How Much Memory do I Need?

Updated: 30th November 2016

RAM for Flight Simulators

Pic of DDR4 RAM
DDR-4 RAM modules with built-in heatsinks

RAM is used to temporarily store information, program code and resultant data in a special area which allows the processor to access it very quickly.

Flight simulators need lots of RAM. But how much is enough?

Well, before that question is answered, you first have to decide on the operating system.

Linux and IOS are applicable to X-Plane but not to P3D or FSX. I have very little experience of these and therefore any comment I might make here would be worthless.

So now we are down to Windows 7 or Windows 10  – 32-bit version or 64-bit version.

So, if you are using the 32-bit version of Windows, the maximum RAM that the machine will see and use will be 3GB. Some motherboards will only allow the system to see 2GB. There is no point in purchasing more.

The optimum Operating System is Windows7 – 64 bit or Windows 10 – 64-bit

This will see and use as much RAM as you can throw at it. The more RAM you have, the more code and data you can keep in fast volatile RAM memory and the faster the machine will be. The minimum for a 64-bit operating system is 4Gb.

The Fly in the Ointment…

However, currently there is not much point in fitting a 64-bit windows system with more than 8GB of RAM if you are using FSX, P3D or FX2004 because these programs are 32-bit programs and therefore cannot use any more memory even if it is present on the computer.

If you are running X-Plane 10 or X-Plane 11 it is a totally different story. For a few years now,  X-Plane has been 64-bit program. This means it can use much more RAM than the other simulators. Depending on how many add-on are installed and whether high-definition mesh is installed, the RAM requirements will vary.
I recommend  at least 16GB for a budget system and 32GB for a high-end system running X-Plane. Anything less and you run the risk of throttling the frame rate of the simulator

The technical specs. of the RAM will also be determined by the CPU and the motherboard. Any modern DDR4 motherboard fitted with a high-end cpu should be able to handle DDR4-2133 RAM speeds.  If you are not knowledgeable about overclocking, don’t despair – just follow the guidelines that came with your motherboard to automatically set the optimal RAM clock speed.

RAM also gets hot. Very hot. So high-performance RAM usually has a heatsink built on to each module. Gamers and overclockers often purchase special cooling fans specifically made for RAM modules.