How much RAM do I need in my MacBook?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Meister, Jul 22, 2014.

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  1. Meister, Jul 22, 2014
    Last edited by Meister: Apr 6, 2015

    Meister Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #1
    How much RAM do I need in my MacBook?


    Introduction:

    Although all previous MacBooks allowed users to upgrade RAM, in all current MacBooks, MacBook Pros and Airs the RAM is soldered to the logicboard. This is why it is important to configure as much RAM as you need at purchase and to consider how much RAM you may need in the future.
    Since this is not an easy decision and this update doesn't come for free, it is up to you to find out if it is worth for you to get 4, 8 or 16 GB of memory/RAM.
    This decision depends on your individual usage, which refers to how you will use your MacBook and which apps you will use.
    It is a common misconception that more RAM will always automatically make your macbook faster and more responsive. Keep in mind that this is very often not the case!

    To give you a little help deciding I created this wiki which can be edited by all MacRumors members who want to share their experiences. Please add content to this wiki responsibly!

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    How to read the Activity Monitor

    The Activity Monitor is a utility that comes by default with OSX. As long as the memory pressure graph is in the green your system has enough RAM available.



    Example of an activity monitor on a MacBook Air from 2014 with 4gb RAM:

    [​IMG]
    RAM pressure here is still in the green, which means the system has sufficient amounts of memory available.

    "2 Safari windows with about 10 tabs each, all with different websites, Skype, Thunderbird, Spotify, Photoshop with 13 files opened, MAMP, Coda with about 5 files opened. Also did some normal work with Photoshop, browsed the web and listened to some music on Spotify." Rodrigo Yoshida



    OS Yosemite will try to utilize almost all the RAM available.
    Here an example from a late 2013 retina Macbook Pro 15" with 16gb RAM:

    [​IMG]

    "The only Main Apps I have open were 3 Chrome Tabs (including the one I am using to post this message) and iTunes." Sam11B



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    Apps/Functions that traditionally never require more than 4 GB of RAM:


    • MS Office (Word,Excel,Power Point)
    • iWorks (Pages, Keynote, Numbers)
    • Webbrowser
    • Email Apps
    • iTunes
    • App Stores
    • Media Consumption
    • all versions of OSX require no more than 2 GB of RAM


    Apps/Functions that strongly suggest at least 8 GB of RAM:

    • Virtual machines (e.g. Parallels, VMware and VirtualBox)
    • Multitasking Apps for media creation (e.g. Photoshop, FinalCut Pro)
    • Multitasking Apps for Audio creation (e.g. Cubase, Logic, ProTools)
    • Multitasking Apps for 3D Rendering (e.g. Maya, RenderMan)
    • DaVinci Resolve
    • Parallel use of different user accounts at the same time


    Apps/Functions that require at least 8 GB of RAM:

    • 3D functions in Photoshop
    • compositing software like After Effects and Smoke and so on


    Apps/Functions that strongly suggest at least 16 GB of RAM:

    • Running several virtual machines
    • Grading RAW video files in DaVinci Resolve

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    RAM questionaire

    A little test Martin:apple:Guy designed and all the credit for it belongs to him.

    How to: Answer the following questions (the answers are split between A, B and C). Once done, add up your total (A = 1, B = 2 and C = 3).


    Questions

    1. How long do you wish to to keep your upcoming Mac?
    A: 1 - 2 years
    B: 2 - 4 years
    C: 5+ years

    2. How much do you you plan to run VM's (i.e running 2 or more Operating System's at one time)?
    A: "I will just run OSX" or "I don't even know what a VM is"
    B: "I plan to run a Virtual Machine, but I will not dedicate a lot of RAM to it (2 GB of RAM or less)"
    C: "I plan to have at least one Virtual Machine, and wish to dedicate 4 GB or more to it"

    3. How often will you use your virtual machine (if at all)?
    A: "Never"
    B: "Only when I need to run certain software" or "some of the time"
    C: "I wish to have the VM running most if not all of the time"

    4. Will you be using your new Macbook Pro for video editing?
    A: "Little to none. If I am to make a video, it will only be small videos (like home videos) made in iMovie"
    B: "I plan to do video editing often, using iMovie for heavy projects"
    C: "I plan to do a lot of heavy video editing in Final Cut Pro X"

    5. Will you be using your new Macbook Pro for photo editing?
    A: "I plan to do some basic photo editing using iPhoto, like cropping as well as changing the lighting as well as some basic work in Pixelmator"
    B: "I plan to do heavy photo editing with a few photo's at a time in either Photoshop or Pixelmator"
    C: "I plan to do a lot of heavy photo editing with a lot of photo's at a time in either Photoshop or Pixelmator"

    6. What is the primary use of your soon to buy Macbook Pro?
    A: "Light web browsing, checking emails, basic word processing as well as spreadsheet and presentation work"
    B: "All of the above, as well as video editing, photo editing, and programming (as well as any other heavy applications)"
    C: "All of the above, as well as running Windows software in a VM"

    7. How many programs do you see yourself running at the same time?
    A: "1 - 5 basic programs" or "1 or 2 heavy programs"
    B: "A lot of applications open at the same time, and I will be jumping back and forth between all of them"
    C: "A lot of applications open at the same time, as well as a VM (or several)"

    -End of questions-

    Add up your total score (A = 1, B = 2 and C = 3), then find where you come in with the scores bellow.

