Why Only 512MB of RAM?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by T-Stex, Jun 29, 2006.

  1. T-Stex macrumors 6502

    Jan 15, 2006
    After playing around with my brand new black MacBook today, I started getting annoyed. I've been constantly getting the spinning beachball, when running only native apps. Trying to run Photoshop was essentially unbearable, and I also made the mistake of trying to run two PowerPC apps at the same time. I'm just wondering why Apple doesn't increase the amount of RAM that's standard on the new Intel-based Macs. Currently, the only apps I've got open are Safari and Activity Monitor, and I've only got 32MB of RAM free. Needless to say, I've ordered more ram from DataMem, but I just feel like an otherwise amazing computer is crippled right out of the box.
  2. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Apple has historically been rather skimpy on base-level RAM...probably just trying to shave a few bucks and keep the prices down. It's generally usable with the base RAM in there, but definitely not snappy.

    So, um, yeah...you're doing the right thing. Buy more RAM. :cool:
  3. livingfortoday macrumors 68030

    Nov 17, 2004
    The Msp
    Well, for what most people will need, 512MB is just fine. I'd say most regular Mac users don't run apps like Photoshop.
  4. olivia macrumors member

    Jun 22, 2006
    i wrote a thread on this same problem today... i'd been fiddling around with the macbook at the apple store and got the beachball about 50 times just on safari, word, and itunes.

    i know that word is processor-intensive or whatever, but it's very commonly used and definitely not photoshop.

    have to admit, it was pretty annoying and is now another thing stalling my purchase
  5. dejo Moderator


    Staff Member

    Sep 2, 2004
    The Centennial State
    Sure, but how much more is "inactive"? That's essentially free RAM too.
  6. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    I don't trust the behavior of machines in the store...people beat the crud out of those things.

    Find a friend or co-worker who has a Mac and see if they'll let you play around with it for a few minutes. 512 MB really is the bare minimum, and once you get into Photoshop-level software, you'll need more.

    If you keep your system in good shape, it'll run fine. I'm running Tiger on a 500 MHz iBook with 384 MB of RAM...I don't do heavy-duty things with it, but I do have Safari and Office going at the same time. It slows down a bit once in a while, but not annoyingly so for me. Sure, my PowerBook with 1.5 GB of RAM can do a lot more, but for basic things, they function pretty similarly.
  7. FullmetalZ26 macrumors regular

    Jun 12, 2006
    That's normal for how memory management works in Unix/BSD based operating systems. If I remember correctly, the kernel gradually snatches up free memory that isn't being used up to a certain amount then reallocates it to new processes as necessary, hence the small 'free' memory number. As long as you still have a decent percentage of memory showing as 'Inactive', you should be okay. That's not to say that more memory won't benefit your machine, though.
  8. Silentwave macrumors 68000

    May 26, 2006
    Gainesville, FL

    Perhaps, but I think part of why more RAM may be especially important in the macbook for instance is that some of it is being used by the integrated graphics. 512mb is really low IMHO if you want to have more than a few basic things open. I wish Apple would have 1gb minimum...but that's not important right now.
  9. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    The "free memory" number in "Activity Monitor" is very much misunderstood.

    "Free" means: Your Macintosh didn't find anything useful to do with that memory. During normal use, the Macintosh will use memory for example to remember things that were read from the harddisk - that memory will not count as "free" anymore, and the data stored there may or may not be useful at some time, but if your applications need memory, it will be thrown out at no cost. Add "inactive" to the free memory number.

    That said, you could have bought yourself a white MacBook with plenty of memory for the same price as a black MacBook with the minimum amount, and anyone here on MacRumors would have advised you to do exactly that if you had asked for advice before buying.
  10. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

    Jun 25, 2002
    Gone but not forgotten.
    The trouble is that MS Word is not a native application; therefore, it has to run through Rosetta and you'd better have 2 GB of RAM for smooth operation on PowerPC-based applications.

    512 MB isn't a lot really but thankfully, the hard drives run at 5400 rpm or more now so when Virtual Memory kicks in, it takes less time to swap processes.

    Native Intel-based applications are still going to require plenty of memory and past the basic e-mail, web browsing, and light word processing, you might need more. As Mac OS X is on Intel processors longer, Apple will speed things up.

    It's a shame that Apple sells machines with so little RAM, but they finally doubled it within the last couple of years.
  11. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    i'd just get two cheap 1GB sticks, you can get a pair for like 150 bucks.
  12. steve_hill4 macrumors 68000


    May 15, 2005
    NG9, England
    I'll testify to that, I have 1.5GB and regularly show that I only have a few meg free, even when running few apps. Perofrmance doesn't seem to be affected significantly though.
  13. phoenix9744 macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2006
    Buy More Ram!

