A PC needs memory for storing and recalling information quickly. When you close a program, it takes longer to open again if the system is running low on RAM.
16GB is the sweet spot for gaming. For heavier workloads, like video editing, you can go up to 128GB. However, that may be overkill.
The amount of RAM in a PC is a significant factor in its performance. A computer with less RAM will slow down, while a computer with more RAM can handle demanding programs more quickly.
RAM is the temporary storage space for data used by programs while they’re running. Programs use it because it’s orders of magnitude faster to access than a hard disk drive, the permanent storage space for files and programs.
Traditional RAM is sold in sticks, or memory modules, that snap into the slots on the motherboard. The type and size of RAM you need depends on your system’s requirements and the demands of your software. For example, a modern AAA game requires at least 16GB of RAM to run smoothly. Similarly, a video editing software might require 32GB of RAM or more. You can find out about your motherboard’s available RAM through the Windows operating system by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting “Properties.” You can also open a third-party software like CPU-Z or Speccy to see more detailed information about your memory’s size, type, and manufacturer’s part number.
The speed of RAM can be measured in megatransfers per second (MT/s). Higher speeds enable faster access to data and more responsiveness for applications.
In gaming, a higher RAM speed can help reduce those momentary drops in FPS that occur when a game is loading into a new map or scene and can cause some players to feel lag. However, increasing your RAM speed is not always the best solution for reducing lag.
You should also consider the latency, which measures how long it takes for your PC to access data stored in the memory. Having lower latency can improve your performance, but most games are not sensitive to the differences in latency between different RAM types and speeds.
Unlike the hard drives that store permanent data, RAM is designed for immediate access. This makes it ideal for the processes and apps you use most often, such as instant-messaging apps and web browsers. The rest of your data gets stored on a hard drive for later, slower access.
There are two common types of computer RAM: SRAM and DRAM. SRAM uses transistors that preserve memory as long as it has a steady trickle of power, while DRAM uses capacitors that need to be refreshed with comparatively large bursts of energy.
Memory comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, from rectangular modules that plug into your computer’s motherboard to sticks the size of a stick of gum. The most common type is DDR4, which runs at speeds of up to 3200MHz. But you’ll spend more and get diminishing returns if you go above that, so only spring for top-level RAM if you need every last ounce of performance.
The most important specification to look for is the actual amount of memory. Besides speed and generation, you can use Speccy’s Memory view to check a variety of other details, such as the RAM’s capacity (shown as Capacity), current configured clockspeed (shown as Clockspeed) and memory type (shown as Memory Type).
Most computers come with 4GB or 8GB of memory, which should be enough for the operating system and some lightweight programs like web browsers and image/video editors. However, if you plan to run resource-intensive games or demanding applications, you’ll need more. If the computing tasks exceed your computer’s current amount of RAM, your computer has to move data from memory into long-term storage on the hard drive, which can significantly slow down processing and cause performance issues. This is called paging or swapping. The more RAM you have, the less paging you’ll need. However, buying more than you need doesn’t necessarily make your computer faster and can waste money.