How to tell if I'd benefit from 16 GB of RAM

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by JLMORIART, Dec 12, 2014.

  1. JLMORIART, Dec 12, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014

    JLMORIART macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2014
    Howdy all, i'm new so if there is something i missed that i should have read before posting this please let me know! Also sorry for the caps lock, my 3-e-d-c keys don't work without it...

    I have a mid 2010 macbook pro 7,1, 2.44 ghz processor with 4gb of ram. It has come to my attention that, though my machine was originally only spec-ed for 8 gb, it can actually handle 16, which is totally cool:

    I don't know for sure, however, that i'd benefit from 16. I've checked my activity monitor at different times when i used my computer more or less intensively, and here's when it showed:

    With no apps open except for activity monitor, it looks like this:
    This seems weird to me, that 2.73 gigs are taken up with nothing open. Is that normal?

    With just spotify, chrome, and photo viewer open it looks pretty much full up:

    And here is the most intense use i could reasonably imagine myself putting it through:
    Here i've got both garageband and sibelius (a music notation software) open, each with a significant number of tracks and effects open, along with a few other less intensive applications.

    My main question is this: can anyone tell from the screenshots provided whether i'd notice a difference from 8 to 16 gigs of memory?

    It'd be really nice to not have to worry about garageband constantly giving me problems about how "part of the project was not played. This project has too many real instrument tracks to be played in real-time. To optimize performance, see the 'optimizing garageband performance' page in garageband help."

    One thing i notice is that memory pressure is always green, never red, even when i completely bog down my system... Is that normal? Does that mean i wouldn't benefit from more ram? Is there something else going on here?

    Thanks very much for your help!


    Model Name: MacBook Pro
    Model Identifier: MacBookPro7,1
    Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
    Processor Speed: 2.4 GHz
    Number of Processors: 1
    Total Number of Cores: 2
    L2 Cache: 3 MB
    Memory: 4 GB
    Bus Speed: 1.07 GHz
    Boot ROM Version: MBP71.0039.B0E
    SMC Version (system): 1.62f7
    Serial Number (system): W803096EATP
    Hardware UUID: D05694BA-18AF-5FAE-A6AF-F2DF1D261D26
    Sudden Motion Sensor:
    State: Enabled
  2. Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    Wrong forum this is desktop Mac Pro land here.

    Many have much more than 16Gb :D
  3. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    [MOD NOTE]
    OP, I updated your post, changing the case from all caps to to sentence case. In case you're not aware of it, all caps is akin to yelling its rather harsh to look at.
  4. freeskier93 macrumors 6502

    Jul 13, 2008
    OP your pictures dont work. However it seems unlikely you would need more than 8 GB. Vast majority of consumers don't need more than 4 GB and vast majority of power users don't need more than 8 GB. More than 8 GB and you're in the realm of servers and workstations that are doing heavy computing. As an example, the only time I've ever filled up 8 GB is when running flow simulations in SolidWorks, and they have to be pretty sizable simulations. For this reason I'll be upgrading my desktop to 16 GB.

    I dont think computers have come with less than 16 Gb in atleast 20 years ;)
  5. JLMORIART thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2014
    Looks like i'll be going with 8 gigs then, thanks for the responses. Any idea why i'm nearly out of ram only running chrome, spotify, and picture viewer? And does it makes sense that even though i'm totally bogged down at points, activity monitor still shows memory pressure as green?

    Does that mean the issue isn't ram? Maybe it's my cpu?

    Thank you so much for doing that! I had never heard of "sentence case" so when ever i tried to search something that would convert my text into something readable i'd always searched "un-caps lock" or something to that effect, which was never very helpful...
  6. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    I'm guessing this is sarcasm, since it's obviously not true.
    It is quite normal for all of your memory to be in use by OS X. It does not mean that you are running out of memory or that it is maxed out. OS X will manage all available memory, making it available to apps on an as-needed basis. Refer to the following Apple support article for more information on how to understand your Activity Monitor readings.
  7. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a


    Oct 11, 2013
    DMV Area
    If I might make a recommendation - it might be a good idea to jump to 10GB of RAM. Keeping one of your current 2GB sticks of RAM and adding in a single 8GB stick might be more economical in the long run. Though your machine is 4 years old, should you find yourself needing 16GB of RAM down the road, you'll only need to replace 1 stick instead of 2.

  8. JLMORIART, Dec 12, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014

    JLMORIART thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2014
    That's good to know, thanks. Then my question becomes this. Any ideas as to why my computer seems slow?? :p When i have more than a few apps open it's very clunky, in spite of what activity monitor says about my ram and what all the info here is saying about how i shouldn't need much more than 4 gigs let alone more than 8.

    In activity monitor it looks like in times like those my idle cpu is under 10%, sometimes hovering around 3 or 4%. Could this be the culprit? And if so, should i just stick with 4 gigs of ram and wait to upgrade to a whole new machine? My impression is that cpu is not upgradeable in a mac.

