How Much RAM Do You Need for a Mac?

RAM, or random access memory, is common spec that buyers use to assess the value between computers. RAM tends to be one of the specs that tends to be misunderstood – the more RAM, the better, right? Well, sure, but most people don’t even need 16GB of RAM.

If you’re buying a Mac, whether it may be a desktop iMac or a MacBook, you’ll want to pick out one that has the right amount of RAM for your needs.

Having a basic understanding of what RAM is also helps. In layman’s terms, it is where applications, data, and files are stored when you’re currently accessing and opening them. The higher the RAM is, the the bigger the apps and programs it can run. RAM also plays a part in multitasking and in using multiple applications at the same time.

So, whether you’re buying a new Mac or looking to upgrade your RAM, consider the following reminders:

How much RAM do you need?

It depends on what you’re going to use your Mac for. However, we recommend getting 8 GB minimum – anything lower than that would mean your computer won’t be able to run more recent programs. Computer applications and software evolve by the day and require more RAM with every release.

Mac is hardly a gaming platform, but there are some excellent games on the App Store. If you’re looking to play some of them in your spare time, it’s highly recommended to shop for models with 8 GB or higher.

If you’re using it strictly for work, like editing documents, spreadsheets, and creating slideshow reports and presentations, then 4 GB RAM is sufficient. However, this would mean your Mac’s RAM may be too small for the tech advances which will arrive in a year or two.

To be on the safe side, upgrade to or go for models with 8 GB. This guarantees that you wouldn’t have any functionality problems with your Mac in the next couple of years.

Consistently working with video editing software, like Final Cut X, and other multimedia applications like Photoshop, may require higher RAM. We highly recommend upgrading to 12-16 GB, especially if the computer is working in a high-pressure environment. Also, if you are the type that likes to keep a hundred tabs open on their web browser, this is also something to take into account: think about this especially if you use Google Chrome.

Why upgrade your RAM?

Upgrading your RAM is fairly easy (we’ll talk about how later) and doing so will yield a number of positive results, including:

  • Your Mac will perform faster and more smoothly, especially when you’re opening several programs at the same time and multitasking. This will come in handy in OS X El Capitan’s new Split Screen feature. However, take note that your Mac’s slowness may not only be because of the lack of RAM.
  • Your Mac will be able to support larger programs and applications which may be released in the future. It will also help support future updates of existing programs.
  • You’ll save a lot of time, especially if you’re working with videos.

In a general scale, there’s not much difference between using an 8 GB and 16 GB RAM – the effects will only be visible if you’re using bulky applications and multitasking.

However, be selective in the timing of your upgrade. For example, you want to upgrade your old MacBook 4,1 to 8 GB from 4 GB. Though it would pay dividends and prolong its life, it’s not a good move considering that it’s already outdated and it no longer supports updated applications and the latest operating systems.

How can you upgrade your RAM?

All you need are the new RAM modules and a trusty screwdriver. Self-upgrading the RAM on MacBooks and iMacs is fairly easy. Just check out the following:

When buying, ensure you’re buying from a legitimate seller – especially those who have built a reputation and have been in the business for quite some time. Make sure that the RAM modules in their catalog are safe for the Mac.

If you’re installing the RAM by yourself, be sure to follow the guidelines in the links above. There are also videos online which can guide you throughout the whole process. However, it’s always a safer option to have an expert or someone who has done it before perform it.

As a cardinal rule, do not always settle for cheap – and unproven – modules. Sure, they will be fully functional immediately after installation, but after a week, you might find yourself facing a truckload of issues and the need to replace your RAM. Each computer has its own limits as well. For example, a 2012 MacBook Pro can only have its RAM increased to 8 GB from the original 4 GB.

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