WarningLast warning about keeping this discussion friendly.
I would never recommend faster ram on a system. It just amounts to nothing. Unless you are all about benchmark numbers.
So I think the discussion about "how RAM affects or improves speed/performance" is over, and what MasterChief said are the real ways to get faster and stable PC's... so yeah, if I have money in the near future; I will just give it a try for myself by buying a SSD for my laptop, and the next thing is upgrading my APU for gaming. Sadly the latest game my PC can handle good with both good speed and quality is 'Halo 2 for Windows Vista' and that game is from 2006 (I believe)! I wish I could play more recent games like COD or the latest NFS releases...
I tend to disagree here -- if we assume that "Normal activities" are NOT things like gaming but simply Internet browsing, email, Office applications etc etc.
A lot of these are highly I/O bound so improving the CPU will make absolutely NO difference. Fitting an SSD WILL make a HUGE difference - especially on systems with lower amounts of RAM -- the Windows paging and swap files for starts will be of an order of magnitude faster than by having them on "spinners" --especially the hideous really slow ones on older machines.
I can't think of ANYBODY who has regretted fitting SSD's on any machine.
(Most users run their machines highly I/O bound -- lack of CPU power simply isn't an issue -- a simple i3 processor was more than the combined compute power of ALL participants in WW II COMBINED !!! just to give you some indication of how far computing has advanced since the end of WW II (1945).
Of course for running a huge amount of multi-tasking or compute bound applications (complex scientific calculations for example - especially Floating point calculations or intensive video editing applications) then a decent amount of processing power is required - but typically most people don't tax the processor in their computer in the slightest.
How can you possibly disagree with something that is not even defined? What if the original CPU that needs to be upgraded is something like P4 1.5 GHz, where when you load a webpage it uses 100% cpu? I made no mention and am just speaking in general...can't really see how something like that can be disagreed with.
Just a quick reminder on SSD's a. they are expensive, about 60 cents per GB b. once the SSD gets over half full, they begin to slow down and are on par with HDD for speed and c. you can only write over them so many times before you start experiencing read/write errors.
Funny, I multitask all the time with streaming music and it is nothing for me to have 10 tabs open with no problem on a HDD.
I agree with pparks
Keep in mind that the HDD/SSD for multitasking is a very small part of what get's used in the PC over all.
It is practically insignificant depending on the processes of the software running.
Multitasking relies on RAM and CPU and Bus Speeds the majority of the time.
Once things are opened, the HDD/SSD have very little to do at all with the software etc.
Unless it's something like a database, or heavily used file server (like parks stated)
There is not much that the normal consumer runs daily that needs a lot of heavy disk access.
There, over heavy use of multiple users, you want the access speed of high end drives.
SSD at this time is not the choice of course. But, HDD's and Raid setups is.
SSD as they get bigger and cheaper will replace HDD's in File Servers. Terminal Servers, Database Servers, etc.
Raid will only be used for redundant drive failures, etc. not so much for speed at that point.
Especially once VDI get's utilized more. VDI is the wave that is coming.
In a home environment though, parks is exactly right.
I know I went a little off topic, but it's relevant.
As for RAM,
Performance is what that will give you in a PC that has little RAM to begin with
Keep in mind, that a lot of people don't suffer from this any longer. It is an outdated idea now.
Anyone with a modern PC today, probably isn't running with less than 4G, generally. Not everyone, but my guess is a lot. And they should be. No modern PC bought today should run with less than 4G of RAM, imo.
So adding 2G+ isn't going to give anyone a real performance boost.
Older PC's (4+ years) with only 2G of ram, will see a performance boost by adding 2G. Not huge, but enough to notice.
In gaming PC's, where I see a lot of people make mistakes is, dropping 16G of RAM and buying a mid level GPU.
That is a waste, I will always recommend, 6G RAM total, put the rest of that money on a better GPU, that is the bang for dollar.
If you are doing Audio/Video, Virtual Machines, Programing Large Databases, etc. You want RAM, lots of it.
8G would be the minimum I would recommend on the low end and that would only be if you were going to add more sooner rather than later, 16G Recommended as the primary choice for starters. Going up from there would depend on what you were actually doing and how much.
Rendering a 60 Piece Orchestra will go a lot smoother and faster.
However, this will also depend on the software you are using, and how well it will utilize the system over all.
Virtual Machines, will suck up massive amounts RAM to run stable and allow for multiple users to access things
And again, this depends on what you are doing with it. So, 4G to 8G may suffice for the hobbyist, recommend 6G to 8G though.
In a home environment, you are probably just playing around with things,
but you will get better performance out of the 3 server and 10 clients you may want to play around with.
Keep in mind that what I stated here are all my personal opinion on general guidelines and it can change depending on what specifically each individual is going to be doing over all and how much of it. Some will be quite satisfied with less, but depending on situation, I would never recommend less. Less is not more in the tech world, that is only valid in culinary arts.
In the world of tech, very little is written in stone though.