Why Upgrading Your RAM Is No Longer A Silver Bullet [Video]

Once upon a time, upgrading your PC's RAM was a sure-fire way to increase its performance. These days, this is not always the case; especially if you already have 4GB or memory on board. Techquickie host Linus Sebastian explains why you might be better off plumping for a solid-state drive, and how to know whether a RAM upgrade will actually speed up your PC.

These days, all but the cheapest computers -- even if they're two or three years old -- probably come with sufficient RAM for most people. We've mentioned this before: 4GB is plenty for a lot of us. If you're running really heavy programs like Photoshop or using virtual machines, then you'll probably need more, but if you just want to speed things up, chances are RAM isn't your bottleneck. An SSD might be a better use of your money.

Of course, all this depends on your specific situation, so Linus details a few ways to check RAM usage on your computer (which, again, we've covered before) to tell whether a RAM upgrade is worth your time and money. After all, RAM's a little more expensive these days, so it's not something you want to go out and buy willy-nilly. Check out the video above for more.

When to Upgrade Your RAM as Fast as Possible [Techquickie]


    SSD hard drive is the new silver bullet.

      Absofreakinlutely. Bought one a few years back and goddamn, major improvement. PC boots up to windows 8 login screen in 6 seconds from pressing the button now :D

        11 seconds on a 5400 RPM drive.

        I don't see that as nearly as much of a silver bullet as RAM used to be. It would save me maybe 20 seconds a day. That would take a while to make up for the time spent earning the money for one, installing it, and then making sure to not constantly write to it (which I can't say I know how to do easily, as if you haven't guessed, I have not put money into getting an SSD into my system).

        I did however put money into adding more RAM, at 1600mhz instead of 1333mhz, because I was suffering memory issues. And that has increased my performance.

        Its really what is important to you in performance, and what you actually need. A slightly quicker boot time then my already optimised boot time, and a few programs starting up quicker, is not that important to me. It would be a nice luxury, but its not worth dropping the ~$100 just to be able to handle an OS and a few applications/games.

          Almost instantaneous loading of Office, installation time of a new OS is cut down majorly, scanning time of my viruscanner is more than halved. There's more than 20 seconds saved. It might be 20 seconds for you, but for others, you could be adding MAJOR amounts of productivity to your week. With work computers, having plate drives with OS's can lead to excessive boot times on computers, even when coupled with programs such as Deepfreeze. With solid state drives, the short boot times I have seen on student laptops in classrooms for instance after working in a school IT dept (private school) on Dell Portege Laptop/tablet hybrids was amazing. No more waiting minutes at the beginning of each lesson for the laptops to start, each laptop would start, connect to the network and be ready to go in under 30 seconds. It's all about productivity and SSD's majorly increase that.

            I guess you could say SSD's are the saviours of people who do not know how to maintain a computer. As I could do the same boot time running hard disks, but then again, i'm a student who studied IT and Software Development, so I guess I can say im a bit more experienced in operating a computer then the general facebook machine users.

            I will defnitely agree it improves productivity, but not enough for a person who is that interested in computers and computer upgrades to warrant it as a "no questions asked, will be worth your money" kind of deal.

            My office boots instantly (well LibreOffice on my main machine, my school Office licence went to the laptop), computer is ready to go in under 30 seconds running 3 year old hardware on a 5400RPM drive. I have a 7200 RPM drive as a secondary, and my boot performance is satisfactory enough that I can't even be bothered migrating it to the faster HDD. It simply wouldn't be worth the effort.

            Now when a more affordable, larger size SSD comes into play, I will more then likely jump on it. But for now, $700 for a 1TB SSD is far too expensive. When they come into play as replacing HDD's, ill make the merge, or when I get an entirely new system. I think the SSD/HDD Hybrid Drives were created specifically to target the skeptics like myself, but again, they are a tad too pricey, and I don't really need a 3rd drive for now.

            Eitherway, i'm not trying to discredit your improvements, or say your statement on SSD's making performance better is wrong, because they do. But what I am saying, is that they are not the new "silver bullet". They are a luxury that is nice to have, but by no means necessary or even extremely benefitial if you know how to maintain and optimise a computers boot time well.

