The question comes to each new release of Windows : How much RAM I will need to get a blazing fast machine? Windows 7 is now available for more than one year, we suggest you see if adding memory allows it to run faster. Encoding, gaming, 3D rendering : how much memory is essential for Windows 7?
To answer this question, we used two different machines. The first machine is an mid level laptop model from HP, with a little heart: an Intel dual Core processor (2 GHz) and a low range on-board graphics card (Intel 950 GMA) and Western Digital Hard Disk (@5400 rpm). As to the second machine is a lightning gear desktop: with the fastest Intel processor , high-end graphics card, high end Hard disk drive. Both running Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit (fresh install from Retail DVD, with all the latest Windows updates).
Various tests: video, audio, games, Photoshop CS4 Extended
We focused our tests on several categories of software more or less heavy. We thus find the video and audio encoding, video editing, 3D rendering or gaming. For the latter, we ensured that the loading time was affected or not by the amount of memory. Of course, we also verified that the loading time for Windows 7 is shortened by the presence of an excess of memory.
Also, we assumed that the minimum amount of current computer is 2GB Given the price per gigabyte of memory today, it seems unthinkable to use less memory on a computer or laptop ( So of netbooks).
On the entry level machine, we used four different configurations in memory: 2 GB, 3 GB and 4 GB. For the high-end machine, we pushed up to 12 GB of memory.
RAM used is manufactured by Corsair and were of same clock speed for any particular combination. We always used
dual channel to divide the RAM. (Thanks to local computer shop guy).
Windows 7 is not faster with more memory
After these tests, we can assure you that the use of more than 2 GB of memory on a machine with Windows 7 will not drastically increase the performance. The increase is slight and limited to some software. The latter will benefit from this addition to make their operations a little faster. The effect is a little stronger on the high end machine. Same for the games tested: loading and frame rate are the same on all configurations.
Our advice: 3 GB minimum, 4 GB if possible
But then, should will we stay in 2 GB ? No, no and no! First, we have not tested all the imaginable, let alone all the computer games.
Take for example the very popular game Warcraft. On this track which is played entirely online, it is not uncommon to observe a 1.5 GB of memory consumption and even a little more sometimes. The game will be very fluid, but you can not quickly switch to another application.
But why will switch to another application during a game? Well in this particular game, it is not uncommon to want to find information about an object. It then wants to pass on his Internet browser to search. With 2 GB, this shift may take considerable time. With 3 GB, the action will have more memory to play with, literally.
This brings us to the point of multi-tasking. Because this problem arises with all applications that use 1 or 2 GB of memory, which is no longer so rare. Although they remain fine during the normal usage, they do suffer from a lack of boost when another application using that much memory is open.
We advise you to choose a minimum of 3 GB of memory to be very flexible in using multiple software simultaneously. For us, the ideal amount currently have 4 GB, which is not very costly today.
Windows Experience Index
Windows Experience Index is a great tool to find the bottle necks. For the mid level HP laptop, we found the bottle neck is the Video memory: infamous Intel 950GMA chip. The Western Digital hard drive tried its best to perform, with a score of 5.4; but the final score was 2.9 (with 2 GB RAM) due to the lowest score yielded by the graphics card.
If you have 2GB + RAM, most of the applications will not need more RAM to run smoothly. Still, if you are suffering from low overall performance of your Windows 7 PC, check the Windows Experience Index. It might be your Graphics card or Hard Drive which is / are giving the hitch for a smooth run.