How much RAM do Visual Studio developers actually have?

We have a continual battle with Marketing about how much RAM we should have on our Performance Test machines, so I would love some feedback from Visual Studio developers.

Our current perf machines are Windows 2000 / 500MHz / 128M of RAM. It is my opinion that no (sane) developer is still using 128M of RAM. Memory is dirt cheap (except for laptops), and is the cheapest way of improving developer productivity.

To give some perspective, my main developer machine is a Dual 2GHz Hyper-threaded P4 box with 1G of RAM and an 80G drive. This is sufficient for most of my needs, though Builds still take a while. I dont have to build much of Visual Studio, which is just as well as I dont have the disk space.

If you are a developer using 128M on your W2K machine (or 192M or less on your XP machine) I’de like to hear from you.

MSFT disclaimer: This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights.

Comments (55)

  1. Jeff Key says:

    I, too, question the sanity of anyone using 128M. We buy laptops for everyone, including developers, and 512MB is the standard. I always have at least a gig at home.

  2. The standard workstation spec for developers at is a 1.7GHz w/ 1GB of RAM running Windows Server 2003.

  3. Eric G. Harrison says:

    The reason you’re not hearing from anyone with 128 or 196 meg is because they’re still waiting for the browser to page into memory 🙂

    – Eric.

  4. David Bossert says:

    Poor hobbyist that I am, I’m running a 600mhz Athlon with 256MB RAM. That probably sounds pretty painful to someone with more recent hardware, but I’ve found that it’s more than enough for small-to-medium builds and general use. I only really feel the grind when I’m running two or more instances of Visual Studio, 4-5 browser tabs in Firebird, Winamp with DFX, and maybe a file sharing client.

  5. Shane King says:

    I’m tempted to say I only have 128mb of RAM if that means that it stays the baseline. That way my actual machine that has 512mb will stay snappy, and not have all its RAM eaten by a glorified text editor. 😉

  6. Tim Marman says:

    128MB is insane. XP alone will creep, let alone VS.NET. I hope you’re using UltraEdit and csc.exe 🙂

    Our current machines previous had 256. I was among the handful of users who had VS.NET during e2a and pilot phases.. 256 was a bit slow. We had ThinkPads with 384, so most of us just used that.

    When VS.NET was rolled out to all developers, they also upgrade all machines to 512.

    We are getting new machines now (some of us already have them) – Dell 270s with 1GB ram.

    I develop on my tablet – which is a 900mhz centrino with 512MB of DDR. It is actually pretty damned fast. VS.NET is a memory hog more than anything else.

  7. Aspirer says:

    I have tried it personally installing on my machine on 128 MB RAM before I realised that I am insane:( and I need to spend some money and buy more RAM. But in my office have two developer machines that only has 192MB of RAM on them with VS.NET and MSDN on it.

  8. Teemu Keiski says:

    In my use 512 (DDR) has been must with VS.NET.

  9. anon says:

    The physical memory is one point, but the amount of Windows services that get started is another. Add things like sql server and reporting services, and you are pretty much cloaked.

  10. Sander says:

    my former (!) company wanted to send me out to give a C# training on a 128MB fitted laptop with Win2000 and VS.NET. Needless to say that I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, and decided to bring my own laptop. I quit last month.

  11. Wiennat says:

    on my own com, i use 450 Mhz + 256mb ram .it’s very slow.

    but when i use VS.NET on 1 Ghz + 128 mb machine. i think my com is faster than this fat monster.

  12. Me says:

    Your original post talked about Performance Test machines. 128 is obviously too little for a dev machine (should be min 512, pref 1GB), but a performance test machine should surely have a similar configuration to the expected target machines?

  13. kvr says:

    Laptop w/ 512 MB and desktop w/ 1GB (and 128Mb videocard 🙂

  14. Windows is too much hangry of RAM… in my laptop for VS.NET i’ve 512mb DDR and it’s good… but MS must work a lot for the memory management of Windows (Linux Docet).

