It's a common question when shopping for a trading computer: "How much system memory do I need to purchase?" And like many questions in the world of trading, there is no easy answer. It depends on many factors, including your trading style, the number of monitors you are using, the platform you are trading on, whether you leave the trading computer on for weeks at a time, or if you are back-testing on the computer. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow to help you make the best decision for your needs.
If you are a day trader who is only trading on one monitor, you will likely need less system memory than a multi-monitor trader who is constantly pulling up charts and data on multiple screens. However, if you are running complex trading software or back-testing programs, your trading computer will need more memory to run these smoothly.
In general, we recommend that traders start with at least 8GB of system memory. This will allow you to run most trading platforms and software without any issues. If you are planning on running multiple programs or back-testing, we recommend 16GB of memory for your trading computer. For traders who are using 4 or more monitors for their trading, we recommend 32GB of system memory.
Of course, these are just general guidelines; but there's more factors to consider.
The first thing to grasp is that the trading computer can run two types of programs: 32-bit and 64-bit. This is crucial because different trading platforms are written in one of these two architectures. Knowing which architecture yours is using will give you the key to knowing how much memory to buy.
Fun fact: 64bit programs can consume up to 16 billion gigabytes now that's a lot of memory.
If you're using a 64-bit trading platform, there are some other factors to consider. First and foremost, we must understand how many HD displays you will be utilizing with the trading system. Though a 4k monitor counts as four HD monitors, each additional HD monitor you operate will increase your system memory usage at an approximate rate of 0.5GB per monitor. So if you're running the Big Six Monitor Array, that's 12GBs of memory. How you utilize the platform has an impact as well. If you have a lot of tick charts or use a specialty indicator package, that can easily increase your memory requirements to 1-1.5GB per HD monitor. That would be 36GB of memory usage for a Big Six Monitor Configuration on your trading computer.
Now suppose you leave the trading computer on for a whole week. In that case, it will easily double your memory requirements as some trading platforms have memory leaks and will gradually consume more and more memory, leaving the trading computer unusable as it runs out of memory to devote to the trading platform.
Specifically, 32-bit programs can, at max, allocate 4 GB of system memory per process. Tradestation, for example, is a 32-bit program; but one of the ways that they get around this limitation is to launch multiple 32-bit processes. Still, we have only ever seen Tradestation consume 6GB of memory at max. So if you are running a program that is 32-bit on your trading computer, you can get away with 16GB of memory pretty easily as the max for the program is typically 4GB. Windows takes 4GB for itself, leaving you with 8 GB for browsers and other applications.
Another thing to consider when selecting system memory is memory speed. System memory runs in clock cycles, like your trading computer's CPU. In high-end computers, the memory speed can be increased beyond factory limits, which is known as overclocking. Overclocking your system RAM can improve performance, but it comes at the cost of dependability. We at Trading Computers find that exceeding factory limits with your system memory creates an unstable environment for your trading platforms. Instead, we work directly with the memory makers to acquire the unique SDRAM chips that match our performance and reliability standards.