Is Linux More Efficient Than Windows When it Comes to RAM Consumption?

With lower system requirements for Linux distributors than Windows, switching to Linux is a great way to rejuvenate an old computer. This is because Linux requires less hard drive space thereby putting a lesser load on your computer’s CPU.

But when it comes to RAM, it depends. To get to the bottom of this question lets first consider what RAM is.

What Is RAM?

RAM Is an acronym for (random access memory) and is a space in your CPU for temporary storage of data that needs to be accessed frequently. It is not the same as your hard drive and it is also different in the sense that it does not store data when there is no power source, this means when you restart your PC, it returns to an empty state.

There are two types of RAM; DRAM and SRAM. DRAM is more in use because it is not as expensive as SRAM they both do the same thing only DRAM provides access times of about 60 nanoseconds whilst SRAM does in 10.

So where does this leave us?

Well we can look at system requirements that support both OS’ as a place to start. Microsoft recommends 4Gb of RAM for Windows 10 users, but the developer of Ubuntu (the most popular Linux Version) Canonical, recommends 2GB of RAM.

Even this does not tell the whole story as Ubuntu comes with extras such as animations and other goodies that if not needed, one could pretty much run Linux on old computers with even less than 2GB. You can save yourself some money by switching to Linux if your old windows computer needs more RAM.

There’s more…..

How RAM Works?

A good and fast web browser may be able to load websites fast, but loading a website will always be faster if the information was already stored in a space on your computer.

Web browsers cache sites visited so it can load them faster next time you visit them and it does this by storing website information in RAM. It is also a similar principle with word documents while they are being updated.

This is why Gamers need more RAM than the average PC user, because the computer needs to manage the different game sequences.

Why You Can Bet on Linux

Both Linux and Windows use up GBs of RAM. But there are significant differences when it comes to managing RAM usage and we argue this is where Linux has an advantage.

You have far less options with Windows when it comes to boosting RAM. You can reduce background programs and services running at the same time or you get more RAM. The cheapest way to get more RAM is to turn a USB drive into a makeshift RAM.

With Linux on the other hand, you can do all these things and more. For example, you could switch to an alternative of Ubuntu which is much lighter on resources. There are a lot of options to choose from.

All you can do with Windows is adjust animation and theme settings but the graphical user interface still remains and it is still heavy. With both systems, you can run lightweight apps but this has a better effect on Linux because it has a lighter environment.

So Which Uses Less RAM?

Well after it is all said and done, one may not assume that because you are running a Linux desktop that you are consuming less RAM. If your computer comes with the standard 512MB of RAM, Linux can make it seem like a new machine but this depends on your use of RAM consuming tasks, such as gaming which may still make the system seem slow.

Unfortunately, browsing the web is also one of these RAM – intensive tasks. There are many Linux distros that use less RAM than Windows 10, some better than others, and this will also determine the extent to which your Linux system compares to windows, but it is very safe to say, chances are it compares favorably.

Do you have any other points you think we have missed in this article, please share your thoughts in the space provided below!

Modou Sarr is from the Gambia West Africa, he loves to read write and is an avid sportsman. He studied International Development studies and also Law and hopes to one day own a successful eCommerce business.

Each tutorial at GeeksMint is created by a team of experienced writers so that it meets our high-quality writing standards.

10 thoughts on “Is Linux More Efficient Than Windows When it Comes to RAM Consumption?”

  1. I have 3GB RAM with Windows 10 on SSD drive at work and… it works flawlessly. It’s not a speed deamon but it doesn’t chuck no matter how much programs are opened and during my day of work I open many browsers: firefox, chrome, vivaldi also, Libre, many PDFs, Thunderbird and so on. Windows always keep RAM usage at 2,6GB or so and the rest is put to virtual memory.

    On my Linux laptop I have 8GB RAM on SSD so I rarely use it all but when it’s over, computer chokes strongly and becomes hardly usable… although there is SWAP.

    On my old Linux laptop with 4GB of RAM on HDD all works smoothly till RAM ends and computer freezes and that happens eventually after about 1 hour usage.

    Somehow Windows manage better RAM by smoothly managing virtual memory while Linux slows down considerably (or freezes on HDD) when its trying to put things in SWAP memory.

    So although Linux is lighter on RAM in general Windows handles much better when RAM is over. This is unfortunate because I prefer Linux but it is what it is. In result Windows can run slower but stead on low RAM computers while Linux will get uneven performance and even freezes when RAM will end. At least that’s my experience.

    In a nutshell, Windows’s virtual memory is far superior then Linux’s Swap :(. I can only how it will be improved but so far no one talks about it as if it was OK but it isn’t. Swap sucks big time!

    • To make it simple your system didn’t crash, it just hanged the desktop user interface, that’s because Linux is built normally for a server environment (that don’t run desktop environments…), and your distro whatever that choice is forgot to install a Linux out-of-memory (OOM) killer, like for example EarlyOOM, some distributions a lot actually, also seems to forget or wrongly presume the user has the wisdom and knowledge to install correctly libraries and daemons for things like zram and zswap, etc.

  2. While it is possible to run Linux on less than ideal hardware or with less than ideal resources, I prefer to “max” my laptops and desktops out so that I don’t have issues (aside from mechanical failure of course!) While you COULD run say…..openSuSE with the XFCE or MATE desktop on 8GB…..(or less!) I prefer to run it with 16GB…so that when someone comes along ans spies my old Dell from 2005….their first reaction is “..Wow… must “run” like CRAP!!..” only to discover that its not that bad,….granted it won’t do 4K….or hidef….but it will still hold its own. I’m in the market for a new laptop and I might go with something designed for Linux this time…maybe ZaReason?…or System76?…

  3. That is one misleading headline.

    Also: You buy RAM to actually use it. Unused RAM is wasted RAM. Modern day operating systems aim at efficient RAM usage where processes are given and free up RAM depending on the demand of the system. What is important is how fast RAM is reassigned between processeses. Whether or not the system or a process ueses a lot of RAM is an entirely meaningless metric. It all depends on whether there is RAM available on the system that can be reassigned when other processes need it.

    • This is actually a half-truth. Yes wasted ram is bad, but, at the same time, wasted ram can be good if the programs running on the computer are not designed to cope with a dynamic amount of cache memory. Perfect example is the Chrome browser. People falsely claim that all the ram Chrome is using up is good because it would otherwise go to waste. This is a half-truth about the Chrome browser. In reality, Chrome uses up the same amount of ram regardless of whether your system has terabytes of free RAM or just a few megabytes. Chrome fails to dynamically adapt to the memory constrains of the system, so it would be ideal for Chrome to use less memory so that it’s less of nuisance when your system is low on free memory so that your system has to use less swap-space.

      Source: I write lots of Linux software, and I know this stuff well.

    • and just in choosing a lighter window manager (or desktop environment) like AwesomeWM (an excellent productivity booster actually), Fluxbox, WIndowMaker, JWM, etc., you can save hundreds of mb of occupied ram


Got Something to Say? Join the Discussion...