  15. matthew says:

    for software for developers assume 256mb RAM minimum (I personally have 1GB on my desktop and 512mb on my laptop (which cost about £60 for the upgrade – not so expensive really)), but for end-user software, 128MB is definitely right

  16. Mattwerx says:

    I have a company laptop with 256Mb RAM and that drives me insane. Especially cause I’m doing Compact Framework stuff and there is the overhead of the remote debugger that connects to the device I’m programming for!

  17. I use 128 MB of RAM on a 430 MHz CPU and a 6 GB HDD running XP Professional. I guess you are wondering which century or part of the world such an atrocity could be perpetrated on VS.NET. Surprisingly, things are not that bad when runnning the DEV environment…it is not fast enough when running together with other stuff (Media player, outlook etc).

    Anyway, planning to get something better soon.

  18. Mark Fletcher says:


    At home: Athlon 2400XP, 1GB Memory, 80GB Hard drive

    At work: Athlon 2600XP, 512MB Memory, 40GB Hard drive.

    IMHO at least 384MB, ideally 512MB, especially if your using WindowsXP or Windows Server 2003.

  19. David Cumps says:

    Dev Pc: P4 2.53Ghz, 1GB Ram, 720GB Hd, Win 2k3

    Test Pc: Athlon4 1.2Ghz, 512MB Ram, 60Gb Hd, dual boot win2k and a linux/bsd variant (changes once in a while just for testing)

    Your screen should be decent as well, prophetview 920 over here, i never want to go back to my old crt :p

  20. Dev PC: Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz, 512GB RAM, 60GB HD… Windows XP Prof

    Test PC with Virtual PC or VMware

  21. Chad Humphries says:

    Our two primary dev machines are Dell 400SC 3.2ghz p4 with 2gb of ram (ddr400), 60gb hd, and dvdreader/burner. Crappy video card, but it’s running win2k3 standard as a dev platform so that doesn’t really matter.

  22. AndrewSeven says:

    Memory and CPU speed don’t really seem to much of an issue.

    We have relatively fast machines and lots of memory.

    Do you do your testing with tons of stuff installed (CS2K2,SQL Server) ?

    The biggest issue is actualy about screen size, I can’t find an affordable 36" screen…


  23. Jason Nadal says:

    Home, 2.6ghz, 1gb ram, loads of hd (lh/xp)

    Work, 1.8ghz, 1.5gb ram, 80 gb hd (2000 srv)

  24. denny says:

    I use several machines….

    right now: Dell Inspiron 7000

    PII Celeron 300Mhz

    196 Megs ram

    8 meg ATI video

    thats the max for this laptop!

    OS: Windows Server 2003 Advanced, runs fine.

    I just installed this as I had to test some stuff, last week this was Windows 2000 Pro and VS.Net worked fine after it was loaded. just a bit of lag on startup.

    I also have a PII 400 at work with 128 and it runs ok…. not as fast as my home machine but good enough to code – compile – test

    but I do plan on upgrading machines to all new gear soon….. but this is good for testing as many folks out there have old pc’s

    don’t forget what your customer has to use is your target machine.

  25. Don Park says:

    Sometimes I install VS directly on a dinky machine just to debug it. Yes, remote debugging is nice, but it ‘seems’ more convenient this way. Not a critical need, but something to consider.

  26. Russ C. says:

    Dev PC – P4 2.8Ghz , 512Mb , 160Gb HDD but the most important thing is the 3 monitors 🙂

  27. The problems is that with OS like Linux, with 256Mb of RAM, you can do everything you want in a good way and with a wonderful graphic engine 🙂

  28. Peter Ibbotson says:

    It needs to be usable in 256. We kit out the developers machines with 512 but leave the processors lowish spec (500Mhz->1Gig) so we get a feel for how bad it’ll be on customers sites (oh and dual video cards).

    A lot of my customers have machines that got upgraded for Y2K and they don’t see a good reason to change.

    For testing I think you need to shoot for 192MB as some laptops can’t get more than 256MB in and if you’re sending someone out on site to fix something you with an office laptop (it’s always the crap one as the sales folks have taken out the good ones) you want the system to be usable for debugging.

