The amount of memory (RAM) in your Mac is one important factor determining the performance of the computer. More RAM memory increases the overall performance and enables your Mac to run more applications at the same time.
Each app that you run uses up the RAM memory. With more open apps, the memory can run out pretty quickly. When the total memory requires is more than the installed physical memory, OS X will swap those unused memory to the hard disk so that the active app has enough memory to run. This swapping is what causes the slow down in performance.
All Macs nowadays come with minimum 4GB of memory (RAM). So is 4GB enough for you? A fresh install of OS X Mavericks takes about 1-2 GB of memory to run, which has bigger memory requirements compared to past OS X. 4GB is sufficient for day-to-day tasks such as emailing, web browsing and simple word processing. A minimum of 8GB is recommended if you’re doing anything more than standard tasks. If you’re running more than one pro app (such as Aperture, Photoshop, Final Cut X, Xcode) at the same time, you might want to consider upgrading to 16GB of memory.
It pays to ask yourself at the time of purchase if 4GB is enough for your need, as RAM is not upgradeable in some Mac models such as MacBook Air, MacBook Pro with Retina and 21.5 inch iMac. One way to determine the upgradability is to visit the online Apple Store website. Select to configure the Mac model, then click on “Learn more” to expand the note on memory configure option. Apple will highlight if RAM in the model is upgradeable or not in the note. The best is to confirm with Apple personnel directly.
You might make do with a lower RAM memory if your Mac is equipped with a SSD drive. Typical SSD is multitude of read/write performance compared with a hard disk. This improves the speed of OS X swapping memory in and out. Thus 4GB of memory in a SSD-equipped Mac is sufficient if you’re only doing complex tasks occasionally.
If you’re stuck with an old Mac with non-upgradeable 4GB of memory, replacing the hard disk with an SSD is one way to boost the overall performance. Another option is use a memory cleaning tool such as Memory Clean that will assist you to recover available memory.
We recommend a minimum of 8GB memory if you’re buying a new Mac. If you’re using your Mac only for standard tasks, then an iPad might serve you better in our opinion.