Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

It is not the processor that determines how much memory you will need in a computer, but what kinds of software you will run and how you will use the machine.

How much RAM will give me the best result with an Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 530, running at 2.93 gHz?

In this excerpt from Answercast #42, I answer a question about memory. How much you need depends on what you plan to do with the computer. More is always better!

Amount of RAM?

There is no answer to this. There's no possible answer to this. It could be half a gigabyte; it could be 16 gigabytes.

What matters is not the kind of CPU you're using. What matters is what you are doing with that CPU:

  • What are the programs you are running?

  • How much memory do they need?

  • How many programs are you running at the same time?

  • What kinds of things are you using your computer for?

  • Are they in fact CPU intensive or RAM intensive or disk intensive?

There is simply no way to say that a given processor needs this much RAM. That's actually, very truly, a nonsensical question.

How much RAM do my programs need?

The correct question is:

  • Here's what I plan to do with my computer...

  • These are the programs that I intend to run and how I intend to use it....

  • Now, how much memory do I really need?

More is better

Now, I will say (I mean the knee-jerk reaction whenever people talk to me about memory) is that in fact:

  • More is always better.

Adding memory to a slightly slow system is one of the fastest ways to speed it up. Windows uses more memory really well if you're doing anything that is at all remotely strenuous with the machine.

So, a knee-jerk reaction is to say:

  • Get as much as you can afford.

  • Or as much as you can put in the machine.

In reality, that's a safe answer – more is always better. What you specifically need for that particular processor depends entirely (and I do mean entirely) on what you intend to do with it.

Next from Answercast 42 – Does index.dat mean someone is spying on me?

Article C5677 - August 9, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Paul Schmidt
August 10, 2012 10:26 AM

If you're running a 32 bit OS, it can't use more than 4gig of ram. If 64 bit, it can handle 128gig.

Unless you're doing video editing, 12 to 16 gig is plenty. Above that, you're wasting money.

Not sure of the type, go to Control Panel - System & Security - System. You will see the bit size about the middle of the page.

August 10, 2012 7:45 PM

Sorry Paul, 64 bit (Win7) does not automatically handle 64 GB. This MS page:

documents the "artificial" hard coded limits on RAM support that MS has created. 64 bit Win 7 starts at 8 GB for Home basic, up to 192 GB for Pro and up. Other Windows editions have different ranges, up to 512GB for Windows Server.

Plus there are the hardware limits. Manufacturers limit the amount of RAM the computer will support based on the number of RAM slots and the type of RAM they allow.

I like your point of asking "what do you plan to do with the computer". The knee jerk reaction "more is better" is left over from days when RAM was really expensive (I paid an extra $500 for 2MB of RAM in my first computer, rather than default 640 kb)

Just yesterday I saw a comment saying "... RAM is cheap, I now automatically install 32 GB on all of my machines ..." . They didn't say what their business was, but I strongly doubt they really needed that much RAM.

August 11, 2012 2:10 AM

Doesn't the CPU have a cache? Some type of internal memory? I understood it as like the printing spool where commands took a number and waited their turn.

Mark J
August 11, 2012 8:35 AM

That memory you are referring to are what's know as registers. I'll refer you to this Wikipedia article on Process Registers for a more complete explanation.

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