    For Longhorn and Whidbey timeframes I reckon upping the memory to 256 is acceptable, as by then the laptops which are limited to 256 will have broken themselves beyond economic repair.

  29. Wade Beasley says:

    Our developer PCs use:

    1 GB DDR RAM

    Dual 2.6 GHz Processors

    40 GB 15K RPM SCSI Hard drives

    64 MB Video Cards

    19 Inch LCDs

  30. Alan McBee says:

    I have been more-or-less successfully slogging along, er, I mean developing, on a PIII/733MHz, with 384MB RAM, assisted greatly with a 80GB HD. This machine does not have its own monitor, so I use Remote Desktop running on a PIII/733MHz, 128MB/4GB laptop, which I use primarily for PIM, web browsing, and streaming music.

  31. Sean says:

    1GB Here.

    512MB used to be nice, but once you get a few managed processes sucking some ram, an instance of MSDE, IIS, MySQL, Visual Studio, etc running, you start to see some performance suffering…

    Besides, 1GB is still dirt cheap, if you’re talking about productivity, then there is still a measurable amount of time between compilations on slower machines…

    Faster machines with more ram, despite the initial outlay, end up saving money in the longer term

  32. In "defense" of marketing (that almost hurt to say), one of the reasons to keep a low configuration is because Microsoft writes software for a global market which includes developing countries where technology (at least hardware) lags behind several years.

    While I totally agree that a 128M machine is unrealistic in corporate america, where PCs will have at least 256M RAM, this just isn’t the case internationally, and even in the US, you’ll find that the public sector is very behind the technology curve especially state & local government.

    Ideally, we would avoid creating adoption blockers for programmers who want to use VS to write applications and a fixed VS hardware requirement could do just that.

  33. I have P4 2.4Ghz dev boxes – 1GB of RAM at home, 768 at school.

    My home machines runs MSSQL, IIS, and VS (plus VMWare instances). My school machine runs VS & VPC Instances.

  34. I would rather like to have the plain vanilla framework SDK and Notepad with Webmatrix preferably on a 128MB box. Sure not with MSDN & IDE together with that much RAM. I remember the days when I had took the & windows components CD for the beta release of .net sdk and after installing that on my personal desktop decided not to use anymore (that was three years back) today I have a beauty + the beast together as my workhorse to do dev work.

  35. SBC says:

    If your boss gives you 128mb for development, then be assured that he’s trying to punish you.. 🙂

    512mb gets you comfort and 1gb gets you almost nirvana..

  36. Just to put it in perspective, I just bought a 2.4GHz Dell for $324. I can buy 512M RAM sticks for $50.

  37. 500MHz and 128M of RAM? SOunds like my graphics card. However, it’s not running W2K 😉

    Anyway, my machine at work is a dual P4 3GHz with 1 GB RAM. Three HDDs, 2x120GB and 1x80GB. The 80GB hosts a partition for the swap file and a second partition for the temporary files. The 1st 120GB HDD is the OS and applications, the second is for all the sources and compilations. I’m pretty satisfied 😉

  38. J. Daniel Smith says:

    I’ve got a laptop with 3/4 GB.

    VS.NET 2003 is noticablly slower than 2002.

  39. Woo Seok Seo says:

    1.13GHz, 384MB. Windows XP SP1, That’s enough!

  40. Don says:

    528 is the absolute minimum… see my post at

    for details on other’s dev pc’s

  41. Louis Parks says:

    PIII 800 / PIII 1000 (both machines same specs)

    512 MB RAM

    Windows XP Pro SP 1 latest patches

    VS .NET 2003

  42. Bill Trowbridge says:

    On some newgroup, I once did an analysis in a spreadsheet about memory vs. performance for developers. Something like:

    128K 512K

    10sec 4sec Compile small program

    50sec 20sec Load development environment

    … … … multiple other developer activities …

    (Personally, if the wait time gets over a certain threshold, it can sometimes interrupt my train of thought, and that’s what really hurts productivity.)

