuttered when launching.
     
  5. jerwin macrumors 65816

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    #5
    I've got a 2009 iMac that I used up until May of this year. It had 8GB (upgraded from 4GB somewhat early on), and a hard drive. Going to 8GB definitely helped with the UI lag.
     
  6. batting1000 thread starter macrumors 604

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    #6
    I'm probably exaggerating it, but yeah. Did you notice an improvement going from 4 to 8 where you'd look back now and say it was worth it?
     
  7. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

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    #7
    I noticed an improvement for sure, and for $55 I found it to be worth it.
     
  8. ixxx69 macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    4 to 8 should definitely help if you're a multi-tasking, but don't expect anything extraordinary. Whether it's worth it to you depends on how much the money you're spending means to you.

    Really, an SSD upgrade is the first investment I'd recommend.
     
  9. c55 macrumors regular

    c55

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    #9
    I had the same specs as you on my Mini and upgraded to 8gb of RAM and a 120 SSD / 1 TB HDD so that I could edit videos and photos. I would save up and upgrade both at the same time like I did if you can. It makes a huuuuge difference. RAM will not help with launching apps at all. It helps with having multiple safari tabs or if you ran programs that were process heavy.

    You will notice a faster Mac if you upgrade to an SSD rather than RAM if you are an average user.
     
  10. batting1000 thread starter macrumors 604

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    #10
    I think the main thing is UI lag and opening apps. I'll click the System Preferences icon on the dock and I'll sit there for 15-25 seconds before it opens. Seems slightly better on El Capitan, however.
     
  11. jpietrzak8, Jul 13, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015

    jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #11
    The performance benefit you will see is entirely dependent on how much RAM you consume with your usage. Which, as it turns out, is quite easy to check! The "Activity Monitor" app (normally located in the "Utilities" sub-folder of the "Applications" folder) can show you how much you are using. If you select the "Memory" tab at the top, you'll get a list of the current tasks sorted by their memory usage, followed at the bottom of the window with some statistics (and a "Memory Pressure" graph).

    The two values at the very bottom, "Swap Used" and "Compressed", will tell you if you'll see any benefit at all from additional ram. If those values are zero (or very small), you will see no improvement from additional RAM -- you aren't really using all the ram you already have. If those values are large (into the gigabytes or more), you'll definitely see an improvement; the worse those two values get, the slower your machine will get. (Although an SSD will certainly help if your Swap value is high, you really don't want to use an SSD as if it were extra RAM; those things are expensive, and constantly swapping memory back and forth from them will certainly lower their lifespan...)
     
  12. ixxx69 macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    Have you done a clean re-install from scratch? That might help a bit.

    You haven't really said anything about your usage, so I don't know if you're running twenty apps at a time or something, but it's really about the SSD. It even helps with RAM, because when OS X caches data to disk to free up memory, that process happens WAY faster with an SSD compared to the hard drive.

    If you're going to be keeping the Mini for a good while longer, it's probably worth upgrading both the RAM and SSD.
     
  13. jerwin macrumors 65816

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    #13
    I should mention that 8 GB helped me compress video in the background while not interfering with my foreground work. The video compression still took about as long-- it's just that there was enough memory for my two core cpus to service both foreground and background tasks simultaneously,
     
  14. batting1000 thread starter macrumors 604

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    #14
    I'm not a heavy user. I usually have anywhere from 5-10 chrome tabs open at once. Very rarely I'll do some very very light illustrator work and sometimes I'll use Pages or office apps. But otherwise it's mostly using the preloaded programs on the Mac.
     
  15. Fishrrman macrumors G3

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #15
    I have a late-2012 Mini that came with 4gb from the factory.

    I swapped out the "top" module (when you have the bottom off) for a -single- 8gb DIMM module, giving me a total of 10gb.

    Some will say that having differently-sized DIMM modules installed will "slow the machine down", but if there was any speed degradation, it's un-noticeable to me.

    It runs fine, and handles Yosemite with ease. (Yosemite is not my "main OS", that's still 10.8.5, which is remarkably smooth and stable).
     
  16. batting1000 thread starter macrumors 604

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    #16
    Right now I have 7 chrome tabs open + Mail and iTunes.

    Swap = 45.5 MB
    Compressed = 1.10 GB
     
  17. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

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    #17
    This response must be the result of Deep Thought because it is obviously the Answer to the Question of Life the Universe and Everything! :D

    Seriously though, jpietrzak8 nailed it! This is why 8 is better than 4 even if 16 is clearly overkill. This is why, even though an SSD will yield a much larger performance improvement the OP and others in this situation should consider their RAM needs first.
     
