How much Ram is enough?
One of the most common questions any computer owner or buyer asks is "do I have enough RAM?". Well of course the answer is not a simple yes or no, as the answer really depends on your usage. Are you a general user, a power user with multiple applications open at once and 10 browser tabs open? Are you a professional or hobbyist using video, audio or photo editing software?
As a general rule of thumb, 6GB to 8GB is fine for standard use and light multitasking - word processing, web browsing, listening to music. 8GB of DDR3 is very adequate for 90% of PC users out there.
8GB of DDR3 or higher memory is fine for nearly all games. However the new standard is now 16GB if you want to be able to play the newest and most demanding games.
Add as much as you can, your PC will be happy for it. The encoding is what uses a lot of memory, along with a multicore and/or multi-threaded CPU. If you are in the market for a new laptop or workstation then aim for 32GB, 64GB or even higher. Note that you can always add more to whatever you buy, including laptops. Often it it wise to buy a cheaper laptop and just add more RAM, otherwise you spend more so you can get lots of RAM but get other features you don't necessarily want.
Audio Recording and Editing
Aim for 16GB, if you are a heavy user then consider 32GB.
8GB is fine for light Photoshop usage. If you are working with very large images then aim for 16GB or if you are multitasking and want a smooth workflow. Note that a good CPU helps a lot here too, a decent graphics card can help but the CPU and RAM are more important.
8GB is fine for most users, for very complex drawings then go for 16GB, preferably 1600Mhz or faster. You should note that a decent CPU and a workstation card will go a LONG way here, an SSD will also make your life a lot better. Waiting for complex models or drawings to load can be frustrating.
How to test memory usage
A quick note on memory usage desktop apps/widgets/gadgets, you may use these however you should note they use up memory themselves to run.
Windows OS Machine
First open your task manager, you may press Ctrl + Alt + Delete at the same time and click "Start Task manager". Next click the "Performance" tab at the top, this screen gives a basic overview of your system performance. You should 2 green charts titled "CPU Usage" and "Memory" respectively. The meaning of the chart should be self-explanatory, it shows how much memory you are currently using out of your total maximum memory. At this stage if the green bar is all the way full then you are clearly using up all your memory and you need more, if not then you are not in he clear yet. Next you want to click "Resource Monitor" near the bottom, navigate to the "Memory" tab. This shows a graph which will now begin recording your memory usage over time, the "Used Physical Memory" graph is the important one here. You should now move the window to one side or minimise it. Now go and use your laptop, play one of your video games, open up a bunch of browser tabs, open up your video editing software, go and do your thing! You may jump back to your task manager window at any time and take note of the "Used Physical Memory" graph. If at any point the green chart has reached the top then you are using your maximum available RAM.
What happens when I use up all my RAM
When your computer uses up all available RAM, you may have noticed it slows down! This is because the computer starts using it's Hard Drive or SSD to store the information it needs to store. The memory in your hard drive or SSD is a different technology and is considerably slower to read or write to. In contrast RAM is extremely fast and needs to be so it can keep up with all the data in which your CPU is processing. Your RAM (Random Access Memory) is design to store temporary data which your Operating System and currenty applications use to function. Hard drives store the long term data, think of it a bit like short term vs. long term memory for us humans!
You may be wondering why we don't just store ALL the data in RAM and just have lots of it. Well you actually can if you wanted to, although you would need a LOT of RAM and a lot of money to go with it. This is called a RAM disk and is not really a thing... yet! Some boffins do it just because they can or in some very, very rare use cases where it might actually be practical. In the future as memory advances it may actually become a practical solution.