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I was wondering if I need a memory upgrade. Currently I use Windows 7 x64 with 4GB ram (DDR3) with a Radeon 4290 (built in graphic, eats about 500MB RAM). I use many programs at once (Adobe CS5.5, Outlook, etc.) but still from what I can tell from my desktop widget it uses about 70-80% RAM.

Is there a more efficient way to check memory usage while working on several programs?

Based on that, do you think I need a memory upgrade since it's not running 100%? I'm mainly asking because I don't work on very heavy graphics and wondering if after upgrade I would get a noticeable boost in performance.

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Determining if a RAM upgrade would be helpful is not simple. You can't tell just by RAM usage. (The amount of RAM that is free is independent of the total amount of RAM or the amount of RAM needed to hold the working set.)

It's somewhat like trying to tell if a family needs a bigger house. Just because all the space they have is in use, you can't conclude they would benefit from more space. Maybe the garage is filled with junk they're just too lazy to throw away.

One give away is if the system is sluggish, especially around task switching. If you find frequent pauses in operation with heavy disk access, that's usually a good sign that more RAM would help.

Another good heuristic is using the Task Manager (set to show processes from all users) to see if the total working set of all processes exceeds about 75% of memory. If it does, the system could likely benefit from having more RAM. You can get roughly the same measure by summing the 'Cached', 'Available', and 'Free' memory numbers shown in the 'Performance' tab. If that's less than 25% of your RAM, you could probably benefit from more RAM.

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Is it normal that in the performance tab I have 1600 mb "on hold" and only 34mb free? –  Michał Korzeniowski Oct 4 '11 at 21:24
    
@Michał Korzeniowski If "on hold" means cached, then yes, it's normal. Free RAM is wasted RAM from computer's point of view, since cached RAM can be instantly given over to a process that needs more RAM. –  AndrejaKo Oct 4 '11 at 21:33
    
If you doubled your RAM, you'd still likely have 34MB free. If you have 34MB free, it's because that load requires about 34MB free. Making more RAM free than needed based on load would reduce performance both because it takes effort to make RAM free and because free RAM provides no performance benefit. –  David Schwartz Oct 4 '11 at 21:47

David has a pretty good logic in his explanation. Personally I would bump it up to the max if possible. Whenever I'm doing development, I usually have multiple VMs going to test the site across different browsers and versions (namely Internet Explorer).

You should research on some of the items in your MSConfig file to see if you can disable some items from loading (ie Steam, iTunesHelper, Bonzibuddy, IM Clients, etc)

It is strange how you have most of your ram being used with just a few programs open. It sounds like there could be a memory leak in one of your applications and/or services. Even with photoshop open, it's unlikely you're messing around with extremely high resolution images that would require that much memory.

What kind of motherboard are you working with? I just upgraded to a Z68 motherboard and configured an SSD to cache (Intel SRT Technology) and that made the biggest difference in speed. Throwing in 16GB of RAM was nice as well.

Generally, I like to keep myself and my developers happy. IMO, having 4GB on a development machine now a days is like giving two people a pack of twinkies and to share them. It's do able, but just not as much fun.

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Instead of VM's you could use IE tester. I'm using AMD Phenom II 965 and for my system 2 drives in raid 0 so it shouldn't be a problem. Also I usually have a lot of applications opened up so I don't suppose it's a memory leak but is there a way to check for those? The twinkies part is so true:) and that's why I'm saving up for a revo drive:) –  Michał Korzeniowski Oct 4 '11 at 21:23

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