  18. mr.steevo macrumors 65816

    mr.steevo

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    #18
    I have the same base mini and I bought a single 8GB module to give me 10GB total. There was a bit of an improvement for sure but the 500GB hard drives on these computers are slower than anything I have had in the past. I'd recommend the SSD.
     
  19. ixxx69 macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    The PCIe SSD in the current lineup of Macs acts as a very fast cache for freeing up RAM when needed. Despite jpietrzak8's statement, the SSD is perfectly fine for that use - the SSD won't wear out under "typical" usage, and OS X's memory management is designed to take advantage of the SSD in that way.

    I do appreciate the rest of his post on checking for memory usage, and obviously if the Mac is consistently using gobs of swap, more RAM will aid performance.

    While I generally recommend 8GB of RAM if cost isn't an issue, for the majority of typical users, 4GB + SSD will offer better system performance than 8GB + HDD.
     
  20. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #20
    This is complete BS. You're going to need several hundreds of terabytes of writes to a typical SSD before it dies. Look no further than here: http://techreport.com/review/27909/the-ssd-endurance-experiment-theyre-all-dead
     
  21. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #21
    Actually, that's not too bad. Those particular apps are (in general) fairly light on the CPU, so spending extra CPU time compressing and uncompressing data in memory shouldn't be too big of a problem. The amount of swap used there is negligible; if your machine was spending a lot of effort paging memory out to the HD and back, you'd see a much more significant slowdown.

    So, you might not see too much performance improvement by increasing your RAM. (There will be some advantages to not performing all that compression, but not a huge amount.)

    And yeah, if you want a big speed boost when loading these particular apps (as opposed to when running them), an SSD would be your best bet...
     
  22. jpietrzak8, Jul 15, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015

    jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #22
    Ah! Have you ever heard the term Thrashing? When an operating system runs completely out of RAM and begins paging sections of RAM out to the hard drive (or in this case the SSD), it does not write to the drive in the same manner that is used when storing or loading files. Instead, it moves "pages" of data out of RAM in order to make more room. Then, when that data is needed again, it moves more pages to the HD and pulls the old pages back in. This is still not a problem if the machine is using just a little bit over its maximum RAM; but if it's way over, the paging will happen continuously. This is known as "thrashing".

    When you're using magnetic media, thrashing will slow the machine down so much that it's practically unusable. But with the speed of an SSD, you might not really notice the problem. Still, thrashing means you are constantly swapping data back and forth to the drive, just as fast as the computer can manage it. You can rack up enormous amounts of I/O very quickly...
     
  23. yjchua95, Jul 15, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015

    yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #23
    Yes, I've heard of thrashing, but it would still be counted as writes to the SSD. Racking up an enormous amount of I/O doesn't translate to racking up an enormous amount of writes.

    Even on baseline 2.4/4/128 13" rMBP (late-2013) that I won from a raffle, I monitored the writes and found that it was almost impossible to break past 60GB of writes a day even under heavy duties with heavy paging.

    Let's say that a user racks up 300TB of writes over a period of 5 years (lifespan of a typical computer). That would translate to 60TB of writes per year, which would translate to slightly over 164GB of writes a day (and that's already really huge). So this case is very much impossible to attain under medium-heavy usage with lots of paging involved.

    PS - in the link I provided, the earliest drive to die did so at a little over 700TB of writes.
     
  24. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #24
    I will certainly admit that you've gotta be using your computer in a fairly unusual manner to cause it to thrash heavily. However, let me note a few things:

    - The technique the writers of that article used to force-feed data to those SSDs involved writing files to a nearly empty drive (only 10GB of "static data"), erasing them, and rewriting them. This is going to be quite favorable to the SSD's wear-leveling algorithm. I would think a normal user will have a lot more data stored in their SSD, and I doubt OSX's swapfile mechanism will be quite as convenient for wear-leveling; it is possible that a smaller section of the SSD will get hit harder by paging activity.
    - Moreover, the test they used wrote data sequentially. I'm not privy to the technique OSX is currently using, but paging mechanisms will normally need to store and retrieve pages in a more random access manner; again, this can encourage more uneven wear on the SSD.
    - Have I mentioned before that these SSDs are expensive? :) Most folks can avoid swapping entirely by simply supplying their computer with sufficient RAM, and therefore simply ignore this issue. :)
     
  25. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #25
    1. I'll concede to that point.
    2. Paging is almost always random I/O. But uneven wear or even wear aside, wear is still wear, and the difference in wear is probably within a 5% delta.
    3. Not really. Decent MLC SSDs like the Crucial BX100 are dirt cheap these days compared to a few years ago. Sure, swapping can be avoided by having enough RAM, but that's not going to speed up general overall performance by much (boot times, app launching, etc).
     

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