Should you be worried if you find that your computer uses up almost all the RAM it has? Does such full usage show that it doesn’t have enough?
High memory usage isn’t always bad
You can usually tell when the high memory usage on your computer is the bad kind by looking at the hard disk indicator. If it is always lit and your computer is rather slow as well, it is a clear sign that you are running out of RAM for essential functions and your computer is trying to use your hard disk to compensate. If your computer isn’t actually slow, its high RAM usage habits shouldn’t worry you.
If you were to try a computer out with Windows XP and Windows 7 by turn, you’d find that Task Manager on Windows 7 usually shows far more RAM usage than Windows XP in similar configuration.
This doesn’t mean that Windows XP is a more efficient OS. It only means that while Windows 7 is designed for today’s new computers that have plenty of RAM, XP was designed for a time when RAM was expensive and in short supply in computers. If you were to try Windows 3.1, you would find that it only took up perhaps 8MB of RAM. These usage patterns only go to show that those operating systems were designed for basic performance on very rudimentary machines. They weren’t very efficient.
Since RAM is cheap and plentiful today, Windows 7 is designed to use whatever you have to spare to speed things along. This Windows performance feature is called Super Fetch. In an attempt to make your experience smoother, Super Fetch tries to predict what information you need even before you have asked for it. Linux has it, too. Older operating systems like Windows XP didn’t do this. They were less efficient.
Many programs have their own software caches these days. If you open a page or two on Chrome or Firefox, you could see that it easily takes up 100MB of your RAM. This doesn’t show that the webpage has that much data. It only means that your browser tries to store every page you visit in its cache so that pressing the Back or Forward buttons takes you to older pages quickly.
Unused RAM can be a bad thing
When Task Manager in Windows shows that you constantly have gigabytes of RAM to spare, it doesn’t mean that the RAM is all very ready to soup up your program launches in a way that it couldn’t if your RAM was always full. If you have lots of empty RAM all the time, it only means that you’ve bought more than you could ever use.
If your RAM is always peaked, it doesn’t slow your program launches. When a program needs your RAM, that’s a priority function and your OS will quickly clear RAM up for it. If your computer doesn’t seem exceedingly slow, you needn’t worry about how much RAM you use.