How much RAM is good for a Minecraft server? Is 1 GB enough?

Mojang

Hosting a Minecraft and playing with friends is fun, but not if the experience is a quirky mess. Here’s how to calculate how much RAM your Minecraft server needs.

How Much RAM Does a Minecraft Server Need?

Before we dive into the details, let’s start with the rule of thumb for selecting how much RAM you need for your Minecraft server.

You don’t need how much RAM someone tells you you need. You need the right amount of RAM for a smooth gaming experience.

For most players having fun with a few friends, 1 GB of RAM for their Minecraft server is more than enough, especially if they are optimizing their server experience.

But if you’re looking for information on how much RAM a Minecraft server needs, the answers you get might seem all over the map. A lot of the results you find are recommendations provided by Minecraft server hosting providers. Hosting plans scale based on factors such as the amount of RAM, processing power, and disk space offered by the plan.

So there is an inherent bias in recommending that you purchase a larger hosting package. Not only does the provider make a bit more money, but chances are you won’t need to file support tickets or need additional help if the server is oversized for your needs.

“How much RAM do I need for my Minecraft server?” is a question similar to “What size vehicle do I need?” in that you cannot effectively answer the question without considering how the server (or vehicle) will be used. So a general statement “Everyone should have 4 GB of RAM for their Minecraft server” is about as useful as “Everyone needs a pickup truck”.

Factors that Contribute to RAM Demand

Let’s look at some of the major factors that contribute to RAM usage and cause server lag when RAM is low.

By the way, in the world of Minecraft, server lag is often referred to as Ticks Per Second (TPS).

TPS is roughly analogous to the term Frames Per Second (FPS), which gamers use to describe how fast their computer displays frames in a video game they’re playing, except in this case it’s not a Visual lag is the server’s internal clock lagging under pressure. Tips and tricks to make the Minecraft client-side experience smoother will not fix problems with the server.

Minecraft is coded for 20 TPS. When performance bottlenecks force the TPS below 20, the gaming experience suffers. Here are some of the factors that contribute to server lag.

Numbers of players

By far the most important factor is the number of players. Minecraft may look like an old-school and undemanding game, but the game is very resource-intensive. The server should render a dynamic and ever-changing environment for every player in the game.

If you and your friends are all in the same area, like a village you’re working on to turn it into a fortified castle, it helps to lower the demands on the server slightly. But if you’re all exploring everywhere, the pressure on the server increases. Four people exploring different areas of the map simultaneously require significantly more resources than a single wandering player.

No matter what type of server you are using, be it a vanilla server or a heavily modded server, every player is a demand multiplier.

View distance

View distance in Minecraft is the distance at which the game will load and render the “chunks” that make up the game world. The default view distance is 10 chunks.

The mountains blend into the fog at the edge of the server’s view distance. Jason Fitzpatrick

Decreasing it will reduce demand on the server at the cost of how far the player can see and what stays loaded and active in-game. Increasing it will require more RAM per player to handle the increased rendering and entities .

Redstone, entities and block loading

Besides just rendering what the player sees in the game, the server has to constantly calculate and recalculate what everything in the game is doing.

Even things like plant growth cycles and the action of in-game Redstone circuits and creations contribute to the load placed on the server.

If you and your friends want to create massive redstone creations such as iron golem farms, gold farms, or other resource-intensive projects, you may need more RAM.

game mods

Minecraft modding is an important part of the Minecraft experience for many players, and mods can place a significant demand on the server.

While small mods that, for example, simply change the items villagers sell or the behavior of the wandering trader aren’t very demanding, mods that change game mechanics, add extra dimensions, and make changes or additions majors in the game increase the amount of RAM you need.

Popular mega-mod packs like Better Minecraft, which regularly contain over 150 game-enhancing and game-changing mods, will naturally require more RAM than a basic server.

Consider upgrading your server software, not your hardware

Your conclusion after reading the previous sections might be “OK, so I need more RAM!” but before you pay for the next level at your Minecraft host or upgrade your hardware, there is a very easy and free way to increase Minecraft server performance.

For years, Mojang has provided free access to the Minecraft server platform. You pay for the game, but the server needed to host the game is free. Each new public release has an updated server.jar which you can find on the official website.

Although this is generous, the official server is poorly optimized. So poorly optimized, in fact, that throwing more and more RAM at the problem usually doesn’t improve performance. At least not in a cost effective and useful way.

Rather than paying more for a beefier hosting package or upgrading your hardware at home for increased performance using the vanilla server, we recommend using a heavily optimized fork of the Minecraft server like Paper™.

PaperMC's logo imposed on a Minecraft ocean monument.
Jason Fitzpatrick, PaperMC

Not only is PaperMC so well optimized that it will blow your mind, but the optimizations translate directly in lower RAM demands. (And, because PaperMC is a fork of the Spigot project, that means you can easily use the plethora of Spigot-compatible Bukkit plugins.)

For example, I recently created a server to play with a handful of friends and family around the world. I decided to run the basic vanilla server straight from Mojang, despite knowing the performance issues, just to test it out and confirm things hadn’t changed. Even with only 3-4 players, the performance was abysmal. Adjusting my 1GB RAM allocation, gradually, upwards to higher and higher numbers had minimal impact on performance.

There was lag no matter what we were doing. Blocks often failed to break (or place correctly) and my friends often got stuck behind “invisible” blocks that had visually been removed from their client but, server-side, persisted as a physical barrier. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a very fun experience.

Yet when I swapped the vanilla server with the highly optimized PaperMC server, I was able to reduce my RAM allocation to 1GB while simultaneously adding a few dozen mods and plugins, all with perfectly smooth performance. Setup is as simple and straightforward as the standard Minecraft server.

Whether you pay for a host or self-host at home, we really can’t stress what an upgrade from vanilla server software to PaperMC is.

Do not over-allocate RAM for your Minecraft server

Finally, a quick word of caution against over-allocating RAM for your Minecraft server. While it is necessary to increase RAM as you add many players and increasingly complex mods, there is a point of diminishing returns.

Keeping the RAM allocation for your server close to the requirements imposed by your players and mods/plugins actually helps your server perform better. Allocating 16 GB of RAM to a server that doesn’t really need it just makes the Java driving the server more inefficient.

We don’t need to jump into a treatise on Java, but the key detail here is a concept called “garbage collection”, the process by which Java programs automatically manage their memory usage.

If you have too little RAM allocated to your Minecraft server, the garbage collection process will run frequently to keep RAM available. This has a performance impact and your server is not working properly. Conversely, if you allocate too much RAM, it can cause the garbage collector to run infrequently, but with more pressure on the server when it does.

In short, let the actual gaming experience guide your adjustments. Start with 1 GB and play. Everything is fluid and the game is enjoyable? Great, leave it at 1GB. Add a few mods, a few extra friends, or both, and the server starts slowing down? Allocate more RAM (or purchase a larger hosting package) to balance the new demand on the server.