Q and A: I’m getting a new PC. Do I need 8GB of Ram, or is 2GB enough?


I am planning to buy a new PC with Windows 7, but should I pay extra for 8 GB of Ram instead of 2 GB? It’s not too expensive and I assume it would make my computer faster. Is that correct? L.H.


Upgrading a new PC with extra Ram can help boost some aspects of performance but note the following. The conventional 32-bit version of Windows 7 can utilize only 4 GB of RAM (actually, only about 3.4GB). If you buy a new PC (with 64-bit CPU) with 8 GB of Ram, the vendor should install the 64-bit edition of Windows 7. Check out the various versions of this OS on the Microsoft website.

A fast new PC with a 64-bit CPU and a 64-bit edition of Windows 7 can have some benefits, but also some drawbacks.
A fast new PC with a 64 bit CPU and a 64 bit edition of Windows 7 can have some benefits but also some drawbacks

Note: The upgrade to a 64-bit system will cause compatibility problems re: drivers for some hardware you already own and for some software programs as discussed on this Windows forum.

(A Windows XP mode is available for Windows 7 Pro, Ultimate and Enterprise to improve compatibility with older applications. See Microsoft’s website) You may need to find and download updates for some  accessories (hardware); they’re not available for some equipment such as older scanners.

For additional insights, visit the Windows 7 Compatibility Center. Also read the Update a driver for hardware that isn’t working properly page.

In addition new drivers for hardware, you can find updates for some software, including Nikon (for Capture NX2), for greater 64-bit compatibility. It's worth checking for updates and installing them to optimize your software.
In addition to new drivers for hardware you can find updates for some software including Nikon for Capture NX2 for greater 64 bit compatibility Its worth checking for updates and installing them to optimize your software

Upgrading to 64-bit system will not make your software faster, except for applications that are optimized for 64-bit processing. In fact, 32-bit software may actually run slower with a 64-bit system. On the other hand, a 64-bit system can handle larger amounts of information, useful if you’re running many programs at one time. And yes, the benefits will be most apparent when you have a large amount of random access memory — such as 8 GB — especially if you are a Lightroom or Photoshop CS4 user, or if you plan to do HDR imaging.

All versions of Windows 7, except Basic, include both a 32-bit edition and a 64-bit edition. When buying a new PC with more than 8 GB of random access memory, remind the vendor to pre-install the 64-bit edition.
All versions of Windows 7 except Basic include both a 32 bit edition and a 64 bit edition When buying a new PC with more than 4 GB of random access memory remind the vendor to pre install the 64 bit edition

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. I bought my computer a year ago and got a 64 bit OS. Its seems everything is heading that way. My CS4 is 64 bits. So I can’t use my webcam anymore? Big Deal – I’ll take the 8 gigs of RAM…..

  2. Yes, go with the 8GB of memory. You will not be disappointed.

    I have worked in the computer industry nearly thirty years and have a Ph.D. in Information Systems. I also just purchased, for myself, a new Windows 7 64-bit machine with 8GB of memory, and am quite happy with the choice.

    As the saying goes: you can never have too much memory.

  3. Daniel: Well, I also bought a new PC in late 2008 (a very fast machine), with 8GB of RAM and Windows XP pro, 64-bit.

    Windows 7 was not available then, and I definitely did not want Vista.

    I do have some compatibilty issues with some software and an old scanner. And some older software seems to be slower than ever; but the newer software is great!

    Overall, this was definitely the right decision for me too.

    Peter http://www.peterkburian.com

  4. I have an HP workstation with 8GB of RAM and dual boot between XP32 and Vista 64.

    The difference between using Photoshop with 2 or 4 GB of RAM and 8 GB is night and day.

    I boot into XP32 once a month at most to use my scanner, but that’s it. Every other piece of software and hardware works fine with Vista 64. Products that won’t work with 64 bit versions of Windows 7 are probably long enough in the tooth to replace anyway.

    Go with 8 GB — or more if you can afford it.

  5. For completeness (since some people include Macs in the category PC): Macs can use more than 4GB.

  6. Thanks for your note, Lars. It’s useful because, honestly, I know very little about Mac computers.


  7. I updated and upgraded a two year old PC that I had custom built. I went from a Duo Core processor to a quad core 2.8 with four gigs of RAM running Windows XP Pro 32bit and upgraded to Windows 7 Pro 64 bit — WOW it is so much faster its like having a brand new latest greatest machine. I may just be lucky but I have had no compatibility issues except a really old font manager that will not work. I have become a big fan of W7.
    Best to all in 2010!

  8. I got a machine with 8 G running linux. The advantage of linux is that it comes in source code so you can compile everything for 64 bits. This means that all applications and drivers are available in 64-bit form. No slow proprietary 32-bit stuff running or drivers that are available for 32 bits but not for 64 bits because the supplier doesn’t want to supply new drivers. It works great, comes with loads of software, is very stable and it’s free.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu