Do I need 8 or 16 GB memory?

When buying a new computer or laptop, one of the most important decisions is how much RAM (memory) to get. With memory prices dropping and software demands increasing, many wonder whether they should opt for 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM.

What is RAM and why does it matter?

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is a type of computer memory that temporarily stores information that the CPU needs quick access to, such as operating system files, software, and data currently in use. Having enough RAM enables your computer to perform tasks efficiently without having to utilize slower virtual memory on a hard drive.

RAM affects overall system performance more than any other component. Upgrading from 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM will provide a noticeable speed boost for things like launching apps, browsing with multiple tabs open, and multi-tasking. With insufficient RAM, you may experience lag, freezing, or apps crashing.

How much RAM do I need?

How much RAM you need depends on what types of activities you’ll use the computer for:

Light everyday tasks (web browsing, email, basic document editing):

4-8 GB RAM is sufficient for light computing needs like web browsing, email, basic document editing, and standard definition video streaming. This covers basic home and office tasks for most users.

Advanced everyday tasks (gaming, creative work, multitasking):

8-16 GB RAM provides good support for gaming, creative work, high resolution video streaming, multitasking, and having multiple windows/tabs open simultaneously. Gamers and creative professionals can benefit from 16GB.

Professional workstation use (video/photo editing, 3D rendering, programming, etc.):

16-32 GB RAM is ideal for professional workstations used for intensive tasks like 4k video editing, 3D modeling/rendering, data analysis, and engineering software. More RAM means larger projects with less slowdowns.

Should I buy 8 or 16 GB RAM?

For most users doing general computing and everyday productivity tasks, 8GB of RAM is sufficient. The extra cost of 16GB RAM may not be justified if you won’t utilize it. However, there are some cases where stepping up to 16GB can provide better long term value:

  • You frequently have many browser tabs and apps open simultaneously
  • You plan to keep this computer for 3-5 years or more
  • You play modern games or do creative/productivity work
  • You want to future-proof your system for software demands increasing
  • You can upgrade for under $50 compared to base model

With memory prices low, 16GB gives you breathing room for the future. Since RAM can’t be easily upgraded later for laptops, get the most you can afford upfront. For desktops where RAM is user-replaceable, you can more easily start with 8GB and upgrade later if needed.

Benefits of 16GB RAM over 8GB

Here are some of the advantages that having 16 GB of RAM can provide compared to 8 GB configurations:

Faster system performance

More RAM reduces disk swapping and paging file usage, providing a snappier experience. Apps and files can be accessed directly from memory rather than slower storage.

Ability to multitask more

With 16GB RAM you can comfortably have multiple apps, dozens of browser tabs, productivity software, and games open simultaneously.

Enhanced creativity software

Design, video and photo editing programs benefit from extra RAM when working with high resolution content and multi-layered files.

Better high-end gaming

Games utilize as much RAM as they can get. 16GB enables max settings, mods and assets for immersive PC gaming.

Faster rendering times

3D, video, image and audio production workflows see reduced rendering times. Complex projects can be worked on more efficiently.

Ability to use RAM heavy programs

Advanced productivity, design, engineering and data analysis software requests as much memory as possible for complex tasks.

Future proofing

OS, software and file demands will continue increasing. 16GB RAM configures systems to comfortably handle updates for years to come.

When does more RAM not help?

While maxing out your RAM does improve general performance, there are certain cases where it will not provide noticeable benefits:

  • Using dated hardware – An old CPU or low RPM hard drive can bottleneck the system.
  • Working exclusively with lightweight apps and small files – There may not be enough workload to utilize the extra memory.
  • Having sufficient RAM already – Upgrading from 16GB to 32GB may show diminishing returns if you don’t have needs for it.
  • Running into other performance bottlenecks – Slow network connection, outdated graphics card, inefficient CPU cooling, or software bugs hindering the experience.

To get the most out of extra RAM, ensure the rest of your hardware and software is up to date and can keep up with it. Balancing components is key to building a high performance PC.

8GB vs 16GB RAM Comparison

Everyday use Suitable for basic tasks Comfortable multitasking and future proofing
Gaming FPS Playable frame rates Higher FPS with max settings
Creative apps Good for moderate projects Faster workflow for complex media
Multitasking Limited number of simultaneous apps Excellent for heavy multi-tasking
Longevity May need upgrade after 2-3 years More future proof for 3-5 years
Cost Less expensive ~$50 USD more than 8GB


For most standard computing needs, 8GB of RAM is adequate. However, there are significant performance gains to be had when stepping up to 16GB configuration if your usage calls for it. With the minimal price difference, 16GB is an easy recommendation for power users, gamers, creative professionals and those wanting a computer that stays responsive for years to come.

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