Determining How Much Memory You Need

Determining Your Memory Needs!

While there are no “Rules of Thumb” or “Laws of Physics” on which to rely in determining exactly how much memory any one person needs, there are some relevant generalizations that you can use to get a pretty good idea of what you may need. These are based upon system testing using the indicated operating systems while running the various applications noted.

WINDOWS 95, 98 and 98SE

According to Microsoft®, Windows 98 requires 16 to 32MB of memory to run basic applications. Testing indicates that a 45% to 65% performance improvement can be achieved with memory amounts at 64MB and beyond. Therefore we feel the Baseline is: 32MB to 64MB with optimal performance achieved at: 128MB to 256MB *In some instances 384MB to 512MB of memory was required for heavy graphic manipulation, video and sound editing as well as Web content creation.

**Note also that Windows 98 has a memory limitation of 512MB.

Students Light word processing, basic financial management, e-mail and other light Internet use 32MB – 64MB
Medium home office applications, games, Internet surfing, downloading images, spreadsheets, presentations 64MB – 128MB
Heavy multimedia use such as video, graphics, music, voice recognition, design, complex images 128MB – 384MB*
Home Users Light word processing, basic financial management, e-mail and other light Internet use 32MB – 64MB
Medium home office applications, games, Internet surfing, downloading images, spreadsheets, presentations 64MB – 128MB
Heavy multimedia use such as video, graphics, music, voice recognition, design, complex images 256MB – 384MB*

WINDOWS MILLENNIUM EDITION

Microsoft® has hedged a bit in setting minimum memory requirements for its Millennium Edition of Windows. Although stated initially as 32MB, it appears that the requirements climb depending upon the hardware features added such as DVD, WebTV and Movie Maker. This edition of Windows was supposed to be streamlined, and in some ways it is, but in others it is both a memory hog and measurably slower than Windows 98SE.

We tested the Millennium Edition side-by-side with Windows 98 SE, and ME was an average of 6 to 8% slower than Windows 98 with an equal amount of RAM. These test results were obtained using Business Winstone 99, a benchmark program that simulates the performance of word processing and spreadsheet packages like Corel WordPerfect version 8, Lotus SmartSuite, and Microsoft Office 97. These programs normally require less memory than memory intensive multimedia applications such as those Microsoft has included as an alleged benefit of its new Windows edition.

We ran the benchmark program with the system restore feature on and off. With it on, it wasn’t possible to run the test with Microsoft’s recommended minimum of 32MB RAM. With this restore feature turned off, we obtained a slightly better result in every test. Then we decided to run Content Creation Winstone 2000. Content Creation Winstone is a benchmark program used to test system performance using multimedia creation applications such as the popular Adobe Premiere desktop video software. At the recommended 32MB, the testing was impossible, and at 64MB they were barely tolerable. When we upgraded to 128MB we achieved an average 52% increase in system performance. When we went to 256MB, system performance improved and average 102.5%, and at 384MB, we achieved an average 115% to 118% increase.

Therefore we feel the Baseline is: 64MB to 128MB with optimal performance achieved at: 256MB to 512MB

*In all instances 384MB to 512MB of memory was required for heavy graphic manipulation, video and sound editing as well as Web content creation. Click this link to see the Windows Millennium Edition System Requirements.

Students Light word processing, basic financial management, e-mail and other light Internet use 32MB – 64MB
Medium home office applications, games, Internet surfing, downloading images, spreadsheets, presentations 64MB – 128MB
Heavy multimedia use such as video, graphics, music, voice recognition, design, complex images 128MB – 384MB*
Home Users Light word processing, basic financial management, e-mail and other light Internet use 32MB – 64MB
Medium home office applications, games, Internet surfing, downloading images, spreadsheets, presentations 64MB – 128MB
Heavy multimedia use such as video, graphics, music, voice recognition, design, complex images 256MB – 384MB*

WINDOWS NT 4.0 WORKSTATION (SP5 and SP6)

Microsoft’s® minimum requirements for Windows NT 4.0 are 64MB

Increasing memory amounts in systems running Windows NT 4.0 gave even better results than the Windows 98 systems. The best results were gained with the Athlon 800 chip, which experienced a 54.9% performance increase when upgraded from 64MB all the way up to 384MB. The same upgrade gave an increase of up to 44.9% the Pentium III system. Upgrading from 64MB to just 256MB resulted in improvements ranging from 25% to 40.8%.