    I then estimated how many times a day a developer would do each of those things, and extended that out over months and years. Taking into account the costs of memory, and programmer salaries, the memory paid for itself in a month or two. That’s great return. The same applies for increasing CPU speeds for developers.

    Perhaps your marketing guys should do a similar, but more formal analysis, and publicize it well? Money talks, and this will give devs at "poor" companies ammunition to help them get their machines up to reasonable capabilites.

    Just a thought.

  43. Jakub Konecki says:

    I have an IBM Omnibook 6000 (PIII 600) with 128MB with WinXP installed.

    I must say, that XP starts a lot faster then 2k, and 128 is quite sufficient for me.

    I develop a small database programs with MSDE. I have a database running locally.

    No hung-ups or crashes.

    My desktop has 0.5GB and PIII 850MHz and I don’t see THAT MUCH difference.

  44. Mo says:

    I run VC6 on XPSP1 and 2KSP4 on a PIII-600 Thinkpad w/128MB.

    I tried VS.NET once on it, and rapidly uninstalled it. That said, I don’t even have Office installed on this machine because it’s so dog slow (to be honest, I think it might be about time for a reinstall).

    My "real" workstation is an Athlon 2200XP+ w/512MB dual booting XPSP1, XPSP2b1, and LH4051 in which VS.NET 2003 is quite comfortable.

  45. 1GB. We run Windows 2003, virtual PCs and several pieces of server software on our dev machines.

  46. Albert says:

    I use a 3.0ghz P4 HT, 512MB Corsair extreme PC 2700, And diskeeper pro to prevent freeze-ups from fragmentation.

  47. Spectrum Sadboy says:

    What’s wrong with 16K and positioning the Z80 disassembler to miss the important code by trial and error, thank god, I never shelled out for a microdrive if this is where it leads you.

  48. Joku says:

    3.0 GHz P4 HT 1 GB. If there’s a performance problem, it is most of the time somehow related to how Windows and NTFS is managing the HDD (lack of managing). To get decent performance you have to have enough memory so that the HDD use will be kept to minimum. Even while HDD’s can get pretty good 50 MB/s speed, Windows lacks the algorithms to re-position the files according to their usage and loading patterns. When a particular file is grown often (log file perhaps?) why it is not moved into/reserved space in a such position that it can grow without continous fragmentation? If this isn’t addressed in Longhorn I am disappointed.

  49. Hermann Klinke says:

    I have the Dell Infinion Laptop(2.2GHz, 256DDR RAM) , which is running great, even though I have Opera with 5 pages, 5 instances of Internet Explorer, Outlook, Music player and usually about 2 instances of VS.NET 2003 open at the same time.

  50. Joe Borst says:

    Until recently, I was running VS6 on 450MHz with 64MB. Back then, the programs I was working on weren’t all that big, so I didn’t mind waiting 5 minutes for a build. I’m currently running 192MB, 1400MHz, but I’m not doing a lot of programming at this time. Got an upgrade on the books in a couple months, and I’ll probably be getting back into VS a lot more around that time.

  51. Jan Stetka says:

    I use VC++ 2003 on a 512mb, 600 MHz machine. It runs fast enough. The 7200rpm disk that its installed on helps. I found debugging managed code very slow. writing managed programs with devenv and managed programs use too much memory. devenv was using around 100MB and managed programs were getting close to 20 just for a gui. When native code can be written that only uses a few meg. Now I don’t use managed code because I find c++ and native windows code more flexible. I wouldn’t stop using devenv its too much of an improvement over command line builds. I would like to see c++ compile as fast as managed code does though.

  52. anonymous says:

    This may sound pretty insane but I use Visual Studio on my 600Mhz 192mb RAM laptop. I runs just fine except it does become rather slow if I try to run Internet Explorer and other apps at the same time.

    Anyway, just thought I add my two cents.

  53. Andy-Pennell says:

    anonymous: Er yes, I think that is pretty insane! VC6 might be ok on that, but I’d be surprised how well versions from this millennium run on it.