‘How much RAM do I need’ is one of the most common questions asked when it comes to PC and Mac purchasing. The nuts and bolts of computer specifications can often be confusing, even for seasoned tech-heads, and when manufacturers are consistently throwing numbers at you it can get overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put this handy guide together, to steer you through the labyrinthine world of Random Access Memory and help you find the right size of memory for your needs. See also: Best laptops you can buy in 2014
First, a word of caution. This article primarily applies to machines running a 64-bit operating system (you can find out whether your version of Windows is 64- or 32-bit in the ‘System’ section of the Control Panel). The 32-bit operating system is only found on older machines, and can only utilize a maximum of 4GB of RAM, so make sure you know if your system can support it before you make any purchases.
Another issue to bear in mind is that for laptop computing, the more memory you have installed means more memory that the system has to power. This means that overstuffing a laptop with more memory than is needed can result in shortening the battery life needlessly, so be careful.
How much RAM do I need: Word Processing + Browsing
These days, a PC can be found in almost every home in the country, and the majority of these machines are used for nothing more taxing than typing up documents, listening to music and surfing the web.
These tasks are what PCs are built for, and all machines from the last couple of years should be more than capable of handling these tasks without breaking a sweat. However, if you’re looking to upgrade an older machine, or buy a new one outright, then 4GB should be more than enough to handle HD movies, web browsing and running a few Office programs.
How much RAM do I need: Gaming
Most of the current top-rated triple-A games recommend between 4 and 8GB of RAM to be able to runt them at the higher settings, so 6GB should be sufficient to run the majority of releases if you’re willing to compromise a little on framerate and graphics quality. However, if you’ve got the extra cash, it’s worth splashing out for 8GB or even 16GB if you really want to future-proof your machine. This will ensure you can run the more intensive gaming experiences, and that you won’t have to upgrade all over again in the near future.
See also: Best gaming PCs
How much RAM do I need: Photo Editing
Photoshop can be one of the most taxing programs that a system can run, due to the size of the uncompressed files it works with. Adobe’s official specifications state that the bare minimum needed to run the program is a mere 2GB of RAM, but that can often result in frustrating, toe-curlingly slow operating speeds, so it’s worth bumping that up a bit. Adobe recommends 8GB, which should give you ample horsepower to edit photos whilst still running programs like Firefox to search for more resources.
How much RAM do I need: Video Editing
One of the best video editing suites for Windows is Adobe’s Premier Pro software. Because it has to process lots of large, high-quality video files, the requirements are a little bit more strict than its cousin, Photoshop; the latest iteration of Premier Pro requires double the memory, clocking in at a 4GB minimum. However, the recommended amount remains unchanged at 8GB. Still though, if you’re planning to edit a lot of particularly high-definition video, it might be worth going a few gigs beyond that to make sure you’re not hampered by performance issues.