Can I run Photoshop on 4GB RAM? I wouldn’t!

Photoshop is one of the larger programs within the Creative Cloud Suite. When images are the main play of a program you need a lot of RAM to run them. But how much is enough?

Photoshop will run on 4GB RAM but 8GB is recommended. Certain capabilities / functions will be limited at 4GB.

Using any of the programs in Creative Cloud is a large load on the RAM of your computer. Photoshop and anything to do with video editing is going to use the most amount of memory. Let’s look at what is needed to run your apps especially Photoshop smoothly.

What is RAM?

RAM or Random Access Memory allows your computer to do things more quickly and more efficiently. RAM is used in all aspects of tasks performed by your computer.
It opens your applications, allows you to complete tasks within the application and also open another application at the same time and to toggle between the two.
Most users require low amounts of RAM (2GB) but when using Creative Cloud, especially the photo editing apps you are going to need more RAM.

Photoshop is mid range in the RAM usage. The more RAM you have the smoother your Photoshop will run.

Different Creative Cloud apps use different amounts of RAM. If you are familiar with the apps you probably can tell which ones need the highest RAM.

RAM is also dependant on what Operating System you are running. Creative Cloud on Windows 10 requires 2GB of RAM but 4GB is+ is recommended. If you are running Creative Cloud on a MAC, you must have Sierra or later and also have a minimum of 4GB but 16GB+ is recommended.

Minimum RAM to me is kind of ridiculous. Yes, the program will open but unlikely you can do anything else on your computer. And probably not even run Photoshop very well, with lagging and spooling. Which leads me to my next heading.

What are you using Photoshop for?

This is quite important relative to the amount of RAM you have on your machine. As a graphic designer, I design magazines most of the time. So the majority of my time is spent in InDesign. However, I have to flick in and out of Photoshop to check file formats and resize images. So, although I use Photoshop quite a bit I’m not using it to its full capacity. Because of this 4GB of RAM is plenty to have on my machine.

However, if I was doing more in depth work in Photoshop, using layers or also using some of the other Creative Cloud apps, such as Premier Pro 4GB RAM just wouldn’t cut it. All the programs would lag or possibly even crash as 4GB is not capable of running these programs to their full capabilities.

As soon as you introduce layers to a Photoshop file your RAM usage will increase. Each layer is seen as a different image, and if you then start adding filters or gradients on top of that, you’ll soon realise that your 4GB of RAM is just not enough. It can be so frustrating as in order to get aspects to work you’ll find you have to quit other programs and even then might have to deal with the lag in Photoshop.

Upgrading your RAM

As I say if you are simply using your Photoshop to quickly edit and resave images you should be managing fine and I wouldn’t be rushing out to upgrade your computer.

If you find you do need to upgrade, there are a couple of options available.

You can upgrade the RAM yourself: This is to many a scary option. How would I do that? I’ve never opened my machine before! I wouldn’t know what to look for. These are all valid reasons and if you are not comfortable with this then I suggest the alternate option.
Bring your machine to a store: There are plenty of computer shops that will upgrade your RAM for you.

Both options are totally dependant on what OS you are running. PC’s are quite adaptable. They have visible RAM slots, but MACs need Apple Certified RAM installed and to add to that many MACs don’t have the option to be upgraded. However MACs generally have a minimum of 16GB installed from new, so running Photoshop or any Creative Cloud app will not be an issue.

If you are going to have a go, each slot for RAM likes to be the same. If you have 2GB in each currently, then upgrade each to 4GB or 8GB. It confuses your machine, and to be honest negates the upgrade benefit if it has to flick from 4GB to 8GB to 2GB.

How can I get the Best from what I have?

If 4GB is all you have available then all is not lost. There are certain things you can do to get the most from your RAM. As I explained, RAM is like an instant boost to completing tasks, not just in Photoshop but all aspects of your machine. The bigger the app the more RAM it needs. Photoshop will use as much RAM as is available. But we can control this to limit the amount it has access to.

With Photoshop Open go to
Edit – Preferences – Performance (PC)
Photoshop – Preferences – Performance (MAC)

Here you can see how much memory is allocated to Photoshop. The recommended amount is 50-60% of available RAM.

You can also click Edit – Purge

But this is clearing your history immediately and cannot be reversed. I would err on caution using this task.

The last alternative I would suggest is to have your Photoshop loaded on an external drive. This will result in smoother running of your Photoshop but also any other programs as they are not drawing from the same RAM.

Photoshop can run on 4GB of RAM but if its at all possible I would suggest you install more or upgrade your machine if possible. More is more! No one wants a slow machine. We all just want to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Related Articles

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on

Recent Posts