    7 - 9 = 4 GB of RAM will be enough for you. (If you are scoring 9, consider 8 GB of RAM for future proofing and/or if you think you will do more work on it in the future, although this is not necessary)

    10 - 19 = 8 GB of RAM will be enough for you. (If you are scoring 17-19, consider 16Gb of RAM for future proofing, although this is not necessary)

    20+ = 16 GB of RAM will be enough for you.

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    Multitasking example showing a Macbook Air 2013 (4gb RAM):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6oaUJPZKNc

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Performance differences between 4, 8 and 16gb or RAM:

    http://www.macworld.com/article/203...tional-memory-on-a-mac.html#lsrc.twt_macworld



    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Bonus: What exactly is RAM?


    "Think of the processor as an office worker, RAM as his desk, and the hard drive as the desk's drawers. To do work the worker must pull stuff out of his drawers, put it on the desk, and get going.

    The faster and more efficient the drawer opening is (the hard drive's speed), the faster the worker can put stuff on the desk (put apps into RAM), and the faster he can work on it (CPU cycles).

    More ram = bigger desk. You can put more stuff in front of the worker before he bogs down and needs to put stuff back in the drawers to make room for other work (caching to the hard drive), this slows down his workflow when it happens and is not desirable. (This happens when the machine doesn't have enough RAM for the tasks at hand)."
    snaky69
     
  2. FrozenDarkness macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    #2
    good thing i got 8gb. with mavericks, i'm averaging around 14gb after compressing memory and it's been flying high.

    athough safari still kind of sucks
     
  3. Meister, Jul 22, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014

    Meister thread starter Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #3
    is your memory pressure in the activity monitor in the green?
    What apps are your running.
     
  4. capathy21 macrumors 65816

    capathy21

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    Jun 16, 2014
    Location:
    Houston, Texas
  5. FrozenDarkness macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    #5
    ya it's in the green, i'm usually running safari with maybe 10-15 tabs open. Right when I open iphoto or imovie though, there goes the neighborhood. I'm using safari because it supposedly uses less battery than chrome, but i feel like chrome is more stable and tabs are much easier to use.
     
  6. Meister thread starter Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #6
    no webbrowser requires 8gb of ram. Ive encounterd serious problems with chrome. I wouldnt use it.
    Your system does not slow down because of ram until the pressure starts to get into the yellow.

    Once it gets into the red, you will know, trust me.
     
  7. MarvinHC macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2014
    Location:
    Shanghai, PRC
    #7
    100% agree. I am sometimes running Chrome in 30 tabs including automatic translations, plus some tabs in Safari, Mail open etc. with 4 GB and still my memory pressure is in the green. And Chrome is a terrible when it comes to using up memory!
    I can't say how it will be in the future but in today's world for Mavericks with office applications and web browsing nobody needs more than 4GB. It even works with with 2!
     
  8. leman macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    #8
    This is a really nice guide! Great job, Meister and Martin!

    I have 16GB, but I probably could have gotten away with 8GB... the bigger RAM config does allow me get away with writing crappy code from time to time :D
     
  9. Meister thread starter Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #9
    I might add that this is also a first test of the new wiki function on this forum.
    Please feel free to add usefull content to this wiki!
     
  10. iqandjoke macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2011
    #10
    @Meister How much memory does Mavericks consume on retina macbook pro?
     
  11. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020

    MartinAppleGuy

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    #11
    Thanks for including my questionnaire :) Also nice to see there is finally a Wiki for this!

    ----------

    When the OS is not caching any apps and has just booted, Mavericks uses around 1.5-2GB of RAM. This can and will increase though as Mavericks caches a lot in RAM to improve system performance. The best way to see how much the OS is using is by subtracting App Cache from Memory used.
     
  12. orestes1984, Jul 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014

    orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Location:
    Australia
    #12
    I'm getting a score of 17 which is about right, 8GB is enough but any more and I would overload it.

    I run a browser, plus a Windows 7 VM using 4GB of RAM in a separate desktop, plus Photoshop on another desktop pretty much all the time, and it crunches 10+ 16megapixel photo stitch images, and I plan on keeping my MacBook Pro 13" early 2011 for the foreseeable future of at least the next 1 to 2 years.

