How to Install PC RAM

RAM, or random access memory, is the short-term storage that keeps frequently used information readily available to your computer. Without it, programs would have to spend extra time searching through long-term storage (the hard drive) for the data they need.

You can upgrade your computer’s RAM if its current capacity isn’t enough. Just make sure that the new RAM you buy is compatible with your machine.

What is RAM?

RAM (random access memory) is where your computer stores data that it’s currently working on. Think of it as your desk at work, where the information you use often is right there for quick access. The stuff you don’t use regularly goes into a drawer. Compared to hard drives and solid state drives, RAM processes information significantly faster — twenty or more times faster depending on the hardware and task.

When you click on a link that takes you to a website, for example, the series of capacitors and transistors in your computer’s RAM quickly translate that URL into the web page you see. That’s because your operating system keeps the data it needs in RAM where it can quickly find it, rather than searching through long-term storage like a hard drive.

Most computers require 16GB or more of RAM for peak performance. Serious gamers, video editors and programmers may want to consider going even higher to avoid slowdowns.

What is VRAM?

VRAM is a type of memory that is used by a graphics card to process and display images. It is crucial for PC gaming and other applications that require graphic processing such as video editing.

VRAM enables the GPU to quickly access data needed for rendering visuals and complex 3D graphics. It is a faster option than using the system RAM that is shared with the CPU for graphic processing.

Unlike general RAM, VRAM is specifically designed for use by the GPU and can be plugged directly into the card, rather than being connected via a motherboard. It also uses a special bus to increase performance and is often dual-ported.

VRAM has become more important than ever in recent years as many games push the boundaries of graphical fidelity and complexity. There are a few things you can do to optimize VRAM usage:

How much RAM do I need?

For basic computing like web browsing, email, word processing and light gaming, you can get away with as little as 4GB of RAM. However, you may find your computer slows down if you open too many apps or use demanding software like Google Chrome with multiple tabs or video editing.

For most everyday computer users, 16GB of system RAM is ideal. This will give you enough headroom for day-to-day office tasks with MS Office, and play most modern games without too much trouble. Serious gamers should aim for 32GB to ensure that they can easily run resource-intensive games at their chosen refresh rate and resolution.

More memory doesn’t make games run faster, but it does reduce the back and forth between your processor and storage that happens when running software and applications. This makes everything feel faster and more responsive.

How do I install RAM?

The installation process is quick and relatively painless, assuming you have done your homework beforehand. Start by shutting down your computer, unplugging it, and laying the case flat on its side. Next, remove the case panel and open it to expose the motherboard. Look for two or four RAM slots on the motherboard, usually adjacent to the CPU socket.

Each slot has a locking tab (or two) on either end, with a notched shape to identify the correct orientation of a new RAM stick. Gently push down on the locking tabs and line up the notch on the RAM stick with the notches on each slot. You should hear or feel a snap when it’s in place.

Be sure to use RAM rated at the same speed as your motherboard can handle. Different-speed modules won’t work together, and can actually harm your system’s performance. You’ll also want to avoid installing RAM that exceeds your motherboard’s capacity, as this can cause errors and even permanent damage to the chip itself.