I have a Quad Core Intel PC with 4GB of RAM - I've been using it over a year to run web server stress tests (ab.exe -n 5000 -c 500), encode HD video, play games, open dozens of tabs in multiple browsers (simultaneously), worked on multi-layered +8000px art in photoshop and just about every other thing you can think of.

As of yet I've never passed 2.3GB of RAM usage. How in the world do you use all 4GB? Is there any use for it?

Update I started-up Photoshop with a 8000px (+350MB) PSD and another (+30MB) 5000px PSD. I already had Chrome running with almost a dozen tabs open. Then I started Firefox (with all my addon's) and opened another 10 or so tabs. Apache 2.2 is running to serve PHP files. Last I have a 700 song playlist playing in windows media player. I guess I could have started open office too - but I never use it.

I guess I could just keep opening programs until I don't have any taskbar space left - but that would be an unrealistic example. I never run more than 5-7 apps at a time for my own sanity.

  • I'm using 2.7 right now, with only chrome, MSN Thunderbird, apache, mysql, steam and some other useless stuff. – Michael B. Apr 8 '10 at 3:08
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    Carefully. Very carefully. – Josh K Apr 8 '10 at 3:32
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    I've never used all my 4GB either, but 2.3 seems a little low if you have Photoshop and other memory-hungry programs open. What are you using to measure memory usage? – Sasha Chedygov Apr 8 '10 at 4:57
  • I just pop-up the task manager (ctrl+alt+delete) and take a peak. – Xeoncross Apr 8 '10 at 16:29
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    I bet you're using much more RAM than you think you're using. You're probably looking somewhere in task manager that only shows RAM that's mapped into a process' address space and doesn't show, for example, clean, unmapped cache pages. These pages of memory are still used and significantly improve performance. – David Schwartz Aug 24 '11 at 2:42

What's your operating system? 32bit Windows XP only supports 2GB for applications. If you have 4GB the other half is allocated for the kernel.

And btw, virtual machines are a great way to waste resources.

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    +1 for mentioning virtual machines. Not necessarily a waste of resources though. – Mike Fitzpatrick Apr 8 '10 at 5:05
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    VMs are the only way I have ever used more than 4GB of memory on a local machine. We have production database servers that will chew through ram like a rabbit eating carrots, but for our 6GB workstations we only max it out when we try to run 2 or 3 full sized VMs simultaneously. – Greg Bray Apr 8 '10 at 5:56
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    I run 32bit XP PRO and 64bit Ubuntu. I just started using VM's for testing and so I have discovered this yet. Thanks for the tip about them wasting so much. – Xeoncross Apr 8 '10 at 16:31
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    So then even though XP sees the total 4GB - it only allows 2GB to be used for apps? I have a 64bit mobo/CPU is that why windows still sees all 4GB even if the OS can't use it? Do you have any other links to more information on this? msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa366778(VS.85).aspx – Xeoncross Apr 8 '10 at 17:19
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    32bit windows allows an app 2Gb (3Gb in certain setups) the top 2Gb is for the OS - it also maps things like graphics cards into some of the top Gb, so the most you are going to be able to use is 3+bit – Martin Beckett Apr 8 '10 at 17:46

Editing large images in Photoshop is a very, very easy way to burn through lots of RAM. Anything where you work with a large dataset, and it all has to be in memory for processing.

  • I guess I should ask how large of a Photoshop file I would need to edit to use all 4GB. Perhaps billboard size? – Xeoncross Apr 8 '10 at 16:55
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    It doesn't have to be billboard size if you use a lot of layers. – akid Apr 8 '10 at 17:06

Hundreds of tabs? Firefox can easily chew up 800 MB for me.

I run out of memory all the time, because I'm a programmer dealing with large datasets. I've also run out of memory on a 128 GB machine... but we're working on fixing that.

  • Sorry, I that was greatly exaggerated - I literally meant dozens of tabs. However I'm wondering what type of "datasets" your working on. Are you talking about database files or memcached daemons what? Not that I could ever hope to use 128GB. – Xeoncross Apr 8 '10 at 16:54
  • Well, we're not currently using a database, OODB or otherwise, so everything about tens of millions of items, plus relationships between them, is held in memory. But we're working on that. – Michael H. Apr 9 '10 at 1:15
  • OT: I do hope that a 700-song-playlist takes up almost the same amount of memory as a 1-song-playlist, since it should only be loading small pointers to songs, not the songs themselves. OpenOffice could definitely add a chunk. – Michael H. Apr 9 '10 at 1:17

Absolutely there is use for it! It highly depends on your habits, and most people don't use that much. Any time you're handling massive amounts of information, or performing lots of multi-tasking, you'll peg out a good bit of memory.

My last upgrade from 2x1GB DDR to 2x2GB DDR was because I hit an FPS wall in Crysis. (looks like I'm not the only one) My crossfired video cards, hard drive, quad processor were all great but I simply ran out of memory to store the textures in!

That was with absolutely nothing else running. I saw usages climb above the 3GB mark while playing (ultra high settings).

I also do pretty massive MATLAB data manipulations that peg out my RAM usage.

So to summarize, yes, there is absolutely use for that RAM, I guess the question for you is do you really need it? ;)

  • +1 because I hit the wall with Crysis as well. :) Only game I know of that actually uses all the RAM you give it. – Sasha Chedygov Apr 8 '10 at 4:59

Using Adobe Encore with linked assets (Dynamic Link) can easily saturate my 8 GB RAM...

Task Manager

  • Nice. I haven't really used Encore yet so I'll keep this in mind. – Xeoncross Apr 8 '10 at 16:32

If you do database development, it's easy. Databases are good at using as much memory as you have. Just one table with a few million rows can take a gigabyte or more, and add a bit more (figuratively speaking) for indexes.

  • Isn't that just for databases that store data in memory instead of a file? I thought that by default MySQL and PostgreSQL kept most of the data on disk to save memory..? – Xeoncross Apr 8 '10 at 16:34
  • MS SQL Server will use as much as it can and you give it, depending on versions. I think most databases will store quite a bit of stuff in RAM because it's much faster than disk I/O. – Bratch Apr 8 '10 at 22:33
  • Agreed with Bratch. This is for performance reasons. Can you imagine on a busy website if every single transaction involved disk seeking? Nightmares. Also, the last point of Ken's is very true -- indexes can get very large if your table is indexed over just a couple of columns. – Travis Apr 8 '10 at 23:03
  • Databases store everything on disk, but they're also in the business of servicing queries quickly, not saving memory. And even if your database isn't smart enough to cache your data in RAM, your operating system is. – Ken Apr 9 '10 at 6:18

My laptop used to have 3 GB of RAM in it. Along with Windows Vista (an HP OEM install, eww), running OneNote and Adobe Acrobat Reader simultaneously on it for class, I regularly hit the top. It's the primary reason I upgraded it to 4 GB, and since then, it ran much more smoothly.

Part of the problem was the OEM install of Vista (HP does lots of bloatware, which isn't cool, and I had a lot of trouble removing it all), and Adobe just is bloated. Now that it's running Windows 7, it's not as bad, but in terms of using up all 4 GB, that was my method.


Along with virtual machines (I use VMWare), Photoshop, and database servers, another app that can use up some RAM is AutoCad, or any of the *Cad applications. Some of the more powerful workstations we have put together are for CAD, GIS Mapping, graphics/video editing, and software development.

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