    I could put 16GB of RAM in it, but it really is overkill 8GB of RAM is enough unless you're running two VMs on top of something like I'm doing and then you need more RAM. I could run a Linux VM as well, but it really is overkill for how sparingly I use open source apps.

    The biggest gain you can get with VMs is running your disk images off separate hard drives. It stops your disk from having to crunch files in more than one location at the same time for two different OSs.
     
  13. Meister thread starter Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #13
    mavericks requires a minimum of 2gb to run.
    However it will utilize excess ram, because unused ram is wasted ram
     
  14. TechZeke macrumors 68020

    TechZeke

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
    Location:
    Rialto, CA
    #14
    Great wiki post Meister.

    Actually, going from my 16gb cMBP to 8gb rMBP, I've found the mavericks memory compression to be no joke. Even having all my apps running at once + parallels and I still couldn't get it to go in orange, though the memory pressure still went up a bit. I think it was 12-13gb worth of data, definitely more than enough ram for me.

    Memory compression is probably one if not THE most useful under the hood feature in OSX.
     
  15. brdeveloper macrumors 68020

    brdeveloper

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Location:
    Brasil
    #15
    Short answer:

    - 8GB if you're out of money;
    - 16GB otherwise.
     
  16. Meister thread starter Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #16
    If you have something usefull to add please edit the wiki.
     
  17. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Boston
    #17
    But that is useful. Its not all that complicated. 4GB for most needs, 8GB for more intensive apps and 16, if you run VMs or a lot of intensive apps.

    There's also peace of mind, where the person isn't sure what the needs will be down the road and for them 8 to 16gb of ram is the answer. If apple didn't solder the ram into the logic board I think most people would not be obsessing over this issue like they are now.
     
  18. Meister thread starter Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #18
    thats why I suggested he adds it to the wiki in an informative way
    Thats the purpose of a wiki imo.
     
  19. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020

    MartinAppleGuy

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    #19
    I've pushed my 8GB all the way to 18.5GB before total swap. Performance was top notch all the way to 15.5GB too.
     
  20. maflynn, Jul 24, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014

    maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    #20
    I think people have largely forgotten about OS X's great memory management as they deal with the ram being soldered onto the logic board.
     
  21. MartinAppleGuy, Jul 24, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 24, 2014

    MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020

    MartinAppleGuy

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    #21
    Very true, it could be seen as they both weigh out each other.

    Without the addition of both the performance and power efficiencies in Mavericks, I would have said it was a very basic upgrade. With them, priceless. My most favourite upgrade yet! (Note I never used SL, just Leopard, Lion, ML, and Mavericks).
     
  22. Meister thread starter Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #22
    Great edit orestes!
    I slightly changed a sentence because it seemed to mention future proofing twice in a row.
     
  23. orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Location:
    Australia
    #23
    You're welcome, I mostly tidied up a few things and checked the spelling, I also added some information to what sort of software requirements you would have for 8GB of RAM.
     
  24. fuxx1.0 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2014
    #24
    Could someone here give me a bit of advice? I have to decide between a rMBP with 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM. I currently have an iMac Mid 2011 with 8 GB of RAM. I do some photo editing, coding and the usual web-surfing-stuff. I do not use VMs because I have bootcamp. On my iMac I just opened some apps (Aperture, Pixelmator, Xcode, ...) and the activity monitor shows a green memory-pressure-bar but the amount of used memory is around 7,5 - 7,99 GB. Does this mean that I should go for a 16 GB configuration? I would like to keep my rMBP for at least 4 years.

    Here are all the numbers from the activity monitor:
    column on the left of the memory-pressure-graph:
    physical memory: 8 GB
    used memory: 7,98 GB
    virtual memory: 9 GB
    swap: 0 Byte

    on the right:
    App-memory: 5,26 GB
    File-cache: 1,37 GB
    reserved memory: 1,33 GB
    compressed: ~500 MB
     
  25. orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Location:
    Australia
    #25
    OS X manages its memory system so it's not unusual to see it consumed, so long as your seeing green memory pressure you're OK for now, but if you are concerned you might want to do more later then it might be worth considering getting 16GB of RAM.

    What sort of photo editing do you do? If not Photoshop and mainly just iPhoto or similar you won't need more RAM for that, however compiling code with Xcode could see you in a situation where your memory might be taxed.

    Can you run a test perhaps with editing photos, and compiling code with X Code and then have a look at how much memory you are using? I like to use the worst case scenario.

    For me that is running a single VM, editing a stitched photo in Photoshop, and surfing the web at the same time while playing music. I'm still in the green with 8GB of RAM. I did load test my machine by opening a second VM which made it orange, but that is going beyond my normal use of a computer.

    Think about what is the most intensive set of tasks you are likely to undertake and then do that as a stress test.
     
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