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RAM vs Processor Speed: When does more RAM become pointless?

by TBermudez / June 20, 2008 12:26 PM PDT

I'm no whiz when it comes to computers, but I have taught myself a good amount. In fact, I would say I know a good deal more than the average person (which isn't saying much). However, I have a bit of a conundrum I have been trying to get a handle on for some time now.

From what I understand is that RAM is mainly what will enhance your computers performance and speed. However, you still need to have a decent processor speed.

My question is (1) when does adding more RAM become basically pointless or does it ever become pointless. If I have an 2.01GHz AMD Sempron Processor with 1GB of RAM, will it noticeably boost my computers performance and speed if I were to upgrade to 2GB of RAM?

(2) Is there ever a point when I should either upgrade my processor or buy a new system all together?

In otherwords, is it worth having 4GB of RAM if you have a slow processor speed of say 1.67GHz or maybe even lower?

(3) Is there some kind of equation or standard that I should consider when upgrading RAM on any computer compared to processor speed?

Any help or information regarding this conundrum would go a long way.


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Up to 2 GB, after that it's all CPU
by squirtlewa / June 20, 2008 1:53 PM PDT

Intel has a training/promotional system for on-line training for retailers. I'm not sure if I can link it here.

This month they did some benchmarking tests where they configured computers with diff amounts of RAM, diff CPU speeds, and then subjected them to tests. The gist of the results -- going up to 2 GB gave some benefit. Beyond that the graphs were flat.

Of course it will depend somewhat on what you do on the computer. If it's crunching lots and lots of numbers AND you've spent the money on an operating system and programs that are able to take advantage of more RAM, then those tests findings don't apply to you. There's a reason servers can have dozens of GB of RAM, eh.

For ordinary people doing things like playing games, making movies, running spreadsheets, etc. you tap out on RAM pretty quick now that DDR2 is so very cheap.

There's still a common misperception among consumers that more RAM is better.

Your questions (1) going 1 to 2 GB will feel better particularly in Vista

(2) there's never any reason (in regular Windows XP or Vista) to go to 4 GB, as that last GB isn't even addressable. Going to 3 GB from 2 GB won't increase performance perceptibly if even there's an increase.

(3) I can't give an equation, per se, because the rules are different if you're a typical consumer versus you're Blizzard(tm) or Paramount Pictures, ya know.
For people whose computers are desktops or laptops, the answer is upgrade your RAM to 2 GB and stop. If you want to be absolutely sure, get 3 GB.
Only if you have to compensate for feelings of small e-peen should you go for more.

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also 4 gigs not needed unless 64bit
by mementh / June 20, 2008 3:00 PM PDT

also 4 gigs not needed unless 64bit, meaning if your operating system is not Windows XP 64bit or Vista 64bit, your computer cant use more then 4 gigs of ram. the CPU might recognize it but the os can't access it.

If it is a 64 bit OS then it will work up to some large ammount. (which will be reached in 10 years)

But as previously stated.. if your not doing things that REQUIRE alot of ram.. your ok.. (VIDEO and AUDIO and PICTURE or 3D RENDERING can benifit from more ram in some applications)

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by TBermudez / June 25, 2008 7:42 AM PDT

Thank you both for your help on this matter. Your responses were very helpful.


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Something else to consider....
by jbking2 / June 27, 2008 11:59 AM PDT

Processors are more than just the clock speed as there are single, dual, triple and quad-core CPUs out now and depending on what task you are doing, the additional cores can provide some performance boost. Also, Intel's Celeron and AMD's Sempron are low-end processors compared to others and the top of the line is usually extremely expensive and not worthwhile unless you are willing to spend big bucks to have what will be the best for maybe a year at most as new processors are regularly coming out from Intel and AMD each year.

I would suggest looking at how much RAM is your system usually using as a way to gauge how well additional memory is worthwhile. For example, as a web developer I have both browser windows and my development environment software both using 500 MB of memory usually and so in my case going from 1 GB of RAM to 2 GB was a major improvement. If I just surf the web and use e-mail then it may not be so worthwhile.


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