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what's more important for a development machine ? better cpu or more memory ?


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closed as not constructive by splattne Jan 18 '12 at 10:32

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14 Answers 14

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Personally, I like to be able to run a couple virtual machines and several instances of Visual Studio, so I'd go for RAM or a faster disk before I worried about CPU. A Core 2 duo with 8 GB RAM is working fine.

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As noted elsewhere, it depends what the current CPU is. You need a sufficient CPU. If I was getting a CPU and concerned about cost, I'd go for the cheapest multicore that supports virtualization extensions. – dmo May 29 '09 at 18:28
RAM. You Need More RAM. Then More Disk Space. CPU's spend 80% of their time doing nothing. Even when they are busy they are STILL waiting for RAM! – Guy Feb 16 '10 at 9:39

It depends how much memory you have and what development tools you have installed.

Basically unless you have a really old processor, memory is cheap, get more memory.

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Unless you have 4GB of RAM on a 32-bit O/S which may make more memory not a great option. – JB King May 29 '09 at 17:25
That's a good point, but not entirely correct. Check out PAE: – Rich May 30 '09 at 2:29

RAM, RAM , you can never have too much RAM. OK, well, you actually can, if you're going over 4GB you will need 64bit to take advantage.

Most processors today are dual or quad core, and if you don't have enough memory, your machine spends too much time swapping memory.

I have 2GB at work and I'm constantly bumping up against it. RAM is cheap right now, so go for it!

I wish I could have 8GB in my work machine, one can dream can't they.

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It depends on what your needs are now. If you're looking toward the future then I would get the fastest CPU I could afford now. You're not likely to upgrade the CPU later but RAM upgrades can usually be done on the cheap (an easy). More to your direct question; I tend to prefer a faster CPU as long as I have sufficient RAM, i.e. enough that the compiler is not having to thrash the disk just to make the build. Of course I'm giving you the perspective of an embedded C developer and not a Windows developer (or some other GUI intensive development environment) view.

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+1. Its a lot easier and cheaper to add/replace memory than a CPU. – Fortyrunner May 29 '09 at 6:09

In my experience, memory is important. 4GB is a good amount, you probably won't need more, but you also don't want to have 2GB, that's not enough (vmware, eclipse/visual studio, device emulators, several desktops with lots of firefox windows, thunderbird, etc. eat a lot memory). Of course, if you have some very old one-core cpu, you may want to upgrade that, first.

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It depends on the machine, why not setup a some kind of scheduled performance data collection (perfmon, atsar) to collect data so you can figure out what the bottle-necks are.

Or if you have the spare cash, just buy both.

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It kinda depends on how much we're talking about. If you have less than 4 gig of memory, then definitely get more memory. If you have more than 16 gig of memory, then definitely get more CPU.

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My best upgrade was a SSD disk. (not OCZ Vertex, go for intel)

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The answer would depend on what sort of development will be done on the box. If you need to bring up a multi-tiered system for testing, each process will require RAM to load, but might not be very active, so CPU might not matter as much as RAM. On the other hand, if you are running fewer processes but the ones you do perform many operations, CPU is a more important consideration.

I agree with the others that this is somewhat difficult question to answer without more detail (ie, what sort of development, what are the benchmarks for CPU and RAM).

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You'll go through more CPU cycles before you start using up all your memory. The exception would be if you're running virtual machines on the same machine for testing.

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My experience is that memory is more important than CPU. However disk speed is more important than either. Put a decent RAID controller like a Perc5/i in the workstation and a three disk RAID0 and it will make a big difference. It may seem a luxury to have a Perc card in a workstation, but it's not :-)


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At the current day prices for CPU and memory I would say go for both and eat the slight increase in pricing for increased productivity/developer work satisfaction

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While RAM, Disk Drive speed, CPU cores and clock speeds are important, I suggest upgrading your network connections, including your internet connection.

I realize that not everyone works in this type of environment, but I work for a multinational company and often have to access files in Europe. Our connection speeds are horrible. It often take several hours to download the CD image I need from the European server. Also our internet connection goes through Europe. Many sites are extremely slow when I log on from work. If I wait and work from home there is no problem.

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HD =) OCZ Vertex, I would rather have a 2GB Q6600 with a good SSD than an 8GB i940 with SATA. (And I do own both and am talking from experience)

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