We are two decades into the 21st century, a time where many of us expected to have flying cars or apartments on the moon. Instead, technology companies still are selling floppy disks and brand new computers with an unbearable 8GB of RAM. Be sure to pick up a 3.5-inch, 1.44 MB floppy if you still need one. But, for Woz’s sake, don’t get a computer with less than 16GB of memory, unless you plan to buy more RAM and install it yourself.
We’ve reached the point in computing history where you can’t competently run Windows and browse the Internet with less than 16GB on board. On my desktop computer running Windows 10, it only takes 8 Chrome tabs, Slack and Spotify running to cross the 8GB threshold. My regular use case of four dozen tabs takes me up to about 15GB, without running any games or productivity apps. Even with nothing but background services running, I’m using 5.5GB.
Even playing one game will exceed the 8GB limit of many $1,000 gaming PCs. Editor-in-Chief Sarah Jacobsson Purewal shared a screenshot of her task manager where Elden Ring eats up 4.4GB of RAM and Steam gobbles up another 354MB. Once you exceed your computer’s physical RAM, the OS will compensate by swapping data in and out of your page file, significantly hurting performance.
Despite the fact that modern Windows PCs really need 16GB of RAM and the cost of adding more RAM is minimal, major PC vendors continue to offer systems with only 8GB. And we’re not talking about kiddie Chromebooks or $199 cheap Pentium CPU laptops! High-end $900 gaming laptops and $1,300 ultrabooks also come with just 8GB. By the way, another 8GB of laptop RAM would cost you $25 on Amazon, so it must cost OEMs who can pay wholesale a fraction of that to do just that.
Imagine your mouth watering and you’re dying from a Big Mac dinner. You go to the McDonald’s Drive-through and see a sign that says “Big Mac, starting at $5.99.” So you order the burger, but when you pull it out of the bag, you’re surprised to see that it only has one beef patty, one slice of pickle, no cheese, no Big Mac Sauce and no sesame seeds on the bun. . You will then find out that a “real” Big Mac with the flavor you would expect costs $9.99. McDonald’s wouldn’t sully its name by offering a sub-par experience that would make Grimace blush. Only PC OEMs would do such a thing.
Dell currently sells a configuration of its flagship XPS 13 laptop with 8GB for a a whopping $1,249 (opens in a new tab)while Lenovo’s entry-level ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 10) is $1,319 (opens in a new tab) with 8GB. These two laptops are meant to compete with the best Ultrabooks on the market, and they do when you buy configurations that come with a decent amount of memory. What is worse in the case of Ultrabooks like these is that the RAM is soldered to the motherboard so there is no way to upgrade.
Many gaming laptops (including some of the best gaming laptops under $1,500) and desktops also come with only 8GB of RAM, but the good news there is that you can almost always upgrade the memory yourself, a cost you should build into your budget and plan to do right away. For example, Walmart has MSI GF63 gaming laptop for $599 (opens in a new tab). For that price, you have to settle for lesser specs like GTX 1650, 256GB SSD and, yes, 8GB of RAM. But you can open it up and swap the RAM for 2 x 8GB DIMMs, which will make your wallet about $50 lighter, but consider that part of the price. (While you’re at it, you should also install a more capacious SSD, but that’s about it the subject of another story.)
We prefer that companies like MSI just make 16GB the minimum standard and raise the price as needed, but as a consumer, you can make 16GB your minimum. Don’t even consider buying a computer with 8GB of RAM that can’t be upgraded. And, if you see a lot in an 8GB system, make sure you can also get the RAM and bring it up to 16GB.
If you already have a computer with 4, 8 or even 16GB of memory, adding more RAM is one of the best sub-$100 upgrades you can do Just check the service manual for your computer or motherboard or visit The Advisor of Crucial (opens in a new tab) to find out the exact type of RAM you need.