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The Difference in 512 MB & 1GB of RAM

by Matt Koble
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Random access memory, or RAM, is how your computer opens, reads and runs the software you use, from your operating system to PC games. RAM modules are often measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). When it comes to memory, 1,024 MB equals 1 GB, so 512 MB of RAM is half as much as 1 GB. What that difference means to your computer varies based on certain considerations.

Memory Type

The memory type plays a large roll in determining the difference between 512 MB and 1 GB of RAM. For instance, DDR3 PC3-12800 RAM has a peak transfer rate of 12.8 GBs per second, while DDR PC-1600 memory can only transfer 1.6 GBs of data per second. Since DDR3 PC-12800 RAM is so much faster, 512 MB of advanced DDR3 memory is still better than 1 GB of outdated, slower DDR PC-1600 memory.

Operating System Requirements

The operating system you use requires a certain amount of memory to properly run on your computer. The higher that requirement is, the less RAM you'll have for running other software. For example, Windows XP only requires 64 MB of RAM, so even if you only have 512 MB, you'll still be able to open and run other software. Windows 7, on the other hand, requires at least 1 GB. With Windows XP, the difference regarding the operating system is small but with Windows 7, you simply can't run it with 512 MB of RAM, whereas you can with 1 GB.

Age and Usage

The age of your computer and the hardware inside also determine how much of a difference 1 GB of RAM makes over 512 MB. Newer computers that use dual or triple channel technology can read memory better and faster than computers without the technology, meaning your 1 GB of RAM may go a lot further in a newer system if it's configured properly. Many older programs and operating systems have lower RAM requirements, meaning 512 MB will go a lot further in a computer using old programs than in one trying to run Windows 7 with the latest resource-intensive software.

Virtual Memory Variation

Virtual memory is hard drive space your computer uses to simulate extra RAM. The more virtual memory your system uses, the further 512 MB of RAM will go. Virtual memory is primarily used to store open programs when you're not directly using them to free up the space for in-demand programs to use your RAM. Since virtual memory is primarily used only when it's needed, 512 MB of real RAM and 2.5 GB of virtual memory delivers better performance than 1 GB of real RAM and no virtual memory, because the 1 GB system has absolutely no backup option when all of the real RAM is in use.

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