Michael wrote to me:
Any idea how OSX runs on the 256 MB of ram model? I’ve heard arguments go both ways. What about Panther?
I’m seriously considering purchasing the new Mac-Mini. Ultimately I am in Apple’s target demographic of devout PC users who are considering in dabbling in Macs but are standoffish about the price of Macs.
This is going to become a common series of questions, so I think answering them publicly could be helpful.
- How much RAM is necessary for OS X to run well?
The short answer is 512 MB. You can get away with 256 MB for very light computing, but somewhat experienced computer users will quickly begin to feel some pain as it wouldn't take too much to force the computer into using virtual memory. I personally have 1.25 GB of RAM in both my Powermac G4 and my Powerbook G4. However, given the apparent Apple authorized technician requirement for installation of RAM and the rather sizable cost for the 1 GB RAM stick from them, I'd recommend against anything more than 512 MB.
- What about Panther?
I'm going to assume Michael meant [Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4)](http://www.apple.com/macosx/tiger/) here. Mac OS X 10.3 Panther is already the default, included OS on all Mac mini's. History has set up a pattern of no upgrade-pricing, meaning full price for every upgrade. The full price of OS X thus far has been $129. This means that unless one were to wait until the day that Tiger was released, they're likely to shell out that money to get the latest and greatest (and Tiger looks spectacular, making the decision harder). A formal release date still hasn't been set. All that is known is “first half of 2005” which could mean June, which is potentially a very long wait. If you're willing to wait, you could save $129, but I wouldn't blame you if you can't (I know I couldn't).