How much RAM do I need for a Chromebook?

By - Dan Millward

Updated -

If you’re considering buying a Chromebook or Chromebox then checking how much RAM it comes with is really important. The good news is Chrome OS is extremely lightweight, so you can get away with not needing as much as you’d need with other types of computers.

When it comes to the question of how much RAM you need for Chrome OS? For the majority of people, 4 GB of RAM is plenty. You’ll easily be able to carry out most tasks on your Chromebook with 4GB of RAM. Looking for your next Chromebook? Take a look at my Top Ten Chromebooks 2022 list.

The reason this question is asked so much is that the amount of RAM your computer comes with will have a direct impact on performance. Before you go out and treat yourself to a new Chrome OS laptop or desktop PC. It’s really important to ensure you’ll have all the RAM necessary to complete the tasks you’re buying a computer for. This in-depth article will explain everything you need to know about the RAM needed for your Chromebook or Chromebox.

What is Random Access Memory (RAM)

All types of computers need RAM to work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a laptop, desktop or smartphone. They all use an operating system, which requires certain hardware to operate correctly. When it comes to performance, which is how fast your Chrome OS computer will perform tasks. The main components are the computer processor and RAM.

The name Random Access Memory (RAM) gives you a clue of what it’s needed for. It’s essentially a place to store important data that your processor and software need to perform. Your RAM is a place where data can be written to and then read from at amazingly fast speeds.

Computer RAM chip
RAM is a chip inside your computer

RAM is a chip inside your computer, which allows for data to be stored and retrieved much quicker than most methods. This is really important because for software to run correctly the processor will need access to this data quickly. This is why a computer performs much better if it has enough RAM available to cope with the tasks you carry out on a day-to-day basis.

The memory stored in RAM is temporary. When you start using an application it will store data in RAM for the application to run correctly. When you finish using an application the data in your RAM is removed. This allows other applications to have access to the RAM they need to run correctly.

How is RAM used with Chrome OS

The memory in your Chromebook is used by all the software that will run on your computer. The operating system ‘Chrome OS’ will use RAM when booting up your Chromebook. It will continue to use RAM while your Chromebook is in use. The amount of memory it will use depends on the tasks it’s performing.

All other software you use when using your Chromebook will also use RAM. Ensuring you have enough RAM to run all the software you will be using is important. If your computer begins to run out of RAM you will notice a dramatic impact on performance.

Your computer’s processor, which is the heart of any computer needs RAM to perform. If your processor needed to retrieve data from storage it would cause your computer to perform much slower. This happens when too little RAM is available. If enough RAM is available the processor can store and retrieve more data from the RAM at a much faster speed than from storage on your computer.

What happens when Chrome OS runs low on RAM?

If your Chromebook runs low on RAM it will start to perform much slower than you would normally expect. When a computer runs low on RAM it can become almost unusable. Luckily, this is not so obvious on a Chromebook as it may be on other types of computers. That being said, the amount of RAM your Chromebook has is still important.

For example, say you bought a Chromebook with 2GB of RAM, and ‘Chrome OS’ needed at least 1GB of RAM to run comfortably. This would mean your Chromebook would have 1GB of RAM available for any applications or websites that you choose to visit.

RAM Chrome OS
Running low on RAM can be frustrating when you need to get things done

If you open your internet browser and start surfing the internet this may take 300MB of RAM. There is 1,000MB in a GB, so this would leave you with 700MB. If you then started to use Google Docs to write an essay, this may take a further 300MB to run. This would then leave you with 400MB. Find out how to increase the RAM available to your Chrome OS computer.

If you then decided to open a spreadsheet using Google Sheets and that spreadsheet contained huge amounts of data and needed 600MB to run. You would then run into problems because you only have 400MB of RAM available.

This is a very simplistic look at how RAM is used because it’s never as black and white as that. Sometimes your Chromebook will need more RAM for a number of reasons. In the example, I’ve just used, your Chromebook would have run out of RAM. It would still work, as it would remove data from the RAM to ensure the software still works. However, this would also slow down your computer.

How much RAM do I need for my Chromebook

The amount of RAM you’ll need will depend on what you intend to use your Chromebook for. This is why I recommend that 4 GB of RAM is more than enough for the majority of people. I own a Chromebox with 8GB, a Chromebook with 8GB and another Chromebook with 4 GB of RAM.

If I wanted to do any of the following tasks I’d easily be able to do this with my Chromebook that has 4 GB of RAM:

  • Surf the internet
  • Watch a YouTube video
  • Watch a Netflix video
  • Social media such as Facebook
  • Use a word processor or spreadsheet program
  • Basic Android Apps

As you can see from the list above, although not exhaustive, covers what most of us use our computers for. Therefore, you can comfortably carry out most tasks on a Chrome OS computer with 4 GB of RAM.