Therefore we feel the Baseline is: 64MB to 128MB
with optimal performance achieved at: 256MB to 512MB

*The following figures reflect testing and use in a typical PC environment. High-end workstation tasks may require up to 4GB of memory. Charts such as these evolve as applications become more memory and processor intensive and as developers of software and operating systems continue to add features and functionality to their products. 

Home, Administrative

and Services

Light word processing, e-mail, data entry 64MB – 96MB
Medium Fax and other communications, database administration, spreadsheets; 2 applications open at a time 64MB – 128MB
Complex documents, accounting, business graphics, presentation software, network connectivity 96MB – 256MB
Home, Administrative, Executives

and Analysts

Proposals, reports, spreadsheets, business graphics, databases, scheduling, presentations 64MB – 96MB
Complex presentations, sales/market analysis, project management, Internet access 96MB – 128MB
Statistical applications, large databases, research & technical analysis, complex presentations, video conferencing 128MB – 512MB
Home, Administrative, Executive, Engineering

and Designers

Light page layout, multi-colored line drawings, simple image manipulation, simple graphics 96MB – 128MB
Medium 2D/3D CAD, rendering, multimedia presentations, photo-editing, web development 128MB – 512MB
Heavy animation, complex photo editing, real time video, 3D CAD, solid modeling, finite element analysis 256MB – 1GB

WINDOWS 2000 PROFESSIONAL

Microsoft’s® minimum requirements for Windows 2000 Professional are 64MB.

Microsoft® officially launched Windows 2000 on February 17, 2000, although computer manufacturers, including us, started selling Windows 2000 based systems three weeks earlier on January 24th. This new family of operating systems is well on its way to becoming the next generation of home and business computing. Home? Yes, we did say next generation of home computing too! If you’re tired of instability, Windows 2000 is the way to go.

Windows 2000 Professional runs software applications faster, it’s notebook ready and its designed with the future in mind. Windows 2000 Professional allows you to take advantage of a full range of features today as well as being ready for the future by promising to run today’s and tomorrow’s applications better. Keep in mind though that while it’s not memory hungry, its speed thrives on memory!

Not everyone has a super duper 1GHz machine on which to run Windows 2000, so we decided to run some tests on some slower older style computers to see just how memory improves performance. Increasing memory from 32MB to 64MB on a Pentium 550 resulted in a 105% average improvement. With faster Pentium III processors, the improvement was more dramatic, averaging as high as 193%.

In some cases, going from 64MB to 128MB gave only an additional 17% to 20% improvement. While this may not sound like much, a 17% to 20% improvement is noticeable. It takes an approximate 40% increase in processor speed (e.g. 400MHz to 550MHz-600MHz) to achieve a performance increase in the area of 20%. Users upgrading to Windows 2000 must have at least 64MB of RAM with 128MB preferred, and we note that moving beyond 128MB to 256MB on some machines resulted in an average improvement of only 1%.

Here’s some test results we feel you might be interested in depending on the type of computer you own. Just click this link to open a small window.

Therefore we suggest a baseline of: 64MB – 128MB with optimal performance achieved at: 128MB – 512MB*

*Subject to the applications being used and operations being performed.

Home, Home Office, Administrative

and Services

Light word processing, e-mail, data-entry 64MB – 96MB
Medium Fax and other communications, database administration, spreadsheets; 2 applications open at a time 64MB – 128MB
Heavy complex documents, accounting, business graphics, presentation software, network connectivity 96MB – 256MB
Home, Home Office, Administrative Executives

and Analysts

Light proposals, reports, spreadsheets, business graphics, databases, scheduling, presentations 64MB – 96MB
Medium to complex presentations, sales and market analysis, project management, Internet access 96MB – 128MB
Heavy Statistical applications, large databases, research and technical analysis, complex presentations, video conferencing 128MB – 512MB
Home, Home Office, Administrative Executives, Analysts, Engineers and Designers Light page layout, 2 – 4 color line drawings, simple image manipulation, simple graphics 96MB – 128MB
Medium 2D CAD, rendering, multimedia presentations, simple photo editing, web development 128MB – 512MB
Heavy animation, complex photo editing, real time video, 3D CAD, solid modeling, finite element analysis 256MB – 1GB

WINDOWS 2000 SERVER

Indeed, as Microsoft promised, Windows 2000 Server provides a manageable, fast, compatible, secure solution for today’s growing enterprises. For optimal performance, consider adding as much memory as possible to take advantage of the robust feature set offered in Windows 2000 Server. Windows 2000 Server is future-ready and will easily run today’s and tomorrow’s applications better. All of our servers run on Windows 2000, therefore our recommendations are based solely upon our experiences. Your mileage may differ!

