Memory stripped bare

According to legend, Bill Gates once concluded that “640KB of memory ought to be enough for anyone” (a legend he’s at pains to repudiate). These days it takes more than 800 times that much RAM just to make Windows Vista work smoothly. But as the idea takes hold that more RAM is always good, we’re increasingly seeing home systems armed with a vast 4GB of storage. Indeed, with 64-bit Vista gaining traction, we’re sure the 8GB home PC can’t be far away. Is there any need for this much memory, or is it a waste of money beyond a certain point?

Memory stripped bare

This month we set out to discover the truth. Armed with a comprehensive set of benchmarks and a big stack of DIMMs, we’ve tested performance on both XP and Vista to find out how much memory you really need.

But, of course, quantity of memory isn’t the only consideration. Does faster RAM make a difference? And what about issues such as latency and dual-channel architecture? Do they matter, or are they mere technical curiosities of no importance in the real world?

We’ll lay the details bare, along with explanations of the difference between DDR, DDR2 and DDR3, and how to decode RAM speeds and timings. We’ll even delve into the black art of memory overclocking. If you’re thinking of upgrading an existing system – or building one from scratch – don’t buy a DIMM until you’ve read this.



What’s the ideal amount of memory?
Is there an upper limit of RAM?
What sort of modules should I choose?
Is there an optimum number of DIMMs?
What does RAM speed mean?
What are the benefits of buying extra speed?
Should I overclock my memory?

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