You're Hammering Nails with a Screwdriver
To succinctly answer your questions
- Yes, it has something to do with RAM. While Illustrator only requires 4GB of RAM to run on a 64-bit system, Adobe recommends 16GB. Also, if your graphics card is supported by Illustrator, it may be able to do some of the "heavy lifting" with things like that. Unfortunately, not many laptop cards are (my AMD isn't) so you may be out of luck there.
- If you keep your assets on an SSD, you will probably only see a general performance benefit the first time they are loaded. After that, they should be cached on your system drive in a temp file. Windows tries to do this, even if Illustrator doesn't. The important thing to remember here is: Illustrator doesn't access your HDD more than it has to. Ideally, it stores these things in RAM. If it can't do that, or it won't hold everything, it will keep it in your "virtual memory" (also called a "swap file") which is a reserved space at the beginning of your system drive used to emulate more RAM than the system actually has.
user568458 is correct (see below), but there is a lot more to this. Illustrator is not meant for displaying raster graphics at all, much less a huge bitmap. It's never going to like being treated like Photoshop. I would suggest reducing the size in a photo editing app (GIMP, Photoshop, etc) before placing it in your illustrator document.
Another thing you can try
(from "Improve Illustrator performance on Windows" Adobe Illustrator Help)
Change raster effects settings
You can change the resolution of raster effects to optimize Illustrator performance.
To change the resolution of raster effects, choose Effect > Document Raster Effects Settings. In the Resolution pop-up menu, do one of the following:
- Choose Screen if you are editing files. Illustrator uses a resolution of 72 ppi for raster effects, increasing display speed.
- Choose High if you are printing files. Illustrator uses a resolution of 300 ppi for raster effects, decreasing printing speed, but increasing print quality.
Then, click OK.
Additionally, there is a setting in
Edit > Preferences > File Handling & Clipboard under the
Files section that reads "Display Bitmaps as Anti-Aliased Images in Pixel Preview". If that is ticked, untick it. This may make your bitmap images appear a bit blocky, but it will certainly improve your performance slightly.
As you've probably realized, there have to be trade-offs with raster images in Illustrator. So, if you absolutely need to see each and every one of those 36,000,000 pixels, you should definitely upgrade your RAM. Actually, as a PC tech for over 25 years, that's the best money you can spend considering your system specs.
P.S.: This is the correct forum (since it's really a hardware/system question), but you are asking multiple questions (which SE doesn't like in general) and a lot of people here seem to avoid troubleshooting 3rd party apps. Maybe next time post to Adobe Illustrator Support Forum to get a quicker response.