Tech savvy people, be honest: Does the average user need more than 4gigs of ram?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Suno, Dec 15, 2011.

  1. Suno macrumors 6502


    Dec 12, 2011
    I once read somewhere that unless you're a hardcore programmer who needs all the potential of RAM to compile their codes, you don't need any more than 4gigs of RAM. I'm wondering if there's any merit to this.

    Personally, I use my laptop for schoolwork, browsing, some games (SC2 and Steam), and a bit of video editting (Sony Vegas) on the side. I don't think I've ever experienced a time where I felt like I needed more than 4gigs of RAM. But y'know, if it turns out that the average user does indeed require at least 4gigs of RAM and upgrading to 8gigs helps, I'll do it.

    But if it turns out that most of us don't even utilize that 4gigs, getting an extra 4gigs would be a waste of money.
  2. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    I have just iTunes, Safari (with 12 tabs, some of which have mixed Flash contents), and Photoshop open, and already I'm down to 1.2GB free on 8GB of RAM.

    Safari alone takes up 3.2GB (1.4GB for the main process, 1.0GB for the plugin process, 800MB for web content).

    So yeah, I think... definitely more RAM helps. 4GB is just not adequate with the rate Lion and Safari are consuming RAM. Just with 1 or 2 tabs, Safari takes up 300MB or more...
  3. JamesGorman macrumors 65816


    Dec 31, 2008
    Everyone's needs are different. I think 4GB of ram is sufficient for many people. I do have 8GB of ram in my current machine, but I am not what you would call just a "casual" user. I do photo/video editing, and load up multiple tabs on safari with porn...Those vides are quite ram consuming you know.
  4. PieterL macrumors newbie

    Dec 15, 2011
    See for yourself, activity monitor will show you how much RAM you're using. Personally, I reckon if you're paying all that money for a computer, whats $100 (or less) for some RAM?
  5. greganpace macrumors regular

    Aug 9, 2011
    I have 4GB on my white macbook 2.13 ghz. Have had Logic Pro, Audacity, Itunes, Garage Band, and Chrome all running at the same time when I do my music editing all the time. It runs ok. A stutter here and there when I do too much, but very rare. But that is a big reason I use Chrome instead of Safari. I think it does make a difference on my computer when I am running everything. If I had the room to add RAM, I would, but my computer is maxed out at 4.
  6. vitzr macrumors 68030


    Jul 28, 2011
    Based on all I've read about the "average user" in the last year or so, most don't even need a computer. An iPad is fine for them.
  7. zigzagg321 macrumors 6502

    Oct 7, 2011
    the wire

    Im probably in between user and heavy user or whatever its called and I got 8gigs for about $100 leaving me with 12GB for my current gen iMac. It definitely is worth the money. I won't need to worry about RAM for a long time. Good thing these iMacs can do 32GBs lol.
  8. hotgrease macrumors regular

    Feb 14, 2010
    I just upgraded my ram from 4 to 8. I'm not sure I see a huge difference other than the amount of free ram in the activity monitor, but I haven't really done much yet. However I was getting down to under 1GB with Word, Acrobat, Safari, iTunes, and things open. You can get 8GB for like $30 now so it's not a huge investment even if it doesn't make a big difference. Right now I have 5.43GB free with Safari, Outlook, and Aperture open (along with some smaller background things)
  9. unixperience macrumors regular

    Jul 21, 2010
    if you have lion then id say more than 4 gigs. if its just leopard. snow or lower even, 4 gigs is quite sufficient.

    If you use safari, you may need more than 4 gigs. the newest version says it uses less ram... I havent tried it yet. but safari uses a ton of ram. id recommend chrome

    however ram is quite cheap, look crucial (very high quality ram) is only 45 bucks for 8 gigs see here this may not be EXACTLY compatible with your system, but 8 gigs ins't too much now a days
  10. dontwalkhand macrumors 601


    Jul 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Let's see a screenshot of your activity monitor. I am feeling the slowness with 4, and I want to go 8 or even 16
  11. Surely Guest


    Oct 27, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I use Lion and only have 4 GB of RAM on my 11" MacBook Air, and it runs just fine. I, too, recommend Chrome.
  12. Zwhaler macrumors 604


