Will upgrading from 4GB to 8GB RAM significantly enhance performance?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by TurtleGerald, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. TurtleGerald macrumors newbie


    Oct 28, 2013
    Manchester, UK
    Hi All,

    I bought my Mac mini last October and have been very pleased with it, but since getting a retina MBP earlier this year, the mini feels very slow by comparison.

    The mini is the base spec with 4GB Ram. Would replacing this with 8GB make a noticeable difference in performance? (i.e. less beach ball spinning, faster app switching etc.).

    Your thoughts and experiences would be much appreciated!

    Many thanks,
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    It depends on your usage. I personally saw an improvement going to 8GB but it all depends on how you use your Mac.

    Open up the Activity Monitor and see how your page outs are, if you're reading a lot of page outs then your Mac is a bit constrained resource wise.
  3. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    I definitely think you'd see an improvement, especially if you use resource hogs like safari.
  4. CausticPuppy macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2012
    Does your mini have an SSD?

    If not, then that's probably the biggest reason you see a difference.
  5. kappaknight macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2009
    ^^ Agreed. An SSD will make a more noticeable difference than RAM.
  6. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    [[ The mini is the base spec with 4GB Ram. Would replacing this with 8GB make a noticeable difference in performance? ]]

    The answer is, "it depends".

    It depends on what you're doing with it.

    For many tasks (even some running concurrently), the additional RAM probably won't make a noticeable difference at all.

    For some RAM-intensive applications, it might make all the difference in the world.

    I bought my late-2012 Mini last January. It's been running fine with the factory-installed 4gb of RAM since then. No beachballs I can recall, apps switch immediately. I don't process movies or huge Photoshop files on it, however. Your needs may be different.

    What _WILL_ make an astounding difference in speed, and make the Mini feel much snappier, is an SSD as your boot drive.

    For most folks, I think the SSD is the more worthwhile "bump-up" expenditure...
  7. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Not necessarily. It depends on what he's doing. If he's using photoshop, then RAM is more important. In fact, if you have 16 GB of RAM with CS6, an SSD is pretty much irrelevant and won't increase performance unless the user runs out of RAM, which would almost never happen with 16 GB.
  8. w0lf macrumors 65816


    Feb 16, 2013
    Probably not.

    If you're not seeing swap used on a daily or very frequent basis you will likely see no improvements at all. If you are seeing swap used often then yes you will see some improvements but not even close to the difference you would see from going from hdd to ssd.

    The average user doesn't really need more than 4gb of ram, even 2gb is still reasonable depending on your usage of the machine.
  9. scbond macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2010
    Nottingham, UK
    It won't make a blind bit of difference if you don't use the 4 GB of memory in the first place. For example, if your regular usage consists of around using up 2 GB of memory then once you upgrade to 8 GB you'll still be using 2 GB of memory.
  10. hudson1 macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2012
    My wife's MacBook became barely usable with 2 GB RAM. When I upgraded it to 4 GB, she says the result was day and night from before. She's not a power user, either.
  11. TurtleGerald thread starter macrumors newbie


    Oct 28, 2013
    Manchester, UK
    Thank you!

    Hi Again!

    Thanks for all your responses - you've given me a lot to think about.

    I do quite a lot of multitasking - much of my work involves having at least the following running all at once:
    1) Mail
    2) Calendar
    3) Safari (1 or 2 tabs)
    4) MS Word 2011 (anywhere between 1 and 3 documents)
    5) Preview (PDF)
    6) Often iTunes will be on in the background too.

    Perhaps some more RAM would help - With all that stuff running right now, I'm using 3.99GB of 4GB.

    I'm also considering hooking up a second display (though I don't see RAM making any difference there).

    I would love to put an SSD in, but the cost of a 500GB SSD plus the complexity of installing it is rather prohibitive right now and to be honest, if I had that kind of money spare I'd be upgrading my iPad 2 to an iPad Air!

    Thanks again for all your answers!

  12. scbond, Oct 29, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013

    scbond macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2010
    Nottingham, UK
    Is that what I said?! No, it wasn't. Maybe I'll expand the example for you...

    If Jimbo uses 3 GB worth of memory regularly then 2 GB of RAM won't be enough and the computer will hang. If Jimbo then upgrade to 4 GB RAM he should be fine...so if he then goes to 8 GB nothing changes.

    In short, increasing RAM capacity doesn't speed anything up if you don't use it all in the first place. Thinking that it does is like thinking that a 1 TB 5,400 RPM mechanical SATA 2 disk drive will be faster than a 500 GB drive that is otherwise identical.


    Multitasking, yes. Intensive, no. Firstly, you need to ask yourself if you actually need all of those open at the exact same time. Secondly, you need to ask what is wrong with your Mac if it's using that much memory for those tasks.

    When your Mac refers to 'memory used' that doesn't mean you are actually using it all, that's just what is essentially being reserved ready for use. I just have Chrome, Mail, Transmission and Adium open yet it says I'm "using" 7.09 GB...I somehow doubt it very much as the majority of it is just the memory cache.
  13. Schnort macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2013
    4GB should be fine for all of that, plus about 20-30 more tabs in Safari. With room to spare.
  14. Jambalaya macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2013
    Have you put Mavericks on it ? I would suggest that first.