    I am sorry but 512 simply is not enough for alot of people. even doing basic things, the slow down is quite annoying. I mean if you are going to pay 1100+ for a mac or 2000+ for a macbook pro, spend an extra 86 bucks and buy an extra gig of ram. I have a macbook pro and have it at 1.5 GB and my gf has a macbook just put another gig in there so she has 1.25gb. Both systems fly.
    I got the extra 1GB chip from Newegg.com for $86. Cheapest i've found!
  14. kevin.rivers macrumors 6502a


    Dec 4, 2005
    Um. I am on a 20" iMac, granted I have dedicated graphics memory as well a faster hard drive and a slighty faster processor. But these things are moot, when I have only 512MB.

    However I have had no problem running Photoshop, Word, iTunes, Camino, and whatever else I need to run, with minimal slow down.

    As has been stated by a few, the "Free" is misleading as you have inactive memory as well. It would be almost unheard of to be running Safari and Activity Monitor and have on 32MB Free. Common Sense would tell you this.

    You made the right decision by buying more memory though, you shouldn't notice any "slow down" in your brain anymore.
  15. milozauckerman macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2005
    The important number to look at is pageouts. If you're racking them up, that means your computer is being slowed by the amount of RAM.

    At $150 for 2GB (from NewEgg, G. Skill I think it was), better to max it out and never have to worry.
  16. chairguru22 macrumors 6502a

    May 31, 2006
    512MB isnt so bad with the macbook...

    im d/l COD2 demo in the background (666MB), 4 tabbed websites in Safari, two Pages documents, a Keynote presentation, iCal, iPhoto, iTunes, a couple Finder windows, and Activity Monitor and it said i had 8MB 'free' and 115 'inactive.' Things werent as snappy as they usually are but definitely usuable.
  17. Erendiox macrumors 6502a


    Oct 15, 2004
    Brooklyn NY
    not so long ago, 256mb was the base amount of ram in many macs. :eek: :D

    512 is fine for most users. You also have to understand that activity monitor isn't going to give you a synopsis on your ram usage that is easy to understand. OSX will use as much ram as it can to keep your system running as fast and smooth as possible. If you give it 512mb of ram, it will divide that ram up as it sees fit to maximize speed. If you give the same mac 1gig of ram and run the exact same set of applications, you'll see that the operating system probably uses up most, if not all, of the 1 gig of ram. It puts as much ram as it can to good use.

    You also have to understand that looking at how much ram you have "free" is not a good measurement of whether or not you have enough ram. Look at the number of pageouts. Pageouts is the number of data packets that gets swapped from your hard drive, and is the true culprit when it comes to slowdowns. If you run for a day and get more than say 100,000 pageouts, then you're taxing your ram, and would benefit from more. Zero pageouts is always best. :)
  18. chairguru22 macrumors 6502a

    May 31, 2006
    60,000 pageouts after 4 hours of uptime :eek: ive been thinking about more RAM but i dont want to be too much faster than my PC :D
  19. Deepdale macrumors 68000


    May 4, 2005
    New York
    That is a very important distinction and one that I had a chance to follow-up on yesterday between attending Apple Store workshops.

    I restarted a MacBook that had 1GB RAM installed. Then I opened iTunes, iPhoto, Safari, Pages, Sherlock, Dictionary and Activity Monitor, plus this computer had five widgets. The memory usage tab in AM indicated that 18MB was free memory, but approximately 550MB was still inactive.

    That was followed by another restart. The same apps detailed above were all reopened, but then I added the following ... Grab, iCal, Mail, Excel, Preview, QuickTime Player and Word. Before I looked at the memory use in AM, I connected to the Music Store to begin a download of a 38 minute National Public Radio podcast.

    Activity Monitor showed free memory to be 13MB (just about the same as the 18 earlier), and inactive memory was now 285MB. The system responded well and I was not plagued with the beachball. Having all those items open simultaneously is something that the vast majority of users are not going to do.

    However, the exercise should reassure prospective buyers that for more typical use from those not reliant upon the most demanding video and photo apps and others running under Rosetta, 1GB RAM will suffice very nicely. If one feels a need for the security blanket that 2GB would provide to ensure a better night's sleep, by all means go for it. The question is whether or not it is truly needed.
  20. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    My iBook came with 256MB in late 2004.

    It's got 512MB now, I'm saving to take it up to 1.25GB around the time Leopard comes out. New laptop due in 2008 - hopefully something top of the range and maxed out.
  21. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    That's what I was going to say as well. Switchers just doesn't understand all this when they first start using Macs. Not necessarily his fault, though.
  22. coffey7 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 12, 2006
    I was using toast and it took 8 hours to incript one video file about 1 hour in length.I thought I had two processors in my macbook.I also had toast say it had an error 5 times in a row and have to quit.I'm upgrading to 2 gb. maybe then I can burn a disc in under a day.
  23. howesey macrumors 6502a

    Dec 3, 2005
    What I find strange is, Apple could be making a saving by having 1GB of RAM.

    Quite a few manufacturers, 1GB is cheaper than 512MB stick of RAM.

    Dell go on the bandwagon and advertise "free double memory".
  24. coryp420 macrumors newbie

    Jun 12, 2006
    Tampa Bay, Florida
    Just a note, unless you've upgraded to version 7.1 this week, Toast is a Power PC app. Core Duos are quick, but working with anything video under rosetta is gonna take a very noticable performance hit.

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