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I'm supporting a system running against a SQL Server 2008 R2. The server is a single-CPU box with 8 GB of memory. As traffic has increased, the server has started saturating, peaking to 100% CPU ever more often.

Disk I/O remains moderate (somewhat surprisingly).

Obviously, a new server would be the best option. But failing that, can I expect a noticable improvement from installing more RAM? Or does RAM only help for I/O issues (through caching)?

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Does "single cpu" mean single socket, multiple core? None of the large hardware vendors has sold single-core servers for many, many years. More RAM might help if you see lots of I/O, not if you are seeing lots of processor utilization. (In fact, adding RAM might make your cpu problem seem worse.) I would look into optimizing my queries, index tuning, ensuring that object owners are specified in procedures, etc. If that server is more than five years old, you should look into updating it. –  darin strait Nov 5 '12 at 23:18
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

A single CPU (I assume this means an actual solo CPU core) is entirely unsuited to run SQL Server, period.

Since it has to perform several tasks simultaneously ( accessing memory, accessing disk, communicating over the network, computing result sets), for any reasonably modern version of SQL server you want at least 2 CPU cores, and ideally more than that.

Since you say Disk I/O remains low, this suggests your entire dataset fits in memory - adding more memory won't help a thing.

Adding 2 or 4 extra CPUs, however, almost certainly will.

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