How Much Memory Do I Need?

Not a day passes that someone doesn't ask us how much memory they should have in their computer. And each and every time they are expecting a simple one or two line answer advising them to buy 64MB, 128MB or what have you. Almost none are expecting us to ask the several questions that we do before we provide an answer.

If your retailer is telling you that you need "X" and they aren't asking any questions, find another retailer!

Your retailer should be asking you...

What type of computer do you have and how old is it?
The type and age of your computer is extremely important, but not necessarily for the most obvious of reasons. It doesn't make sense to suggest large amounts of memory for a user who is still using their 486 DX66 or 100, or their Pentium 90 to 160. Of course these machines may be running just fine, but suggesting that they have 128MB of memory doesn't make much sense given the prices of new computers today. There is also the possibility that the computer may not be able to use that much memory. Although memory has never been as inexpensive as it is today, it still has a price and this should be considered. When tied to the question below as to how the computer is, or will be, used, this question becomes even more relevant.

What operating system are you using on your computer?
Does it matter? Of course it does! There is MS-DOS, Windows 3.1 (yes it's still in use), Windows 95, Windows 98, NT 4.0 Workstation, NT 4.0 Server, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Linux and a few others to consider. To a certain extent, each have their own memory requirements based upon the intended use. If you're using Windows 95 or Windows 98, and you're only using it to send E-mail, do some word processing and surf the Internet, your memory requirements will be far less than those of someone creating graphics, developing and testing software or managing a large database, which brings us to the next question.

How do you use, or plan on using, your computer?
Of the three questions, this is the most important. How you plan on using your computer will set the demand on how much memory you need. Manufacturers would love to be able to tell you how much memory you need or how much you should buy, and often some try, but the simple fact is that they can't answer this simple question for themselves. The "Rule of Thumb" for determining this need is that their isn't a Rule of Thumb. The accompanying Web pages will assist you in making a determination of what your individual memory needs are.

Frequently Asked Questions About Memory

Megabyte (MB) vs. Megabit (Mb)

Review Our RAM Recommendations

Review our Windows ME Testing

Memory Trends in 2001

Click here to go to the Performance Center Home Page

This page updated: 1/21/2001

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