Does Lion run better with more than 4GB RAM?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by washburn, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. washburn macrumors 6502

    Apr 8, 2010

    I might be getting a new iMac, just wondering if I should get more RAM for overall system responsiveness?

    Also if I were to upgrade myself, what brand is really good and what part number cos theres so many to choose from...

    much appreciated
  2. flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Aug 11, 2009
    It all depends on what you want to to with the iMac.

    For surfing, text editing, eMails etc. 4GB is just fine.

    You need 204-pin PC3-10600 (1333 MHz) DDR3 RAM, brand doesn't really matter.
  3. Sirolway macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2009
    I went from 4GB to 8GB & haven't noticed any difference
    I run the usual light stuff, plus Windows Server in a VM occasionally (ok, that uses a fair bit of RAM)

    But I don't use FCP / Photoshop / that sort of heavy lifting software
    If you don't either, 4GB will likely be more than enough

    But hey, if you want 8GB because it's there, it's not exactly pricey!
  4. Bernard SG macrumors 65816

    Bernard SG

    Jul 3, 2010
    Everything always runs better with more RAM:
    - you often get a noticeable improvement in overall speed;
    - you can run more apps together.


    I run Lion on a 2008 iMac with 3GB and it works just fine.
  5. John T macrumors 68020

    John T

    Mar 18, 2006
    It is a common misconception , particularly amongst the uninitiated, that adding extra RAM will increase the speed of a computer. As has been said above, it all depends on what the computer is being used for. For example, the pre-installed RAM is usually more than adequate for normal web browsing, word processing etc. However, more RAM may be needed if, for example, heavy video/audio editing is being undertaken.

    The first thing to do is to run Activity Monitor and check on memory usage.
  6. Texcoonazz macrumors newbie

    Jun 29, 2011
    It made a difference for me when working with presentations, photo edits and video edits on my MacBook Pro. With 4gb I kept getting my work dumped half way into the job. Bumped up to 8gb and no more problems. I bought my ram from Old World Computing. I hear upgrading ram in an Apple can be hit and miss and it is best if it says Apple compatible.
  7. Bernard SG macrumors 65816

    Bernard SG

    Jul 3, 2010
    I don't totally agree with this - though I'd say from 4GB, additional RAM won't make much of a speed difference for general usage.
    The iMac I was mentioning above was with 1GB pre-installed and apps like iPhoto or Microsoft Office were making it crawl. At 3 GB everything is fine. The less RAM you got, the more the system will resort to virtual memory on HD which slows everything down quite a bit, especially if you have many apps open simultaneously.
  8. John T macrumors 68020

    John T

    Mar 18, 2006
    Check the title of the thread! ;)
  9. washburn thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 8, 2010
    Not the reason why I asked.. when new software comes out you always wonder if more RAM is needed, especially if it is an OS
  10. ghellquist macrumors regular

    Aug 21, 2011
    Stockholm Sweden
    It depends

    The computer science term to look for is working set.

    The thinking is that if the things most often needed fits into RAM memory then the computer will run fast. Otherwise it will have to swap things out to and in from the hard disc, which is slow.

    So, if the programs you run right now uses about 1GB, there will be absolutely no speed difference if you have 1, 2, 4 or 8GB of memory.

    On the other hand, if what you are working on uses 3GB, there will be a large difference if you have 2 or 4GB installed. With the smaller memory things might slow down to a crawl, while with the larger memory everything might run simply smoothly.

    The tool Activity Monitor allows you to check how much memory the current programs actually use. Check it now and then to get a feeling for how your workload uses memory. One program, say audio editing which I do a bit of, might use very little memory, while another program, say Photoshopping, might be able to use a lot of memory.

    So, the answer is, it depends.

    But to be safe, add memory. Often not very expensive either, although waiting will see prices going down.
    // gunnar
  11. Texran macrumors regular

    Mar 12, 2011
    Of all things that are rather easy to do, and that can help a computer run better, more RAM is number 1.
    Buy all you can afford, might not help much, but it sure won't hurt.
  12. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Looking at the working set certainly tells the story. Also look at the ratio of page ins to page outs. There should be at least 8 times as many, otherwise you are probably losing performance to swapping.