A Chromebook with 4GB of RAM is more than enough for most tasks you will carry out on your computer. If you spend most of your time surfing the internet, using social media, and streaming HD movies. Then you’ll have no problems choosing a Chromebook with 4 GB of RAM.

RAM needed for Android Apps

All Chromebooks have the ability to run Android Apps. This is great because there is a huge selection of apps to choose from. Whether you’re looking for productivity apps or apps just for fun. You’ll find plenty, which you can use with Chrome OS.

Most of these apps work perfectly fine with 4 GB of RAM. Sure, if you like to use apps that are graphic intensive. Then you may find they run a little slower if your computer has 4GB of RAM. This is most likely going to be the case when you use advanced Android app games.

Android on Chrome OS
Android Apps need enough RAM to work correctly

My personal experience when it comes to using apps with 4 GB of RAM. If the app is a little demanding it still works fine, however, it takes a lot longer to load compared to if I was using one of my Chrome OS computers with 8GB of RAM. However, I’ve never had an issue with the apps I use not working due to not having enough RAM.

If you’re choosing to buy a Chromebook or Chromebox to take advantage of Android Apps. Then I’d recommend looking at the type of apps you’ll be using. As I’ve said most will work fine with 4GB. However, If you do want to play advanced Android App games for example. Then you’ll possibly want to consider buying a Chromebook with 8GB of RAM.

RAM needed for Linux Apps

When it comes to Linux apps you can use a lot of them with 4 GB of RAM. That being said, if you intend on taking full advantage of what they can offer. Then I’d definitely suggest buying a Chrome OS computer that comes with 8GB rather than 4GB.

Linux provides huge potential for Chrome OS and who knows what will be possible in the future. These apps are closer to full programs you’d install on your computer. The word ‘app’ can be a little misleading. For example, you can install Gimp, an advanced image editor, video editors and music editors such as Audacity. These are fully-fledged computer programs and not apps.

Linux on Chrome OS
Some Linux apps will perform better with 8GB of RAM

Although you should be fine using Gimp and Audacity. You’d possibly struggle to do any serious video editing with 4GB of RAM. Also, Gimp and Audacity could easily take advantage of any extra RAM your computer has available. Therefore, I’d suggest aiming for a Chromebook or Chromebox with at least 8GB of RAM if Linux is important to you.

Future-proof your Chrome OS computer

When choosing how much memory you need it’s important to consider the future. It’s best not to think about how much RAM you need now and think about what you’ll need a few years from now.

If you use your Chromebook mainly for internet surfing and catching up on social media. Then you’ll be fine choosing a Chromebook with 4GB and not have to worry about needing more at a later date. However, if you do like to use the latest apps and enjoy experimenting with different software. Then I’d recommend getting more RAM where possible.

At the moment, if you want to buy a Chromebook that is future-proof. Then you should consider buying a model that has at least 8GB of RAM. This only applies if you use your Chromebook for more than just internet surfing. Choosing a Chromebook with 8GB of RAM now will save you money in the long run. Choosing 8GB of RAM means your Chromebooks should still be able to cope with new software that is released a few years from now.

The type of Chrome OS device usually dictates the RAM needed

One thing that we’ve not considered is the type of Chrome OS computer you’re considering. For example, are you looking to buy a budget Chromebook or a mid-range or high spec device? The type of model you’re considering should dictate the amount of RAM you should be looking for.

If you’re buying a budget Chromebook, which usually comes with an Intel Celeron or MediaTek processor. Then 4GB of RAM is all you need. These types of budget processors perform much slower than higher spec processors. Therefore, even if you had 8 GB of RAM. These budget types of processors would not likely be able to take advantage of that.

On the other hand, if you were looking at buying a Chromebook or Chromebox with a higher spec processor. A processor such as an Intel i3, i5 or i7. These types of processors would be held back if they only had 4GB of RAM to work with. Therefore, if you’re buying a higher spec model with a high-performing processor. It’s a much better option to choose 8 GB of RAM because these processors will be able to take advantage of the extra memory.

In Summary

For the majority of us, 4 GB of RAM is enough when buying a new Chromebook. If you spend most of your time using your Chrome browser to surf the web, word process, use social media, watch YouTube and Netflix movies. Then you should not have any issues with this amount of RAM.

Even when it comes to Android Apps. Providing the apps are not really advanced gaming apps. Then you should easily be able to get most things done with 4GB. That being said, when you start looking at Android and Linux Apps, and you intend on using both. It’s possibly a good idea to start considering buying a Chromebook with 8 GB of RAM. You’ll also need to ensure you choose a Chromebook with the right processor.

If you’re considering buying a Chromebook and you’ll be spending most of your time using the Chrome Browser. Then you’ll be fine choosing a Chromebook with 4 GB of RAM. It doesn’t matter what Chrome OS device you intend to buy. Whether it’s a Chromebox or Chromebook 4GB will do just fine for the majority. If you’ll be doing more than this, then 8GB may be the better option.