    Jun 10, 2006
    For families who use the computer for internet, email, music and photos 4GB is fine. Even for light video editing it will work.
  13. dusk007, Dec 16, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2011

    dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    Windows 8 runs fine for most casual use on 1GB RAM. Windows 7 needs no more than 2GB for casual use.
    I haven't used Lion but SL with only 2GB probably doesn't work very well but you don't need 8GB ram.
    I am a quite heavy user(although I don't use extremely ram heavy stuff like a 3GB Safari just VMs and other Opera+Chrome) and did okay with 4GB with the SSD there is little to no noticeable swapping. I ran a Win7 VM with only 1GB and it never needed more than that. Now with 8GB I still don't give it anymore. Apps use more ram now. When I got all my stuff open and the VM it helps but it just means I can have more stuff running where I used to shut down stuff that I don't currently need anyway (relaunch is real fast with an SSD).

    Now I would define casual use as such
    some Browser, iPhoto, iTunes, Mail, VLC, Skype, some Office program, a PDF in previe
    And that is already the sort of worst case for casual use. (If one doesn't use a 3.2 GB Safari and most Browser don't need much more than 1GB even with a big load of tabs) You definitely don't need more than 4GB RAM and speed difference with 8GB may only be due to the placebo effect.

    I would go so far as to say that 90% of users don't get anything from 8GB RAM. The select few that actually need it are just more vocal in such forums and some also just fall for the placebos. Many think any kind of swapping is bad, but it only hurts if it is a lot because you frequently switch between the running apps. If one is just lazy in shutting down apps and maybe has an app like iPhoto running all the time but doesn't pull it up he won't notice any significant performance problems.
    It is the same with browser tabs. If you just don't close a window in the background with 15 tabs that you might need later and those are swapped to disk it doesn't hurt at all.
  14. HellDiverUK macrumors 6502

    Oct 24, 2009
    Belfast, UK
    Try opening Photoshop CS5.5 on 4GB RAM. Come back next week when it eventually opens and tell us what you think then.

    There is no such thing as "an average user". Also, you don't have to be a programmer to need RAM.
  15. iThinkergoiMac macrumors 68030

    Jan 20, 2010
    Why do we care about how much RAM Windows uses? This question is about Mac users. Besides, you don't really know how much RAM the final version of Windows 8 will use... just because the beta works that way doesn't mean the final version will.

    SL runs decently with 2 GB RAM.

    Running VMs is way more "extreme" than running Safari. All browsers have memory issues, and the only reason Safari is using that much RAM is because it's been open for a long time (or has about 300+ tabs/windows open).

    Leave Chrome, Opera, or Firefox open for 5 days and you'll see the same thing happen.

    Yes, you are referring to pageins vs pageouts. Pageins are not a problem, I currently have over 6 million pageins and they don't slow down the system. Pageouts are what slow down the system, because your HDD (or even SSD) is much slower than RAM. I have 166 pageouts.

    It does come down to practice. Lion is very RAM hungry, and I'm inclined to say that most users could benefit from more than 4 GB RAM or a SSD. Of course, anyone can benefit from a SSD.
  16. jlc1978 macrumors 68020


    Aug 14, 2009
    4GB is enough for most users. if you have no issues with load times, etc. then there is no reason to upgrade.

    While many people here will argue that you need 8GB (and it is cheap - I've seen good memory for less than $40); they are, IMHO, often more hung up on "specifications" than real world performance impacts of upgrades.
  17. 0dev macrumors 68040


    Dec 22, 2009
    I have 4GB RAM (though only 3GB is used on my machine) and I don't have problems with it. I guess, in the future, you'll need more to run whatever super-advanced OS they come out with in 5 years time, but for now, it's fine, and if your computer is upgradable past 4GB (as mine sadly is not), it's still "futureproofed" since you can stick more RAM in when you need it.
  18. sliesnham macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2011
    I currently have the following open

    Entourage (Outlook for mac)
    Activity monitor

    and I'm using 4.5GB RAM.

