I am planning to buy a new computer in the near future. I was leaning towards an AMD Athalon 64 3400+, 512 RAM. I know the 64bit is overkill for now, but I was hoping to keep this machine around for a while. My question is: would it be worth the extra money to go with 1GB of ram? The site I'm buying from (tigerdirect.com) says there's no such thing as too much ram, but it sounds like they just want me to spend money. I've heard people say that anything more than 512 is overkill. Any suggestions?
Your decision to go with 64-bit now is a good idea as that is not something you can incrementally upgrade later on; you can't just buy another 32 bits to add on to the CPU. However, RAM is something that can be done incrementally. More RAM is definitely better. But if the price of RAM drops, you may be paying too much now for what you only really need later.
I build my own computers. Thus I know how many RAM slots I have. I always make sure I start with no more than 50% used. Usually computers have 2 or 4 slots to install RAM, but some have 1 or 3 (a few I've worked on had as many as 16). A few I have with 3 slots can't use the 3rd slot if the largest sizes are installed in the first 2.
Anyway, to the extent you can do so, be sure you have exapandability. Let's say your new machine has 2 slots. You could get the 512MB as 2 modules of 256MB each, and fill it up, leaving no room for expansion, requiring you to replace both later on to go up to 1024MB. But if you get it with a single 512MB module, it takes one space, and leaves one space open for adding another later.
Beware about computer vendors stiffing you on this. Sometimes the larger RAM modules will cost a wee bit more than 2 that are half the size ... and sometimes not. But they will prefer to stiff you with 2 smaller ones for 2 reasons. One is that it forces you to buy more later when you want to expand (drives more business). The other is that it helps them use up what is going to be old stock soon as the smaller modules are no longer of interest.
This is one of the reasons I build my own, even though it now days actually costs a bit more. Not only do I know what's actually inside this way, I control precisely how it is configured. Of course I am at an advantage since I've been building PCs since 1993 and have been working on computer hardware since 1979.
512 is probably just fine. That you can never have enough ram is a bit of a dubious statement, sounds like something from the mouths of marketing types whose job it is to separate you and your money. If your gut tells you "go for more" then maybe buy up and get a 1gig stick. More than 1gig for the average home user is overkill. Past 512mb, memory *speed* is as much or more important as memory *amount* The purpose of ram is to have enough of it to run the programs you regularly use. Having more ram than the apps you use requires is pointless- it would be better (performance-wise) for you to look for a computer that supports the fastest memory speeds rather than just buying tons of ram.
512 has worked well on our PC too. I know on some PC bords the memory has to be matched in pairs. I built our desk top 1 1/2 years ago. Spent weeks reading about all the best rated and faster parts. Works well and is faster than a off the shelf lap top with a higher rated speed. The nice thing about building your oun PC is you have all the drivers seperate and an orignal ver of windows. The PC boards you buy tend to be more flexible. The PC companies just use what ever parts they get they best deal on. If you want to make changes it can be hard with off the shelf units.
Thanks for the help. I think I'm gonna go for a 512 stick for now, as I never really need more than that (I've never gone above 292.. checked task manager) I sometimes have problems when running complex programs and I forget to shut off BOINC (Like Seti@Home, but newer set up, for multiple projects.... grid computing stuff) I'll be running Windows XP and Mandrake 10.1 (dual boot). I'm still new to linux, but I'm eager to learn it. I'm all in favor for an operating system that you can customize if you have the know how... and what's better is that it's (legally) free!
**edit** I forgot to mention that I am building my own PC. I'm gonna end up with 3 video cards so I can have 3 monitors that work independently.... Not really necessary, but Imagine walking into your friends house and seeing a computer with three monitors.....
[This message has been edited by PEdoubleNIZZLE (edited 03-12-2005).]
Congratulations on your ambition to learn- both with PC building and learning linux! I've been a hpaay linux user for a while now too and it makes my heart glad to hear linux catching on with more and more people.
You will get the benefit of the 64-bit extensions under linux (there is scheduled to be a release of 64bit Windows some time this year also but I am not sure exactly when). 64bit is definitely cool, but I've encountered more bugs in the SuSE linux distro for 64bit Xeon than in the regular x86 one. Still: early days... the other 64bit SuSE platforms' distributions are rock solid.
An attribute of 64bit binaries is that they use slightly more storage than the exact same code compiled for a 32-bit CPU, so your 512MB will not stretch quite as far as it could on a conventional P4 machine. When I compile my code for 64bit (sparc, PowerPC, ia_64) and 32 bit Intel x86) I reckon the PPC and Sparc images use about 10 per cent more on average, and the Xeon even a bit more. Perhaps the C compiler optimiser is not yet as efficient on Xeon, but in any case, this is mostly a side-effect of wider word sizes used to store basic types and the way the optimizer organizes alignment on word boundaries.
The memory usage figures in Process Manager (or, in Linux, in 'top') are not the whole picture. Both systems use all the extra physical memory not allocated to processes or to the kernel to pre-load open disk files. The filesystems in Windows and in Unix both implement read-ahead algorithms that use unallocated RAM to cache files under DMA control. This usage goes 'under the radar' of the Process viewer or 'top', though. The difference in practical terms depends on which applications you are running, but we have measured performance improvements roughly double for database apps when running in a 1GB machine rather than a 512MB one. Yet, according to 'top', the database process was only using about 200MB.