How much RAM can Audacity address in Windows 7?

I currently use Windows XP Media Center on an HP computer with 1GB of RAM and I’m running a legacy version of Audacity. Most of my Audacity projects have lots of tracks, so I do experience slow response and even recording errors. I’d like to get a new Windows 7 machine with plenty of RAM so I don’t get the slowdowns and errors. Here are some questions:

  1. I know the minimum RAM you recommend is 4GB, but is there a maximum that Audacity can use? For example, if I had 16GB, could Audacity use it all?
  2. I assume I should get a 64-bit machine. Do you agree?
  3. Do you have any particular brand of computer you recommend? (I prefer the desktop models, not laptop.)
  4. The soundcard I currently use is a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum, which works well, but I’d be interested to hear your recommendations for other cards.

If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Thanks for your help.


Some programs are ram specific, meaning they require a specific amount of ram to function properly. But Audacity can theoretically record unlimited tracks, which suggests that it can use all the ram you have, but when you reach the limits or your ram, problems like you describe can begin to happen. Also remember that Windows and possibly other programs are also sharing your ram. I believe they suggest 4GB as a minimum for this reason.

I run 8GB on a cheap eMachine with Win 7 64bit, and while I rarely record more then 6 or 7 tracks, I’ve never yet had a problem. You can also limit stuff like the Windows services that are active, and generally tune the computer to use less ram. You can find websites that suggest how to do this.

Most new computers today are using PCIe sockets. I would think your present audio card would be fine if it can fit the PCIe socket (there are two types-both different from the older PCI type), and I’d move up to Audacity 2.02

A 32-bit application like Audacity can use 4 GB RAM on a 64-bit Windows OS, which is split into 2 GB user address space and 2 GB kernel address space.

Almost all modern machines are 64-bit. The important thing is a 64-bit operating system.

As already mentioned by polkat, the PC world is moving away from the PCI bus. Your Audigy might not fit in a modern PC.
I tend to favor external sound cards, connected by FireWire or USB.



Audacity generally uses very little RAM. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen Audacity use more than 2 GB of RAM and I’ve worked on some pretty big projects.

I use Debian Linux with 3 GB of RAM of which there is usually about 2.5 GB free. Modern versions of Windows need more RAM than this, especially if you use Aero.

If you are a hardcore gamer or heavily into Adobe products (photoshop / Premiere Pro) or user other memory hungry applications then you will probably need at least 12 GB, but for running Audacity 4 GB should be plenty. You may need more if you use other audio software but you probably don’t need more than 2 GB of free RAM for Audacity.

The main reason for Windows slowing down is due to the system accumulating crap over time.
Choose your anti-virus program carefully - some will noticeably bog down the system. I use AVAST (free) which seems to be pretty good.
Check what plug-ins / add-ons / helpers are installed in your web browser and remove any that you don’t use.
Run Ccleaner occasionally
Allow the computer time to run defrag, or run it manually from time to time.
Check in the Task Manager to see what background programs are running and remove or disable programs that you never use.
A fresh install of the operating system will often double or quadruple the speed and responsiveness of the system, though if you reinstall from a “recovery partition” you may still need to remove a load of trial-ware programs that have been bundled by the manufacturer.

Yes, do update Audacity to the latest version. You can get it here:

Thanks for some great information. I made a correction to my original post–I only have 1GB of RAM on my current XP machine, so it’s not surprising that as I keep adding tracks, I get slowdowns and errors, especially in light of Steve’s comment about Audacity sometimes using up to 2GB.

For example, my current project has 19 tracks, and just to begin playback or record takes a good 10-15 seconds after I hit Play or Record. Plus, during playback, some tracks jump ahead of others. But I can’t blame all that on RAM because my computer is running slow these days and really needs a complete reformat of the C: drive. I just dread having to do that, but I’m sure it would make a big difference.

My antivirus is NOD32 from Eset, which is pretty lightweight, so I don’t think that’s an issue. And I don’t have anything else running when I’m using Audacity. I do keep an eye on the Task Manager, and even when things are running slow, the CPU usage is pretty low.

I know Microsoft will stop supporting XP (no security updates) in April 2014, so I want to get a Windows 7 machine well before then.

I haven’t kept up on soundcards so I hadn’t heard about the external type. I like that idea, though, because my computer is back under my table and piano keyboard and it would be handy to have the card up on the table where I could plug easily.

Thanks so much for your detailed suggestions.


I only have 1GB of RAM

That’s a significant problem. I would expect the slowdowns and problems you have to be normal.

They issue acceleration collars for the first time you use one of the newer machines to avoid whiplash injuries.


Thanks, Koz. I’m looking forward to a little whiplash.

This is quite complex, but I understood a 32-bit application can get 2 GB of user address space and 2 GB kernel space even on 32-bit Windows.

A 32-bit application on 64-bit Windows can get 4 GB RAM (user address space) if IMAGE_FILE_LARGE_ADDRESS_AWARE is set. If not set (Audacity isn’t set) then the application can still only address 2 GB user address space but the kernel space does not have the 2 GB limit ( ).