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I am looking to increase my computer's performance. Will upgrading my RAM by 12GB or upgrading to a 7,200 RPM Hard Drive increase my computer's performance more? I can only do one, which one will make my computer run faster? Please cite something in your answer for my own confidence. Thanks!

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I don't think you meant upgrading your ram by 12GB. Ubuntu runs fine on much less than that. I'm not sure what you're looking for here. 4 GB is the maximum for a single processor 32-bit install(without cheating) and 8 GB is more than enough for a standard x64 desktop. On the HD the bus type is probably more relevant(IDE<SATA) or even type(platter<SSD). I don't think there's a good concise answer to this one. – RobotHumans Nov 7 '11 at 0:06
I have a quad core dual gpu laptop supporting up to 16 GB of ram. I meant 10. My mistake. – William Nov 8 '11 at 2:43
Depends on what tasks you do and how much RAM you already have. But if you got a decent amount of RAM now, you probably wont increase performance at all. SSD is what increases performance the most. – Anonymous Nov 21 '11 at 17:48
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Open a terminal window and run the command


It will show you if your hard disk is used for memory caching (which is slow, and should be minimised). The value you should read is Swap x used. Normally, if you have over 3GB, the Swap that is used should be 0, that is, not used at all. So, with 6GB or more RAM, you definitely do not use the disk for swapping.

The other thing is the hard disk, which are slow compared to an SSD disk. If you want to invest on a faster computer, then you can get an SSD disk, and install Ubuntu on this fast disk. You can still use your existing hard disk for storage of files. The SSD will be blazing fast and Ubuntu will boot + run very fast. It makes a big difference.

UPDATE You can replace your existing laptop hard disk with a 2.5" SSD disk. These SSD disks are more expensive than traditional hard disks, but they are blazingly fast. You can convert your old laptop hard disk into an external hard disk by buying a 2.5" external USB disk case.

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I recently upgraded my RAM from 4 to 8 Gb and then added an SSD drive. I can say that the RAM upgrade had a barely noticeable effect on performance (and I think a 7200 rpm HDD would give you even less), while adding an SSD was like "Woooow!!!" :) I second the SSD suggestion (unless you have very little RAM or a really old slow HDD) – Sergey Nov 7 '11 at 0:22
Thanks, I'll mark this as the answer. However, I am on a laptop, and multiple hard drives are not possible. – William Nov 8 '11 at 2:45
You can replace your existing laptop hard disk with an SSD hard disk (2.5"). – user4124 Nov 9 '11 at 22:32
Yes, I know. However, SSD Drives have less capacity and are very expensive. – William Nov 10 '11 at 13:52
@William: The rendering is what we call 'cpu-bound'; it depends mostly on the CPU, rather than the memory. Run blender and perform a rendering task, then check with free to figure out whether the memory was used up. – user4124 Nov 21 '11 at 14:36

It really depends on how your system is using memory now. Examine the output of vmstat to become more informed of why data is hitting the disks. Much I/O in Linux is initiated indirectly, from flushing caches or dirty pages. These things can also be tuned. So it really comes down to.

  1. What are you doing with your box that you think adding more to it will help?
  2. Is it worth the price?

Tuning is fun sure, but throwing away money, not so much.

I write this from a i5 4 cpu laptop, with 4G, and a 128 SDD. The only times I have cause for complaint is when I'm compiling multiple packages.

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What is a cheap SSD drive that works well? I don't need much space, but I have a limited budget and would like to buy an SSD, but the price deters me. – William Nov 21 '11 at 17:27
There's no such thing as a cheap SSD :). Even a 128G is still in the neighborhood of $300. Again, what's so slow to you? Maybe a better graphics card with solid 3d support is what you need? Or perhaps your memory is getting eaten alive by tabbed browsing, each consuming 100MB. There are remedies for these things but you have to identify the problem first. – ppetraki Nov 21 '11 at 18:04
I already have dual GPUs. Can you find the cheapest SSD? – William Nov 21 '11 at 18:18
You can use google too, I don't have magical search powers. – ppetraki Nov 21 '11 at 18:43

Well 8GB RAM is fairly cheap now. I bought 4GB a wile ago for about 60-70£ and now 8GB is 30-40£ so its very worthwhile. 12GB RAM will basically set you good to run a lot of applications at the same time as I do. When running on 4GB I found some programs to become not responsive when low on RAM (over 10 programs open normally), especially if I am running a virtual machine.

I'm talking desktop/workstation wise here not laptop ext.

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