    My "mrs" has a 2012 rMBP with 4GB and she gets far less beach balls with Mavericks. Having said that we'll upgrade to 8 or 10 (i.e. the 2 plus an 8) I imagine now that it's out of warranty, for her I think 16 is not worth it - just word / excel / mail and web browsing really.

    I had a 2009 2GB Mini (and a full HDD) which was transformed with 8GB and bigger HDD (SSD was too expensive for me), I appreciate this isn't a direct comparison.
  15. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012

    When I bought a used 2010 21.5" iMac last year, I used it for about 2 weeks in stock form, then swapped out the hard drive with an SSD, then about a week or so later upgraded the RAM from 4 to 8GB. Obviously, the SSD install made a huge difference in every day usage; one bounce when opening apps and generally very snappy performance. I didn't think increasing RAM would do much, and while the increase in speed (again, normal usage like web surfing, MS Office, etc.) was small, it was still noticeable. I did not check for page-outs or any of that; I just went ahead and installed the extra RAM because I found a guy on Craigslist who was selling Apple RAM for cheap (hope it was not stolen or something). I figure 8GB of RAM will future proof my machine for quite a while; probably the rest of its useful life (another 2 or 3 years hopefully).
  16. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Apple doesn't manufacture RAM, so there is no Apple RAM. Apple buys RAM from RAM manufacturers.
  17. eXan macrumors 601


    Jan 10, 2005
    Yes, it depends. Take a screenshot of the Memory view in Activity Monitor and post here.

    When I upgraded 4GB RAM on iMac to 12 GB I noticed a world of difference - and it wasn't running memory-hog 10.8 too! Even the basic multitasking can soak up all your RAM these days and even Mavericks doesn't help much - I see that every day on my 4 GB MBP.

    Example: just today during studying I was experiencing heavy slowdowns when running only Safari, Mail, Calendar, Word, Pages and Powerpoint.

    Lets see that screenshot of yours first!

    /Offtiopic: does anyone else find the "Memory Pressure" graph not really indicative enough? I mean it stays green all the time for me still, but I can constantly feel the slowdowns caused by running out of RAM :/

    Attached Files:

  18. Menge macrumors 6502a


    Dec 22, 2008
    If the OS shows as using 3.99GB of 4GB, then you'd definitely benefit from more RAM. I'd recommend 8GB. Look at the "Swap used" area as well: if it's getting any action, then you'll benefit. The higher the "Swap used" value, the more you'll benefit. Usually your RAM+Swap used is a good estimate of what you need. Since you have 4GB, going to 8GB is the next step.
  19. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    Don't be obtuse: I inferred the RAM was harvested from other Mac computers and being sold on Craigslist. Clearly Apple doesn't make their own RAM (or any individual component for any of their products as far as I know). They are a systems integrator.
  20. fa8362, Oct 30, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013

    fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Apple isn't a systems integrator. A systems integrator will take an Apple computer, iPad, phone, etc., combine it with other products, and sell it as a complete solution for a specific problem or set of problems.
  21. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    That's 2 strikes. Check this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_integrator

    Please stop making stuff up.
  22. Miat macrumors 6502a

    Jul 13, 2012
    I recently upgraded my 2012 Mini from 4 to 16GB RAM, and it makes a big difference. Before more RAM it was Page Out city. After, not a single Page Out. :)

    4 GB just was not enough. 8GB probably would have been fine, but I got a good price on the 16GB, so what the hell. A bit of extra RAM never hurts.

    (Should mention that I am still running the standard 5400 RPM hard drive, and have not upgraded to Mavericks yet. )
  23. fa8362, Oct 31, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013

    fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    I can see that comprehending what you read is not a strength of yours. By your erroneous interpretation, nearly every manufacturer of anything is a systems integrator, making the term meaningless.
  24. haravikk macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2005
    RAM will definitely make a difference, but if you're thinking of upgrading to Mavericks (personally I'm waiting for the first update at least), then the memory compression may benefit you for free. Some tests have shown systems getting very close to the full 50% benefit, so 4gb will be like having 6gb, and if you don't use any huge memory hogs then that means compression ought to give you a nice boost without costing you a penny.

    If you're using single apps that push the limit of your RAM however, then yes more RAM will help.

    It's also worth noting that even for people who don't normally use much of their RAM that OS X does preload commonly used apps into free RAM, just in case. So having more RAM means OS X can preload more stuff, so it's almost always better.

    So yeah, an SSD might be good investment, but personally I prefer to try more RAM first as it's still much faster than an even a good SSD. But if most of your slowness comes from opening files, then an SSD may be the better option.
  25. monkeybagel macrumors 65816

    Jul 24, 2011
    United States
    Considering the price of Macintoshes and how little RAM most of them have from the factory, and the price of RAM currently, I can't see many instances where it would not be worthwhile to upgrade to 8GB or 16GB if the machine will accept it.

    My 2010 Mac mini came with 2GB, which was considerably too low even running 10.6.x. I upgraded it to 8GB immediately, and it made a considerable difference.

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