              I guess you could say SSD's are the saviours of people who do not know how to maintain a computer.

              If ever there were an arrogant statement...

              Forgive me but I'm doubtful your office PC boots instantly, especially if it's a plate drive. SSD's don't boot instantly, neither does your office PC unless it's left on sleep constantly.

              Last edited 28/11/13 10:08 pm

                Never mentioned boot time being instant. I said my "Office" boots instantly, as in the Office Suite. Which in fact you did reference in your previous post.

                "Almost instantaneous loading of Office"

                And it may be arrogant, but it is how I see it. The boot times and application performance increases you are boasting are barely a change from my current performance. So therefore I see it as a fact that I maintain my startup times at a better rate, whereas SSD's act as a shortcut to that, as it just loads all the un-optimised stuff faster.

                Honestly, mess around with msconfig a bit, tweak your desktop to have no files other than shortcuts (or even none of those), and have little to nothing that has to start running when your computer boots, and you will get performance of that with modest equipment. I'm running a Phenom x4 955 CPU, with 12GB RAM (8GB Corsair Vengeance 1600mhz, 4GB 1333mhz), and my OS is loaded on a 5400 RPM 1TB HDD. It is more than possible, saying it isn't and that SSD's are a golden solution is arrogant on its own.

    Keep in mind there have been some new tests done that show there is a noticeable difference on BF4 when comparing 1600MHz 16GB to 16GB 1866MHz. Very recent tests but I think we finally may start seeing performance boosts at higher speed RAM.

      Clock speed is generally only relevant with the context of the ram's timing - for example 1600mhz ram with a timing of CL6 will actually be nearly identically as fast as 2000mhz at CL9.

      Some good info in I think the third post here:

    Once upon a time, upgrading your PC’s RAM was a sure-fire way to increase its performance.

    Er.. Not sure this was ever really true.. It's the same as it always was... You should upgrade your ram if your regular daily actions cause you to... run out of ram..

    Seems obvious and clear cut. If you aren't running out of ram.

      I think it was true because system specs used to be 'just enough', and ram was expensive. I guess you could change it to: modern computers usually ship with plenty of ram.

      Go back a ways and Vista machines were shipping with 1GB, when XP first came out machines would ship with 256-512MB. Just enough to run the operating systems, but once you started adding more and more stuff, they would get slower and slower. Now that most things ship with 4GB, but Win7 isn't much hungrier than Vista, it's no longer a quick and easy fix to say 'yeah, you probably need more ram'

    So I won't need to upgrade my 16GB of RAM then? I have two slots free and can take it up to 32GB.
    An SSD made a big difference used as the working drive for large image and media editing projects.
    Technically SSD's are similar to RAM, so it is a bit like upgrading RAM to add an SSD.

      32GB will do near nothing for your performance unless you are an extreme multitasker / professional 3D designer or something of the sorts. You simply would never need that much. Even 16GB is recognised as overkill, but then again, im running 12GB purely due to upgrading to 8GB, and working in my old 4GB as well (without a performance hit, or compatibility error), so i went with it.

    I was considering upgrading The RAM on my pc at work, we work with vERY large spreadsheets (we are a data maintainence company), I've noticed my computer performance is horrendous when I need to use multiple formulas within this data. Would upgrading the RAM improve the speed in that aspect?
    I'm currently sitting on 4GB. Mind you while excel is working away I can browse the Internet fine.

      try using powerpivot in excel, handles millions and millions of rows.

      Go into Task Manager (usually on the right-click menu for the task bar) and select the Performance tab. If the "Available" entry under Physical Memory is over 1000 or so (which is to say, 1GB(*)) you definitely don't have RAM issues.

      That page in general will give you a rough first idea of where the problem lies.

      (*) Technically 1GB (gigabyte) = 10^9 bytes; 1GiB (gibibyte) = 2^30 bytes. But, close enough.

      Also: If you get an SSD, get one bigger than you think you will need. A ridiculous number of things default to assuming that they should put stuff on your C drive.

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