    I upgraded (4GB to 8GB) recently and whilst 4GB or RAM was okay, 8GB is much better, more fluid user experience and wins out on the cost/benefit ratio. Therefore, I would say, even for the average user, it's a cheap, worthwhile and easy upgrade if you do it yourself. £35/$50 or so.
  19. 9Benua macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2011
    You have spent 1200 and mulling for another $40. It's easy and cheap to upgrade, just do it.
  20. sweetbrat macrumors 65816


    Jun 17, 2009
    Redford, MI
    Upgrading to 8GB is a cheap upgrade, sure. But if you're not making use of it, what's the point? If your computer isn't actually using the extra RAM then you've just wasted $30 or $40. Everyone seems to want to upgrade just for the sake of upgrading, when instead they should be checking the resources their computers are using to see if it makes sense to upgrade. Unfortunately there's a lot of threads around here in which people tell others just to buy the 8GB instead of encouraging them to learn about their computer and what it actually needs.
  21. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    I don't know per se but I can make educated guesses and if you read the windows team blog it would be surprising if it didn't work. They design the thing to run on tablets with about 1GB RAM and no more. They use quite intelligent systems to give all apps the ram they really need and keep apps from taking ram that other apps have more use for. MS does a lot in Memory Management. OSX is pretty bad.
    Possible, but my usage would suggest you run into a lot of swapping with just casual work. My Win7 VM can do fine with 1GB memory with something like Opera, Word, two or three small background apps open. It used to run with a number of apps on my 2GB old single core Notebook. SL needs almost nothing to fill up RAM. Apps on OSX often need a lot more RAM than their Windows counterparts and still perform slower.

    Sure VM is probably the most RAM hungry business. If you don't need to do a whole lot in those. Some Linux distros do quite well with just 512MB. Win7 does fine with 1GB if you just need it for some Windows only software, or to check something.
    As for Browser if they don't have a memory leak and decent garbage collection they shouldn't get ever more RAM hungry. I don't use Safari but if it is that bad FF is a model student in comparison. Opera never even after weeks of use that much RAM. I saw it reach 2GB once but that was a bug and crashed soon after. Stable if limits itself depening on how much RAM there is. Used to be about 1.2 GB maximum no matter how long you run it.
    BTW 300+ tabs nobody needs and it hardly is casual use. If 250 of those are swapped nobody cares.

    What I meant to say is page outs are not really the problem either only an excessive number of them are. Some people act like they have 2 GB page outs and they need more RAM but if the Page Ins are 25GB and the system has been running for days, those page outs are negligible and one probably wouldn't notice the difference. The problem are too many page outs not page outs per se. What do you mean by 166? MB or page out events? In MB it is what I would define negligible.

    I never used Lion and won't unless I buy a new MBP one day I think. (There is really nothing in it that I would need) But if a casual user can benefit form 8GB RAM I probably wouldn't define that one a casual user. Or Lion RAM usage is absolutely through the roof.
  22. squeakr macrumors 68000


    Apr 22, 2010
    Comparing Windows and OS X memory management is not a fair comparison. They both manage memory differently. OS X is fine with loading up as much memory as possible and then freeing it for other apps as needs require. MS chooses to shoot for the lowest memory consumed and free up as much memory as possible to be ready for immediate deployment. Therefor the comparison is not fair.

    As for stating that OS X version use more memory and are slower performers. That again is not a fair comparison due to the memory management technique differences touched on above. Just because a program consumes free memory, doesn't mean that it requires that much memory (it just means that it is available so it grabs it). Some definitely are slower than their Windows counterparts, but that also is not a fair comparison as generally OS X versions are an afterthought within a company and the departments developing them are smaller and less driven than the Windows version (as the revenues are greater for the Windows version due to the nature of the size of the user base, Take the office suite as an example, they have a much smaller group of developers than the Windows side). These quirks are directly related to the differences of memory management between the two OS.
  23. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    This is true for Windows XP and before, but Windows 7 actually uses memory far more aggressively, much like OSX.


    The hard disk drive is the slowest component of your machine, even if you're using a SSD. DDR3 RAM 1333 MHz (like in the 2011 MBP and MBA) is about 20 times faster than today's fastest consumer drives. More RAM will always make for a smoother and faster computing experience. Even if the particular application is not optimised for large amounts of RAM, OSX uses RAM in ways to speed up the system. If there is RAM available OSX caches itself and anything that is used frequently into the RAM. This speeds up the machine significantly.
  24. lionheart619 macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2011
    I upgraded to 8 ram 1600 mhz for the 15 inch because I use my macbook pro for many activity that involves with ram usage. Currently right now I am shopping for solid state drive.
  25. NutsNGum macrumors 68030


    Jul 30, 2010
    Glasgow, Scotland
    RAM has little or nothing to do with how quickly Photoshop or any other application opens.

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