I will soon have a PC that can handle up to 32GB of RAM (Yeah my dream comes true) but I would like to know, because this is the first time I am jumping the 4GB boundary on a home computer, how much performance increase and general benefit will I have if I use 8GB, 16GB or 32GB for the system. Apart from the huge jump in price I want to see if it's worth buying more memory for Ubuntu, in this case 11.10 but soon 12.04 and how much of a difference it will be.

I will be using the 64Bit version of 11.10 for normal activities like:

  • OpenOffice (Max 6 documents opened)
  • Browsing with Firefox/Chrome (More than 10 tabs opened)
  • Listening to Banshee
  • Wine and some games
  • Virtualbox (Win XP, Win 7, Ubuntu)
  • Compiling from github like there is no tomorrow
  • Downloading with torrent app
  • Using Gimp and Inscape + Sozi
  • Using Openshot/Pitivi
  • Using Subdownloader for movies ...

3 Answers 3


For GIMP (many large images open), fluid Openshot/Pitivi and some VMs you can't have enough RAM.

My workstation for example has 'just' 8 GiB and I have constantly 2 or 3 VMs open (each 1024 - 2048) and Java applications (Eclipse / Intellij) running, FF and Chrome with multiple tabs and several Flash applications open and just scratch the 6/7GiB mark.


More RAM never hurts, of course, but unless you will be doing some very resource-intensive operations you will probably rarely need more than 4GB of RAM. Of those things you mentioned, the ones likely to demand the highest use of memory will possibly be games, Gimp and Inkscape, and possibly Openshot and Pitivi, but even here it depends on what you'll be doing. If you do professional editing of graphics, though, some more RAM might help. For my own needs, I've never used all of 4GB, and yet I'd still like to have 8GB, just in case.

On the other hand, if it's your "dream machine," buying with the future in mind is a good idea. We've all watched over the years as OSes and programs increasingly demand greater resources. If you buy a large amount of RAM right now you might not use it for a long time, but eventually you'll probably be glad you bought it.

With that in mind, to make sure your computer is still your dream machine after several years, I'd make sure also to get the fastest CPU possible and lots and lots of storage. A great graphics card is a must, too. But I'm sure you've already considered all of that.


Unless you are going to use something such as Virtualization (with several guests) I seriously doubt you will use more then 4 Gb.

As you probably know, you can watch your RAM use with top or free -m or one of the graphical tools.

I suggest you start with 4 Gb and add an additional 2-4 if you are using swap (with 4 Gb).

  • 1
    Wazzap Bodhi. Actually I will have to start 8GB but I can have as a gift from a friend up to 32GB in jumps of 8GB. So that is why the question. I want the best system for Ubuntu but I do not want to pay a lot if for example 8GB of ram run 1% slower than 16GB. I actually use, as your answer says, a lot of virtualization with virtualdub. If I had to guess I would say about every 2 to 3 days I use virtualdub a lot. Now for example in some cases I am compiling 1 or 2 things from github while coding a video with openshot. Maybe even listening to music. The kind of case where the PC might blow up. Jan 27, 2012 at 23:04
  • 2
    Nice Luis Alvarado =) 8 Gb is a lot of RAM for a desktop, and as @marc-andre indicated, running 2-3 VM with 1 Gb each, he is not using all 8 Gb. Unused RAM does not increase performance of running apps. Once you start using swap with any regularity, at that point, increasing RAM will help. Unless you have an unlimited budget , or unless you plan to run more then 4 VM with 1 Gb each, I would start with the 8 Gb.
    – Panther
    Jan 27, 2012 at 23:13

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