RAM, or random access memory, is your computer’s short-term storage. It’s where all the data that needs to be immediately recalled sits, from a minimized window to your video game character.
More RAM means you can do more at once, like streaming and capturing with your gaming PC, or run more demanding games. The best pc ram will give you the performance you need for your PC build.
RAM prevents other components from having to dig through slower storage like hard drives or solid-state drives every time you open a new tab in your browser or load up a new enemy to shoot in a video game. It also keeps other storage components from having to wait until you shut down the computer to save that data permanently.
SRAM, or Static RAM, has a lower capacity but much faster access speeds and is usually used for cache memory. It’s expensive, however, so it is not used as main memory in consumer PCs.
SDRAM, or Synchronous Dynamic RAM, has a faster access speed because the chips are synchronized to the CPU clock. They are commercially available in DIMM modules that have 168 contacts for mounting to the motherboard. Oftentimes the numbers paired after DDR or PC indicate its generation, such as “DDR3-1600” or “DDR4-12800.” Another type of RAM is ECC memory, or Error Correcting Code memory. This technology includes an extra memory chip that corrects errors in real-time. It is typically used in servers where a crash could cost the company millions.
Purchasing faster RAM is one of the most common paths to upgrading your PC’s performance. After all, your computer’s CPU needs to access a lot of information that can be quickly transferred between RAM and the hard drive, and if it doesn’t have enough of this temporary storage space, you’ll likely see slowdowns.
However, the speed rating of a RAM stick has less to do with its performance than you might think. While higher speeds can boost your computer’s overall performance, the difference is often more subtle than advertised.
The number paired with the “DDR/PC” acronym refers to the generation of the RAM. The number that follows references its transfer speed, in megatransfers per second. Often, the rated speed of the RAM will be printed on its packaging, and this is considered its SPD (switch-to-PDRAM) speed. The test-driven speed of the RAM is sometimes referred to as its latency. This is the time it takes for the RAM to reach its storage.
When it comes to pc ram capacities, the more memory your computer has available, the faster your CPU will be able to retrieve and process information. When you open a program, the data it needs to run is temporarily stored in your computer’s RAM, or digital countertop, where it can be accessed quickly by your processor. After a short period of time, the operating system will convert the memory back to long-term storage on your hard drive.
For the average PC user, 4GB of RAM is sufficient. However, you might want to consider future-proofing by going with 16GB. This is the amount recommended by many PC games, and it can also help your computer work with large files or multiple applications running simultaneously.
If you plan to use your computer for demanding tasks such as editing large video files, then 32GB is a good starting point. Anything above that is for serious workstation rigs that can handle large amounts of data.
Whether you’re building a new PC or upgrading an old one, choosing compatible RAM is crucial. RAM is stored in sticks that snap into the motherboard memory slots, and if it’s not compatible, it won’t fit or won’t function properly.
The main advantage of RAM is that it provides quick access to temporary data, which helps a computer run programs and complete tasks. For instance, it allows modern PC games to retrieve art assets orders of magnitude faster than a storage drive can.
Before purchasing a RAM upgrade, consult the motherboard’s manual or product specifications to confirm its RAM compatibility with your processor and motherboard. Also, utilize third party system information software (e.g. Speccy) to get a comprehensive report of your current hardware and system specs, including the supported RAM frequency. You can then compare this to the RAM specifications of the desired upgrade to determine whether it’s a good match. If it is, you can purchase it confidently.