Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here.

Would it be worthwhile to upgrade my RAM?

Hi Leo. I know that in the past you said that increasing the RAM on your machine is probably the first thing that you would do to increase performance. But I’m wondering: These days, when machines come with generous amounts of RAM already installed, if that would still be your advice? I have an HP computer that came with 8 GB of RAM, but it will take 16 if I sacrifice the two 4 GB wafers. Do you think this would be worthwhile? I’ve already optimized the machine by fitting a Solid State Drive and this has made a big difference in performance. A RAM upgrade seems the other obvious thing to do.

Machines are definitely coming with more RAM these days. Prices dropped, so increasing RAM became very feasible for manufacturers to do.

So, let’s talk about RAM.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

RAM and speed

Whether or not more RAM would be better depends on exactly how you use your computer and what it is that you do. Clearly, the Solid State Drive was a good idea. Whether or not additional RAM will have an impact on your overall computer’s speed is really difficult to say. It’s  a function of what programs you run, how much RAM they require, and even how many programs you run at the same time.

RAMFor example, I run a desktop with 8 GB. That’s plenty for me except when I want to run more than one virtual machine. That’s when I wish I could add more RAM. My machine is five years old and 8 GB is its physical limit.

My guess is that more than 8 GB won’t help most people today. To make sure that your machine can be upgraded, my advice is to think about the future. Make sure that your machine can be as useful for as long as possible – perhaps by adding that extra RAM to it someday when it’s really needed.

For now, what I’d do is run Process Explorer. Hit Ctrl+I in Process Explorer and you’ll get a summary. Watch the memory usage. If it never approaches 8 GB, then you’re in fine shape – for now.

2 comments on “Would it be worthwhile to upgrade my RAM?”

  1. Leo –

    Hi. All other things being equal, including the total cost of the Windows 7 PC’s, what would be a better purchase from a performance standpoint: (a) a system with 8 GB of RAM and an Intel i3 processor (3.7 GHz, dual core), or (b) a system with 4 GB of RAM and an Intel i5 process (2.0 GHz, quad core)? This is for a user who is not a gamer and won’t be doing things that are CPU intensive.


    • Offhand I’d probably opt for a. On any new machine another important factor is not how much ram it HAS, but how much COULD it have. Adding RAM later can often lengthen a machine’s life.

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article. Comments indicating you've not read the article will be removed.
  • Comment on the article. New question? Start with search, at the top of the page. Off-topic comments will be removed.
  • No personal information. Email addresses, phone numbers and such will be removed.
  • Add to the discussion. Comments that do not — typically off-topic or content-free comments — will be removed.

All comments containing links will be moderated before publication. Anything that looks the least bit like spam will be removed.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.