Should I juice up my new laptop with more memory?
June 9, 2010 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Have received a new laptop as a gift. Should I add more RAM to get ahead of Moore's Law? Should a possible RAM upgrade influence my choice of OS?

I received an ASUS K40IJ-VX204 laptop as a gift. It's got 2gig onboard memory. It also has an Intel Dual Core T4400 processor, which I figure is respectable as I'm mainly going to use the laptop to write and surf the Internet; I'll also be doing some photo processing, nothing too high level, but may be taxing on the system. The laptop has no OS at the moment.

Two questions:

Should I upgrade the memory to its 4 gig maximum allowable onboard memory? It's not the newest processor, and I'd like to forestall Moore's Law for as long as I can. As I'm not going to be doing a lot of gaming in the foreseeable future, am i just throwing away good money by upgrading?

Should I get a 64-bit version of Windows 7? The 32-bit version will only read up to 3 gig of the onboard memory if I choose to upgrade. The 64-bit version will recognize all 4 gig if I upgrade. But I hear tell that some applications won't work on the 64-bit version. I'm totally in the dark about the differences between the two, and I'm not sure where to start looking.
posted by micketymoc to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Go to 4 GBs if you can. Anything over that might be excessive if you aren't doing anything serious on it.
posted by runit at 6:59 PM on June 9, 2010

I just did the 4G XP -> W7 a few months ago and it's been great.

I recommend always maxing out on RAM to its OS or HW limit, whichever is lower. It's a cheap upgrade.
posted by rhizome at 7:06 PM on June 9, 2010

I'm typing this on a computer with a 64-bit system (Vista) and I regret intalling it that way. Compatibility issues outweigh any performance advantage.
posted by Flunoid at 7:20 PM on June 9, 2010

Data point: the T4400 has 64-bit support.
posted by micketymoc at 7:48 PM on June 9, 2010

64-bit on Vista is significantly different than 64-bit with Windows 7. It's like night and day; Vista was nothing but trouble for me re: 64-bit drivers, while the 64-bit Windows 7 has been able to handle absolutely everything I throw at it. Almost a quarter of my drivers and over half of my software is 32-bit installed on a 64-bit machine, and save for some incredibly specific instances I've never had any issue.

If you plan on ever going over 2GB of RAM, install the 64-bit version. (You'll have both the 32 and 64-bit versions if you buy the OS at retail, so you can always change your mind. You'd need to flatten and reinstall, though.) Unless you have an incredibly specific or specialized piece of software you need , you will (almost) literally never notice the difference.

Regarding the actual RAM upgrade, for your needs 2GB sounds fine. Excepting small-scale market fluctuation, the price of a RAM upgrade will only drop until the technology itself has been replaced and the old stuff is no longer mass-market.

The tl:dr version? Install the 64-bit Windows 7 and hold off on buying the RAM until you actually need it.
posted by truex at 8:03 PM on June 9, 2010

It's a recent laptop with recent, mainstream components; you're unlikely to have driver troubles.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:06 PM on June 9, 2010

Extra Crap:
  1. If a machine has a dual-core processor, it's 64-bit compatible. The architecture has been in place for a while now, it's mostly been software support that's lagging.
  2. ASUS has 64-bit Windows 7 drivers and utilities for your specific model available on their support site. Windows 7 will most likely work just fine out of the box, but you'll want to install these to use the function keys, maybe the webcam, etc. See what works after you install the OS and go from there.
  3. Microsoft has improved the handling of 32/64-bit software and drivers to the point that I won't think twice about setting my parents up with a 64-bit Windows 7 install when (if) they get a new machine.
    • As a bonus, Windows 7 runs much better than Windows Vista on the exact same hardware, even if that hardware predated Windows 7.
  4. I really like lists.
  5. 32-bit software on a 64-bit machine is installed into Program Files (x86), while 64-bit stuff is installed into plain old Program Files. This will happen automatically, and you will only have to think about it if you need to go to the install directory for some reason.

posted by truex at 8:19 PM on June 9, 2010

Honestly, 2GB of ram is plenty for basic/moderate use. But unless you are strapped for cash, spending the ~$50 is definitely a worthy upgrade.
posted by wongcorgi at 8:29 PM on June 9, 2010

Just FYI, that's not what Moore's law is about. Moore's law simply says that the number of transistors in a chip that can be manufactured for a given cost increases exponentially over time. It has nothing to do with what you need in a computer to accomplish tasks, nor does it mean you have to upgrade constantly. There are many people that do everything you list (writing, surfing, photo editing) with systems that are 3 or more years old and have less than 2 GB of memory. You only have to upgrade if the task you want to do requires more processing power or memory than you have available, and usually that means playing newly released games.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:14 PM on June 9, 2010

Absolutely max the ram while you can - ram gets more expensive once it's footprint becomes obsolete and the world moves on to faster ram - so get it now.

Use 64-bit Win7.

After that - if you need a performance upgrade, swap the drive for a decent SSD if you can - the difference is astounding.

If you can afford to drop a 160GB Intel X25-M G2 in there, it will be very well worth the price. Win7 supports this very well.
posted by TravellingDen at 7:59 AM on June 10, 2010

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