RAM is one of the most crucial components for your computer’s performance. It’s like your computer’s short term memory, where it stores data for quick access by the processor.
To get the best performance, RAM needs to be fast—much faster than the slower storage on your hard drive. It’s also important to know what kind of RAM you need and how much you need.
What is RAM?
RAM, or random access memory, is temporary storage for your computer that gives your CPU quick access to important data. It’s much faster than your HDD or SSD, which is why it’s used to store the information that programs and games use.
As soon as you start up your PC, the data that those applications and programs need is loaded into RAM. This saves your hard drive and SSD from constantly shuffling data around and allows them to operate more quickly.
RAM is typically sold in rectangular modules that contain memory chips. The ones inside your computer are called DIMMs and are usually DDR4, although some computers may come with DDR3 or even DDR5. DIMMs have 204 pins, while laptops are smaller, often using SO-DIMM RAM that has 240 pins. Each type of RAM has its own technical specifications, including CAS latency and other performance features. These are important to keep in mind when shopping for RAM.
How much RAM do I need?
The amount of RAM you need depends on the type of work you do and the types of programs you use. Generally speaking, the more complex the program and the more tasks you’re running at once, the more RAM you’ll need.
Having 8 GB or more of RAM is recommended for most PC users. This will allow you to run most modern games without stuttering or lag.
Casual gamers can get away with 16 GB of RAM, which is enough to handle most modern games. It’s also a good amount to ensure that you can work with demanding programs like Photoshop or 3D rendering software.
It’s usually best to purchase a complete kit of memory modules that have the same storage size and speed. This way, the modules are guaranteed to be compatible with each other and will have a consistent performance. Buying single modules can lead to incompatibility issues and poor performance. Ideally, you should choose a dual-channel kit.
What type of RAM do I need?
Modern RAM modules have long, complicated names that can be confusing to beginner PC builders. To help clear up the confusion, we’ll break down a typical RAM module name to highlight the main components.
Most modern computers require DDR4 RAM with speeds up to 3,200MHz. These higher clocked speeds give you the performance boost you need to crush the latest PC games and multitask for your day job with ease.
You’ll also want to pay close attention to the physical form factor and voltage of your RAM upgrades. Using RAM that doesn’t match up can lead to instability and slower performance. It’s also important to read the specifications of each software program you want to use to ensure that it meets the minimum or recommended RAM requirements. This will help ensure a smooth, error-free experience. Some RAM may also include ECC, which reduces memory errors. This is especially important for cloud servers or supercomputers that must be operational 24 hours a day.
How do I know if I need more RAM?
The more RAM you have, the faster your computer will run. Whether you are running multiple programs at once or a graphics-intensive game, you will benefit from having more memory installed.
You can easily check if your system is experiencing memory pressure by opening the Task Manager and clicking on the Performance tab. There, you can see the total amount of memory used by Windows, the peak use of RAM, and a number for the commit charge.
When the commit charge is high, that means that Windows has been forced to temporarily store data on slower storage media like a hard drive or SSD. This will cause a significant reduction in performance.
You should also be aware that most modern systems are optimized for dual-channel RAM. This means that they require matching sticks of the same size and speed to operate at maximum performance. This is why it is important to only buy RAM that matches the specifications of your machine.