    Lion encouranges leaving applications running, and it will shut down (silently in the background) any that aren't being used if their memory is needed for something else. By leaving the apps running their startup time becomes effectively zero. Having plenty of RAM helps this feature. I find that I'm using 5-6GB of my 8GB in my iMac since I've stopped shutting down applications. I've also recently upgraded my MacBook to 8GB since I want to smoothly run Parallels+Win7, iShowU HD, OmniDazzle, Sketchbook Pro, Keynote, Safari, Circus Ponies Notebook, and Preview simultaneously during my classes. Aside- I laugh at questions of whether a new base 13" Macbook Pro has enough power for simple applications. Of course it has!

    If you frequently shut down (rather than sleep) your system leaving apps running will be detrimental to boot up time, and in general having more RAM makes boot up slower because the RAM gets tested when the system is turned on. Also shutdown to sleep will slow because more RAM needs to be saved to disk, and full shutdown will slow down in Lion as all the running apps will need to have their state saved.

    BOTTOM LINE -- if you are using Lion and keep the system running (or sleep) all the time, as with a desktop system, leave apps running and put in as much RAM as you can afford for maximum performance. If you are constantly booting your system and shut down apps, running only one at a time, then don't add any RAM.
  13. DockMac macrumors regular

    Dec 22, 2008
    Why doesn't it matter?
  14. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    If it meets the specs called for by Apple, it will work regardless of brand.
  15. sab165 macrumors member


    May 15, 2008
    To answer your question from an OS standpoint, I would say yes, Lion will work better with more ram. My reasoning behind this comes from my use of my MBP with 8GB of memory. I ran into absolutely no memory problems when using Snow Leopard with 8GB of ram (0MB memory swap). With Lion however, if I do not keep down on the clutter (open browser tabs, several preview files open, several excel spreadsheets, etc.) my memory swap begins to jump quickly (I'm at 2.00GB w/ 23hr uptime). Now to further elaborate, I always have Parallels running with 3GB dedicated to it which essentially leaves me with 4GB of ram for Lion because Parallels itself uses between 500MB-800MB ram. So regardless of the machine (iMac, Mac Pro, MBP) I truly believe that Lion sprawls out far more than Snow Leopard did thus making more memory better for the speed of the Lion OS.
  16. flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Aug 11, 2009
    Because you don't have to have yourself ripped off buying RAM that says "Mac-compatible" on it.

    A Mac consists of computer parts. There maybe RAM that really turns out to be incompatible (just like with every PC), but that's not a reason for not buying affordable RAM and try it.
  17. lsvtecjohn3 macrumors 6502a

    May 8, 2008
    Yeah I surprised how many people think they need Mac ram....
  18. DockMac macrumors regular

    Dec 22, 2008
    re: Why does *brand* it matter?

    My question referred to brand, not labeling of Mac-compatibility. Obviously the specs have to fit.

    But I do think brand in many components, per se, does matter, in terms of quality. Granted, a brand does not necessarily indicate quality.
  19. flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Aug 11, 2009
    That's why I posted the specs in my first reply.
  20. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    4gb ram sticks are dirt cheap

    these work and are silly cheap. just buy them before they sell out. as to does it run better the answer is YES YES YES!

    Anyone that understands your question should agree.
    If you don't understand the question you may not agree.

    Here is why it is better with more then 4gb ram.

    Under no circumstance will it run worse with working sticks that total 8gb ram.

    Under some circumstances it runs the same.

    Under some circumstances it is faster.

    No minus
    some neutral
    some plus
    that adds up to better.

    If you purchase working sticks at worse you will never need more then 4gb ram. In that case you will run at the same speeds. If you go to sell the machine it will sell better with 8gb ram.
  21. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Not quite true. Boot-up time increases because the POST is longer to check the additional RAM. And time to sleep (with safe-sleep active) or go into or out of hibernation increases because the image takes longer to save. There is also a small increase in power consumption which on a notebook will reduce battery life slightly.

    That said, my two heavy use systems have 8GB RAM and I see usage regularly exceed 4GB.

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