Just curious as I'm thinking of switching to CentOS.
closed as not a real question by Shane Madden, Javier, Iain Feb 14 '12 at 22:05
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They are both Linux systems which means same kernel and consequently same memory management subsystem unless there is a special patch applied :)
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The amount of used memory is going to depend on the installed and running daemons or other resident programs. Since almost all of these can be shut off on both CentOS and Debian, the base systems should be almost identical in terms of memory usage.
If you're asking about the "default installation", I have built extremely compact Debian systems with almost nothing running; as a consequence these consume very little memory when they first boot up. On CentOS (in my limited experience) there is a lot more installed by default, thus more memory will be consumed when they are first booted. However as mentioned above, since almost everything can be shut down and removed, this is easily customizable.