Therefore we suggest a baseline of: 128MB – 256MB with optimal performance achieved between: 1GB and 3GB

*Servers running AD can user all of the memory you can put in the box!

Application Server Houses one or more applications to be accessed over a wide user base 256MB – 4GB
Directory Server Houses information on server locations and uses 128MB – 2GB
Print Server Distributes print jobs to appropriate printers 128MB – 512MB
Communication Server Manages a variety of communications such as PBX, Voicemail and E-mail 512MB – 2GB
Web Server Houses one or more websites, used also in e-commerce 512MB – 2GB

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WINDOWS 2000 ADVANCED SERVER

Windows 2000 Advanced Server is designed especially for running line of business and e-Commerce applications and it delivers on the promise of a powerful and robust operating system. Supporting up to 8GB of memory, 8 processors and embedded clustering technologies, Windows 2000 Advanced server is the right choice for companies who rely on technology to do business.

Therefore we suggest a baseline of: 1GB to 2GB minimum with optimal performance achieved between: 2GB and 8GB

*Servers running AD can user all of the memory you can put in the box! Add a minimum of 256MB to 512MB of memory per additional processor.

Web Server Web server supporting an organization’s web site and/or online commerce. In most cases, supported by a Database server for data warehousing. 1GB – 4GB
Application Server Runs enterprise applications like SAP®, PeopleSoft® and Seibel® software supporting a wide user base of 100 or more. 2GB – 8GB
Database Server Runs high-end database applications like Oracle®, Sybase® or SQL® Server. Houses and manages an organization’s central database to handle file systems for large scale applications 4GB – 8GB

WINDOWS 2000 DATACENTER SERVER

Windows 2000 Datacenter Server extends the 32-bit family of the Windows operating system into the high-end, scalable territory once dominated by UNIX. As a superset of Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Datacenter offers all of the capabilities of the Windows 2000 family and incorporates all of the bug fixes in Service Pack 1. It includes a number of unique features designed to meet the needs of large data warehouses, large-scale science and engineering simulations, online transaction processing, and other enterprises with horse power requirements.

To meet these needs, Datacenter supports up to 32 processors, compared to eight processors for Advanced Server and in Windows 2000 Server. Datacenter can access up to 64 GB of RAM, a huge increase over the 8GB support in Advanced Server and 4 GB in Windows 2000 Server. Like Advanced Server, Datacenter supports 32-node Network Load Balancing, but Datacenter doubles its support for Server Clustering (failover) to a maximum of four nodes, compared with only two in Advanced Server. Datacenter’s four-node failover support ensures that remaining servers on a cluster automatically pick up the slack when a server fails.

At the concept level, Datacenter supports two types of scalability, a Windows-centric scale-out model and the more UNIX-like scale up model. In the scale out model, capacity is added by adding more servers to the mix. Datacenter supports this feature through NLB and Server Clustering. In the UNIX-like scale-up model, a single server gains capacity by adding more hardware resources, such as RAM, hard drives, and microprocessors. Datacenter implements scale-up through its support of 32-processors and 64 GB of RAM in a single system. Because Datacenter supports both modes, it offers customers a choice when it comes to adding capacity. This choice formerly required a decision between Windows and UNIX platforms. For scalability to be as linear as possible, the underlying software needs to be designed, configured, and tuned correctly. Microsoft says that Datacenter achieves this balance. Other Microsoft Server products, such as SQL Server 2000, are now offering this dual mode scaling as well.

Given the uniqueness of the Datacenter product, it is impossible to make a recommendation as to the amounts of RAM memory that would be optimal on a blanket basis such as this.

This page updated: 11/01/2000

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