    Thanks again!


    Great idea, thanks! I hadn't even considered doing an amount other than 2, 4, 8, or 16... DUH xP

    Edit: i assume since it turns out that my machine can handle 16 that it can handle 10, but i don't know for sure.
  9. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    If you're having performance issues, this may help:
    Obviously, your CPU isn't being taxed, so that's not the source of your issues.
    If Activity Monitor is always showing in the green, adding more RAM will not improve your performance, as you're not maxing out the RAM you have.
  10. Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    I feel a bit inferior having to drop from 32 to 24gb going from Mac Pro 3,1 to 4,1. Dual 6 core upgrade soon will restore that to 48gb :D

    Photoshop, premiere, multitasking and soon to be solid works too! I have over 100 flow simulations to do and i don't want to hang about :D
  11. JLMORIART thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2014
    Ohhhhhh are GB gigabytes and Gb gigabits??? Hahaha ok i think i'm up to speed now...
  12. 556fmjoe macrumors 65816


    Apr 19, 2014
    Your last screenshot shows that you aren't even close to running out of RAM with 4 GB under your heaviest workload. You won't notice a difference with 8 , much less 16.
  13. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    Your sluggishness may be due to disk IO. Consider upgrading to a SSD. One of the best performance improvements you can make.
  14. freeskier93 macrumors 6502

    Jul 13, 2008
    The 12 core might not actually do very well with SolidWorks. It is my understanding SolidWorks does not utilize multiple cores and is very frequency dependent.
  15. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    From 4 to 8, yes. From 8 to 16, no.
    not sure if that is memory related. Sounds like a software issue, but I am not a garage band user myself.

    Your memory pressure is moderate, but you might see a slight difference with 8 over 4gb. 16gb for your usage is overkill at this time.

    If I were you I would invest in an ssd upgrade over anything else first.
  16. Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    In Windows I know it will run multiple simulations running both CPU's and will be on bootcamp for this. With x5690's at 3.46/3.73 turbo with a PCIe Apple nMP blade I can cut the time down significantly.
  17. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    That's what Microsoft word called it when I copied your post in Word to change the case. I have no idea what it should be called ;)
  18. JLMORIART thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2014
    CPU looks like source of problem

    I have a bit of an update, it looks like the cpu is definitely being taxed (and heavily) when I run garageband. Here is activity monitor's look at the CPU when Garageband is closed:

    Here it is with Garageband open:

    And here it is with Garageband playing a large-ish project:

    Usually when Garageband hits the percents in the high 90s, that's when the playhead turns red and I get the system overload error. Oddly enough, sometimes it'll end up with GB taking up some huge unreal percentage, like 123%, while the playhead stays yellow and there is still idle CPU:

    I don't understand what's going on here. If the system overload happens, it's consistently when the playhead turns red and GB is taking up near 100% of my CPU's resources. But other times it shows Garageband taking up 123% with only moderate stress.

    Could it be that sometimes, the CPU is handling the brunt of the load, and other times it is sharing the task with another piece of hardware that is working intermittently?

    Should the cpu be handling the things Garageband does at all, or might there be a problem with my ram that it gets deferred to the CPU?

    Also, I have an "Alesis Multimix8" USB Audio interface and mixer and, when I set it as Garageband's audio device, the system overload message happens much much less often. And though GB still shows very high percentages of CPU usage (>120%), there is this time plenty of idle CPU left over.

    I've done a little research but can't find anything about it... Can I download a virtual soundcard for OSX so that the Ram is taxed instead of my CPU? Using my mixer all the time is a hack solution because A. I can't take it everywhere, and B. it's a pain to change the Audio Device all the time in GB.

    Thanks everyone for your help!


    PS One more issue that I do have which is probably better suited for a GB forums is that, when I switch to the Alesis Audio device, sometimes I get this error:
  19. chanwbkenneth macrumors newbie

    Oct 1, 2014
    2 years back, my Macbook Pro 15" 4GB ram lags like mad everytime I open 2 or more programs. I have since installed 2 modules of 8GB RAM and 2 years down, I would say that it is the best decision of my life. I have no idea why would they sell their laptops with 4GB RAM, the system_kernel already runs 1.2GB at startup.
  20. JLMORIART thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2014
    Fixed it by zapping PRAM

    Hi again all. Seems like I've found a solution. I "zapped my Pram", and not only did Garageband stop giving me the system overload message, but my entire system is running much much much more quickly. Who knows what funky data ended up getting written to that space over the four years I've had this computer, but zapping it did the trick, or at least it has for 36 hours and counting.

    Thanks again for all your help, and if you see anyone else with the same problem please tell them to zap their PRAM! (And of course, backup any important data first.)
  21. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    CAD is single core, but simulations run across all cores.

    (Solidworks user on the daily).
  22. freeskier93 macrumors 6502

    Jul 13, 2008
    Hmm, sure enough. Should have just checked for myself. Maybe I was thinking of graphics acceleration that it doesn't utilize.


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